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Orcadian Adventures

by

Bill Davies

The Scottish Trikers as usual had to do something for the Spring... The organisation was left to Colin who chose the islands of Orkney some 250 miles north of the central belt. A plan was devised and circulated to our group and arrangements were made to meet at Colin’s in Coupar Angus on the 3rd June and travel as a group to the north. We were off to the Summer Dim, in early June through to July you get very short nights with good walk-about visibility.

Now as all good plans go there is always a hitch... for me I was still on a Cruise Ship mid the Baltic Sea heading for home due to dock in Newcastle on the 4th June. So I was left to play catch up... now on reaching Newcastle on the 4th at 7.00am I had to wait for 1½hrs to get off the ship before driving north to Ayr swapping cars and then driving north to Dunbeath to catch the others at the forward campsite. Fortunately a friend had cut the grass so I was able to make a quick get-away.

All went well and the drive north was without any hitches, until I tried to find the campsite, I had entered the town name and not the postcode which when corrected took me to the site. There were three of my travelling mates having a beer, Tom and Colin had gone in search of food... the village hotel was shut as the owners and staff were at the Perth Races... is nothing sacred these days... man must be fed. The others Iain, Bert and Sam were sitting defending the site from the midges. Me, I had stopped for a sandwich at a filling station and ate it on the road, so was not hungry.

I got the tent out and pitched and sat down to a well earned dram after my drive north, before Tom and Colin arrived back.

Assembling in car park

The start was early, we had some 35 miles to John o Groats where we hoped to meet with the 2CVGB drivers on an end to end, now we never met them, the comms got crossed and we had a cup of coffee and hung around, Bert who was to be on duty for the election left for home and we then visited Duncansby Head before moving to the ferry terminal at Gill's Bay. With time to spare we had soup and sandwiches etc. then went outside to fend off the curious.

Choppy seas

The ferry arrived on time and the turnaround was good and then we were off on our adventure proper, well half way across there was a line of angry water, the North Sea currents meet the Atlantic Ocean swells and the sea was angry. As the ferry enters the angry water it rises and falls both along and across the boat and the journey is like a big dipper thrown in for free.

Italian Chapel

The boat is a twin hull with four power pods and is quick to respond to change and soon we were through and facing the exit to the whirlpools, the same again. Our arrival at St Margaret’s Hope was made and we set of on our island adventure... first stop was the "Italian Chapel" built be the Italian POWs who were billeted in Orkney during the second world war, it had been neglected for some years however a committee had been able to restore the chapel to it's former glory and it an amazing place to visit with statue and paintings replicating churches back in Italy. The Chapel is now on a preservation order so will be there for many years to come.

From there we proceeded in convoy across the Churchill Barriers (sea barriers to prevent enemy submarine from entering the safe haven of Scapa Flow) to Kirkwall and then on round to Stromness, a quick check on route then down along the waterfront street to the Point of Ness campsite. A lovely run on a summers day then it was time to pitch the tents and have a dram. I chose to pitch my tent the wrong way to be able to get a view over the bay in the morning. Now that was a good idea NOT, the rain started early in the morning and by 8.00am it was pelting down together with a wind blowing directly onto the front of my tent... not a good place to be.

Scara Brae

Now being hardy people, a discussion was had and as we were going to get wet it was agreed to go for a run out as planned, first stop Scara Brae, a Neolithic settlement at the edge of the Mainland (on Orkney the Mainland is the big island, not the rest of Britain, they like their independence). An interesting site with a scattering of homes built from flat rocks brought from the nearby beach, after that a visit through the adjacent Big Hoose and then a stop at the café for lunch... Cullen Skink soup a grand stomach filler. We then continued our clockwise tour of the Mainland, stopping at a Brioch, but rain stopped us from going to see it. Then on to Kirkwell for afternoon tea. Then back to camp to get ready for our evening in town. We again went to the Ferry Inn for a drink and to eat but the Dipstick of a Chargehand would not serve us food so we decanted to the Stromness Hotel to be treated like Royalty with linen napkins etc, good beer and food and cheaper too. Watch Tripadvisor I am known for not missing the mark... report as it was.

Now it had been raining for some 18 hours by now and the wind was now 40mph and gusting to 50... nothing to us hardy man. We returned to camp and bedded down for the night. Sleep was regularly breached by the wind and tent bashing against each other, the winds continued with the rain all night. I kept thinking of those explorers at the Antartic lying for weeks on end in cold conditions, would our ferry sail, would the tent stay up till morning, would the rain eventually find a way in? At 5.00 my alarm goes off, then I am unable to stop the bloody thing... where are my glasses... ah it’s Tom. Call him back, yes he was calling to see how I was... up to then dry but in the course of our talk I found a puddle at the foot of the tent and gave my feet a bath. Ian’s tent looks flat and Colin’s has collapsed Sam is ok but he too has a water-table problem. At 8.00 we assemble in the camp-site lounge and discuss out fate, Colin is miserable as is Iain who spent the whole of the night in the lounge sleeping on two chairs... he had 4 inches of water in the tent and the bed was bobbing about inside.

Tom, Sam and I decided to return to the Stromness Hotel for breakfast and that was a good decision, they took our wet weather gear and hung it in the laundry room to give it a dry, we then visited the local museum on Stromness life and it’s part in both wars. Then back to camp where a council of war was held... not a happy crew, let’s get dried out then think about what to do. Most folk on site were in using the only drier having also suffered in the storm. By lunchtime the rain stopped and the wind dropped and we had a drying breeze. Tom and Sam opted to camp but the others slept in the lounge, we got our tents down and packed for the journey back south.

Ring of Brodgar and the Ness

Thursday dawned early and we set off for the "Ring of Brodgar and the Ness" five standing stones set up by prehistoric man just to pass the time, very impressive they must weigh around 10/15 tonnes and had to be dragged over some distance to the site. Then back to the ferry terminal, I stopped to take a picture of "St George slaying the Dragon" at the Italian chapel site.

Pembletons on the ferry

Our ferry was slightly late in leaving but not a problem and the crossing was again an adventure as we passed through the angry sea. On arrival we took our turn in getting off, until my car decided not to start, click, click, click, get out and push across the deck to get out of everyone’s way, It won’t start says I...turn the key and it bursts into life... you know the feeling. At Gill's Bay we stopped for lunch in the café, a bowl of Scottish Broth... very nice too. After our break we set off, again the starter is playing stupid but then we are on our way back to the south. We stop in Wick and fuel up then set off down the A9, we had agreed with wet tents and bedding we would head for home rather than stop at Dunbeath on the way south. Colin stopped to advise them and we drove in convoy south to Inverness, where I opted for the western route down the Great Glen to Fort William, stopping for petrol and a tinkle, some food, call the management and confirm arrival around 10.00pm. "It’s been raining all day in Ayr but dry now"... it was lovely up till now... then it changed, as I entered Glen Coe the rain could be seen at the head of the glen and as I crested it started and continued all the way home, heavy to very heavy with zero visability especially as other traffic passed.

Friday I spent drying out my tent and various bags etc., cleaned out the car and fixed the various problems that occurred over the trip. Worked out my consumption and it was 47mpg so that’s ok by me, 750 miles covered with only one bolt coming adrift on the exhaust system... can’t trust anybody to do a job right, the company that welded up my stainless exhaust has now gone bust... not surprising.

Was it worth it... of course the company was good the chatter was good and so were the refreshments, the weather was the only snag and none of us had suffered as bad in all our years of camping. Thanks Colin for your input in organizing the adventure and we will be back, the Orkney islands are a minefield of interesting sites and monuments etc.

Bill D a.k.a. Crozier3


These pictures were taken by Sam

Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip
Ocadian trip

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