Monday, 20 August 2018

Orkney travel blog - March 2018

I helped set up our office in Orkney a couple of years ago and have been looking for an excuse to visit ever since. I finally found a free few days in March, but work has been so busy since that I've not had a chance to share how much I enjoyed my time there until now.
The journey there was easier than I expected, we flew out of Heathrow to Aberdeen with BA, and then flew from Aberdeen to Kirkwall with Loganair. As the two airlines are partnered our luggage went straight through. We flew out of Heathrow at 3.50pm and landed in Kirkwall, 700 miles away at 7.25pm. The flight into Kirkwall was the noisiest plane I've ever been on though, we were in the back seat and the engines were incredibly loud. We also had an exciting landing, landing first on one wheel and then the other before zigzagging and straightening up. The pilots fly when even the ferries won't venture out, so they're used to bad weather. By the time we landed the rain was horizontal, the wind gale force and we could hardly see through the rain to find our hire car. Nothing like a warm welcome!!

The next morning we got up and the storm had passed so we headed out to the Italian Chapel, a Catholic chapel built by World War II prisoners of war in two Nissen huts. The workmanship is stunning given the restrictions they'd have been working under.

Afterwards we drove over to Maeshowe, a 5,000 year old burial chamber, made all the more unique by the graffiti left by Viking who broke in 4,000 years later. I wasn't really looking forward to it, but it was very interesting and possibly one of the highlights of the trip due to the tour guide who really brought it alive. We finished the day with a stroll around Stromness.
The next day we took a trip into our office to catch up with the team and have a guided tour of the building. They've got a great space and its super eco-friendly, powered by the enormous wind turbine next to the building. 

Afterwards we headed into the centre of Kirkwall to have a look around the cathedral.
One of my colleagues had booked us tours at a couple of distilleries whilst we were in the office so we headed out there afterwards. We started at Scapa, we were a little early so took a trip down to the beach to see it from below. I'm no fan of whisky, but the tour was interesting.
Our next stop was Highland Park, one of my husband's favourite whiskies, and luckily the tour was very different. Definitely my favourite of the two.
The weather was pretty appalling the next day, so we wrapped up in waterproofs and headed out for our final day of sightseeing. The Standing Stones of Stenness was a must see, but a brief see as the sleet was coming in sideways by the time we got there!
We headed to Skara Brae afterwards, a prehistoric settlement. The weather was still absolutely appalling which meant we had a private tour, including behind the scenes access, so the weather was completely forgiven. Again, it was a site which I wasn't that interested in beforehand, but the tour guide brought it to life. 
By the time we'd driven away from Skara Brae, the weather had finally started to improve, just in time for our final stop, at the Ring of Brodgar. It was the most stunning set of standing stones I've seen and almost made the trip worth it just for them.
The next day we got up to head home after a wonderful, whistle-stop trip. I loved Orkney, there is history everywhere, the place has a relaxed feel to it, and the people are friendly. I'm looking forward to returning, but perhaps in the Autumn next time.

Our flight home took just over three hours. You are always offered a Tunnock's caramel on the Loganair flight, but as it was Easter weekend we also had a tiny Lindt bunny. That alone will mean I'll always fly Loganair, despite the engine noise!

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