A Travellerspoint blog

Day 12 - Orkney Islands (Kirkwall)

Ring of Brodgar, Stromness, and Kirkwall

semi-overcast 58 °F
View Judy & Jerry's British Isles Exploration on longjerr's travel map.

Once again we were out in the North Atlantic sailing from Ullapool to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. The Orkneys are where the North Sea meets the North Atlantic. The Orkneys were populated in the 800s by Norse Vikings, and they were ruled by Norwegian Earls until 1468, when given to the Scottish King as a dowry. While part of Scotland and the UK, the people are of Viking descent, and Orcadians tend to view themselves as Norse. In fact, the Orkneys flag closely resembles the flag of Norway.

The Orkneys rarely get snow because of the Gulfstream, but the sun comes up at 10:30 in the winter and goes down at 2:30. It never really gets light in the winter and never gets dark in the summer. The wind is brutal, so there are few trees.

Kirkwall is on the largest island in the Orkneys, known as the Mainland. This island is in two parts separated by an isthmus. Kirkwall, where we docked, is on one side and Stromness is on the other. Near the isthmus on the Stromness side is a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the Neolithic stone circle known as the Ring of Brodgar. This ring is over 4000 years old and it is the third largest stone circle in the British Isles (Stonehenge is smaller). Near there is an ongoing archaeological site called the Ness of Brodgar that is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.. The foundations of multiple buildings and a temple have been found, and it is believed that this may actually be the important site, rather than the stone circle. The stones are encircled by a 10-foot deep ditch or moat that was hewn out of bedrock without the benefit of metal tools. It is several hundred yards in diameter. There were originally 60 stones, but only 29 remain.

We then traveled to Stromness, a town with a harbor on Irish Bay. We had a chance to walk around this 500 year old fishing village.

Our day was mostly sunny and free of rain. The scenery was beautiful. The main industry is cattle farming, as well as growing grain to feed the cattle in the winter. Everything is clean and neat.

On our way back, we traveled around Scapa Flow, which is the world's second largest natural harbor. It was the base for the British Home Fleet during WWI and WWII.

At the end of the tour, we caught the shuttle in to Kirkwall, where we had an opportunity to walk around, shop, and have lunch and later Orkney ice cream. Most of the buildings were 500 or more years old and some date back to the 1200s. The cathedral was founded in 1137, and you can see from the exterior pictures that it was constructed in multiple phases. The stone work inside was cruder than we have seen in other European cathedrals as noted by the large mortar lines between stones.

Ring of Bognar

Ring of Bognar

Ring of Bognar with Moat

Ring of Bognar with Moat

Standing Stones

Standing Stones

Stromness Harbor Scene

Stromness Harbor Scene

Stromness Street Scene

Stromness Street Scene

Kirkwall Street Scene

Kirkwall Street Scene

Kirkwall Cathedral

Kirkwall Cathedral

Kirkwall Cathedral Chancel

Kirkwall Cathedral Chancel

Earl's Palace Ruins

Earl's Palace Ruins

Posted by longjerr 16:21 Archived in Scotland

Table of contents