Orkney Islands

When: 31 July – 2 August 2009

Present: Keyna (organiser), Shaun, Simon, Ali, Richard & Jan

We couldn’t believe our luck. 22 degrees and cloudless every day. And no midges!

We flew up to Kirkwall on Thursday, and went straight to the supermarket for a big shop. Great pasta nosh-up and plenty of good beer, cider and wine for dinner. Our cottage was brand new and really really nice.

Friday we did a walk from Skara Brae (5000 yo neolithic village) to Stromness – 26kms. Fantasic cliffs and the first time we watched the hundreds and hundreds of birds that live in the Orkney cliffs. They include guillemots, cute little puffins, kitihawks, white- and yellow-headed gannets, various seagulls and a whole load of birds that people didn’t know! When we got back we had a welcome beer and fish & chips on the peer at Stromness. Another nosh-up meal at our lovely cottage. Some embarrassing sunburn for Keyna – rudolf nose!

Saturday was the free day. Simon and Ali went exploring the island in their little Micra, as did Richard and Jan. Keyna and Shaun hired bikes and rode south for the day. Another great nosh-up in the evening: some weird sausage and bean mix I can’t remember the name of, cooked by Richard and Jan. Brilliant!

Sunday we all caught the ferry to the island of Hoy, then a little minibus to the hike start by a very isolated Scottish bothy. We hiked up high and across to the Old Man of Hoy, which is a stunning sticky out rocky thing. Around the Old Man there was another huge bird colony. As we went on to climb one of Hoy’s little mountains, we all had to walk across a saddle where the Great Skuas were ground nesting. This was the best case of being divebombed ever! These things were huge and they come in at chest height! In the evening there was a nosh-up with all the leftovers. Felt like breakfast but great stuff!

Monday we all caught the ferry to Westray which is an island further north. Keyna and Shaun took the bikes up to Noup Head to birdwatch at one of Orkney’s largest birding cliffs, and Richard, Jan, Simon and Ali took a walk around the headland to sleep in the sunshine and watch the puffins close up. Nice posh dinner out on the waterfront.

On Tuesday we flew home. Will be voted by all as best trip of the year, but we might lose in the numbers game!

Keyna Garner

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