I finally got the ferry back yesterday. It’s telling that I went down to St Margaret’s Hope office to book the ferry at 10 am, and stayed parked at the terminal until 4:50 when the ferry sailed.
Orkney island is nice enough, and the people seem friendly enough, but once I’d seen the peculiar main street in Stromness and took some photos by the harbour, there didn’t seem much to do there.
The main street is flagged rather than paved, and most of it’s length barely exceeds 8 feet. My camper is 7′ 6″ wide so it was slightly hairy getting through. And no before you ask, there were no signs warning me of the width.
The harbour is very busy and I stood for a while watching boats come in and out. I was amazed by how easy they made it seem, especially one large fishing boat called the Jean Elaine, who could have been parking a mini rather than a 50 foot boat.
I found a nice lighthouse later, but that was after driving through the featureless, smelly farmland that is a feature of Orkney mainland. I’m sure someone will say “but they need to farm!” Quite. Ever since I entered Scotland in December at Dumfries I’ve been smelling the stink of slurry on fields. Oh wait, lemme check my shoes…
The lighthouse was lovely, and so was the Italian chapel, which was also interesting to read about. After that, there just wasn’t anything else to take my fancy. You can eat out anywhere in the world so restaurants don’t do it for me, same with cafes and pubs. I’ve driven the length and breadth of Orkney and whilst it’s peaceful and friendly, it just holds no fascination for me. The lure of seeing whales was taken away when the lady in the Post Office told me she’d lived there 35 years and still not seen one.
The fare to the Shetland Islands was a staggering £232, which took it way beyond any trip I was likely to think of. So that’s what led me to return to the Scottish mainland. I’m now in Bonar Bridge, if only Orkney had scenery like this!
In conclusion, if you love peacefulness and can make your own fun, you will love Orkney. Lots of remote spots to camp too.
If you like climbing, hiking, ‘doing’ things, or have a dog that you want to let off the lead, forget it. And contrary to public opinion there are hardly any beaches with sand on and the few there are are tiny.
Ps: I had to drive all the way to Dornoch to get autogas for the cooker so bear in mind that between Skye and Durness, and between Dornoch and Dunnet head, that entire part of northern Scotland has NO autogas stations. I managed reasonably easily on the two tanks that I’d filled in Skye, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you use a lot of gas or only have one small bottle.