Orkney is a very special place, made up of numerous small islands surrounding its mainland, located where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet north of Scotland. It is a most fantastic place, with a magic of its own. Dotted with ancient sites dating back to Neolithic times, it is also very green with few or no trees. History is something you cannot fail to notice as a visitor: the rings and stones at the Ness of Brodgar; St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and recent naval history when Scapa Flow was the anchorage for the British Home Fleet. Powerful tides race between the islands as the Atlantic and North Sea do battle, making the islands and their deep channels a potential bonanza of renewable energy. There is no doubt that Orkney cannot be ‘done’ in a day or even a week, not if you want to get under the skin of the place.
Ferries are vital links between Scotland and Orkney and one of the fastest is the MV Pentalina, a twin hulled vessel which operates between Gills Bay and St. Margaret’s Hope (www.pentlandferries.co.uk). The trip takes an hour or so in good sea conditions and the return fare for a car and two passengers was £112. So, on a windy and slightly grey late afternoon, we queued up at Gills Bay with around 30 other cars to board the MV Pentalina for the fast trip across to St. Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. Ferry trips are fun and make a holiday more interesting than doing the trip by fly and drive.
Some of the most powerful tidal races in Europe are to be found in the Pentland Firth between Scotland and Orkney along with Scapa Flow.
Approaching South Ronaldsay, one of several southern islands linked by causeways (the Churchill Barriers) built during WW2.
Arrival in St. Margaret’s Hope and the start of a new adventure.