Before you head off on an Orkney coach trip, you might be wondering what to expect. I had a vague idea, but nothing could have prepared me for the majesty of the islands.
We booked our day trip in mid-September. Despite the weather forecast of non-stop rain, it actually turned out to be sunny for most of the day! And although the temperature on the coach was just right, I’d wear something warm, bring something waterproof and wear sensible shoes.
We rode the ferry across from John O’Groats at the tip-top of Scotland. Heads were turning this way and that on the upper deck as everybody took in the views. The mainland shrunk away behind us as we approached the archipelago. In the distance, an old wooden ship sailed by one of the islands. We could easily imagine that we were heading back in time.
Kirkwall is the capital of Orkney, but with only 9000 residents, it has a small town feel. There’s an impressive cathedral, plenty of independent shops and cafés to discover and museums to explore.
We only had an hour in the town, so we didn’t get time to visit the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces – a set of beautiful ruins. If we ever get to go again, we definitely won’t miss them!
This was the stop I was most excited to see, and it didn’t disappoint. The ancient homes of Skara Brae predate the Egyptian pyramids and is the best-preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe.
One detail stood out to me. The square, stone shelves are thought to have displayed treasured items. It reminded me of a mantelpiece with photographs sitting on top in pride of place. We haven’t changed much over 5000 years, have we?
We visited two stone circles on the islands – one of them being The Ring of Brodgar. The huge circle was once made up of 60 giant slabs of stone. There are less stones nowadays, but it’s just as awe-inspiring to see.
Why are they there? What was their purpose? It’s fun to walk around the perimeter and imagine how they came to be there. The mystery is still unsolved and it was easy to feel as though we might crack the code as we gazed up at them.
Unfortunately, I had no great epiphany . . . maybe next time.
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