Orkney reaches comfortably across the ages; neolithic stone circles co-exist with iron-age ruins and modern farms. People who come to see the ancient monuments are often surprised by the mild weather and gently scultpted landscape. Art and creative craft endeavours reflect both history and culture, and judging from some of the people we’ve met over the years, good storytelling runs in the blood.
We began with an early morning tour of Maes Howe, where we marvelled at the spectacular astronomical alignment of the chambered tomb, laughed at the antics of some of its later occupants, and mourned its irresponsible looting and excavation by people who should have known better.
We spent the rest of the day exploring ancient brochs, burial sites, and standing stones, then hiked out across the causeway to Birsay to explore the layers of settlement there — a medieval church built over a Viking settlement which had itself been built on a Pictish village, each leaving a trace of having been there. Even today, it teemed with life as tourists from far off lands mingled with the abundant wildlife.
As evening fell, we drove in to Stromness so we could wander its picturesque and historic harbour before dining in style at the famed Hamnavoe restaurant — we are beginning our return to civilization.