Day 34, Ahoy, not Hoy

We started today very early as we wanted to catch the 8 am ferry for Hoy Island. Here we would drive to the starting point of the hike to view the “Old Man of Hoy”.

Unfortunately, not only was the 8 am ferry sold out for vehicle traffic, but every crossing today was as well. While they would take foot passengers, we had no way of getting to the starting point of the hike! Lesson learned! If you really want to travel between islands with a vehicle, book early!

Undaunted, we decided to do the islands we could reach via bridges. We headed south towards Lamb Holm, Burray, and South Ronaldsay; all reachable by bridges built during the Second World War fondly named Churchill Barriers. These crucial bridges protected Scapa Flow, the second largest natural port in the world and home to the British fleet during the Second World War. It seems that a number of the islands of Orkney surround a large body of ocean making it a perfect deep water harbour. During wartime it protected, or held fleets of boats; today is is a welcome refuge for drilling rigs in need of repair or refurbishments.

Our first stop was the church of St Mary, constructed by Italian POW’s during the Second World War.
Inside the church you can see the hand painted frescoes and ornate carvings done by these POW’s.

We then headed further south to the island of South Ronaldsay where we did a short coast hike at Hoxa Head. This point of land is very strategic for its view of the entry point to Scapa Flow from the south. Here we explored the deserted “Balfour Battery” where soldiers were stationed to guard the entry to this strategic harbour. On a clear day you can also see John O’Groats.

Here you can see one of the “Churchill Barriers”. On the far side of the bridge lies Scapa Flow.
A view of some of the deserted buildings involved in the protection of Scapa Flow.
A narrow coastal path returns us to the car park.
The winds were biting, but the turbulent skies kept the scenery ever changing!
Inhospitable seas and cliffs kept the battlement safe for the most part.
The prize: protecting this precious harbour area and the Navy Fleet that called it home.

From there we went in search of a couple of Neolithic sites at the south end of the island, but they had been closed…we’re not sure why, but will continue to investigate! From there we decided to head back to Kirkwell and have a look at the world’s most northern distillery, Highland Park!

Here is the entrance to the distillery, where you can pay up to 3,800 GBP to enjoy a very special tasting!!!

After lunch we decided to go and explore St Magnus Cathedral which was just a short walk from our home.

Inside the nave of this Norman church. Again, close to the age of the Abbeys we saw destroyed in the Dales. Here you could still see the iron rings embedded in the main columns where Cromwell’s men tied their horses!
Here you can see the Quire. These columns house the bones of St Magnus.
While in the church I saw, and obtained permission to photograph an artist while doing a plein air. He was working in “soft pastels” and was laying down his base coat. The other finished pieces I could see were gorgeous!
The main entrance to St Magnus Cathedral. When I went up close, I could see the hundreds of years of wear that water had done to the outer sandstone structure.
Some of the details around the decorative door frame.
A decorative column that has taken more than its share of dripping water.

After our visit, we headed to a unique store where we were entertained by the whisky buyer for this shop. For a young man, he certainly knew his whiskies, and of course we needed to buy something that we would never get at home!

Once at home we cleaned up and went for an early dinner. We were amazed by the wonderful fare, and the creative Orkney twist put on the dishes! I had Orkney hand farmed scallops and they were amazing!

It’s been a long couple of days, with cool temperatures and lots of wind, but relatively sunny so we feel fortunate! Tomorrow we’re off to see some of the “big” sites. Again, Neolithic…Skara Brae and Maeshowe. Looking forward to telling you all about them! Until then.

Categories: Hiking in Iceland and the UK

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