The journey north
Over 10 days have passed since we loaded up and set forth to Orkney and I had really expected the Orkney Mole to have surfaced at least once before now.
This year is a little different to our several previous trips however, foremost because Orkney will be our home for another three months so there has been less pressure to get out and cram in all the interesting stuff, while nevertheless the last week has been a whirl! The fall of the calendar meant the Orkney Folk Festival commenced soon after our arrival and this was immediately followed by the Battle of Jutland commemorations. So with all these distractions opportunity for meaningful blogging has been zero.
After visiting Scotland annually for the last decade, our 720-mile 2-day drive up from Kent is well-rehearsed. There are numerous options for getting to Orkney from the south of England, ranging from a choice of road routes, overnight stops and ferry ports; flying into Edinburgh or Glasgow for a connecting flight to Kirkwall is relatively quick, taking no more than half a day; or following a similar route by train from London which requires several changes on to progressively smaller and slower lines bound for Thurso – or culminating in a bus ride if you take the tiny coast line to Wick. Vehicle ferries can be taken from Gills Bay near John O’Groats, Scrabster just outside Thurso, or a less-popular alternative, the overnight Aberdeen-Shetland ferry which calls in at Kirkwall around midnight. Each ferry company serves a different Orkney port which adds to the already complicated permutations. I’ll stop here without getting into the intricacies of inter-island travel around the off-lying parts of the Orkney archipelago. For that matter, intra-island travel is another subject!
It is worth recording that our journey north coincided with the arrival of a week of gloriously fine and settled weather in the north of Scotland and Orkney. Two days of fine weather up here is easily worth two weeks of the same down south, so it really puts a huge smile on everybody’s face.
Orca sightings are big news around the Orkney coastline, and not at all uncommon during the summer season that we are just entering. So much so that a major Orca watch was underway from Caithness on the Scottish mainland as we arrived. An Icelandic pod was spotted near the Pentland Firth as we arrived, but unfortunately not by us. They had forgotten something however and turned back down into the Moray Firth. A few days later some of the pod were seen by German tourist Stefanie Matthes from the John O’Groats passenger ferry: