Orkney never really featured in the planning for our Scottish leg until we were halfway through the countryside, yet now having delighted at the sights and history on the islands, I can’t believe we had the potential to miss it.
It should be a priority for anyone heading to Scotland.
Originally, the plan we had was to keep things much more linear than the route has panned out. At least we have followed the usual process of diverting and finding something, anything extra to see.
It came into our minds simply because we adored our beginnings in Scotland, and then wanted to investigate how much more we could squeeze in.
Suddenly, we were bound for Orkney. Not Shetland though. It seemed another world away for a much less emphasised historical and tourist value.
We picked the perfect day to see the sights on our list, which all hail from the Neolithic period.
A tomb in which no bodies were found when it was rediscovered, this small hill looks just like a grass mound when you approach from the east. It was so nondescript that Mara and Karl were not sure what we were going to see when I pulled off and stopped in the car park. The only way to get inside the tomb is on a guided tour, and the unexpectedly funny Moura made it better than I expected. One of the things I was looking forward to most was the Norse graffiti left behind from when the Vikings broke in. Disappointed at first when I couldn’t make much out, Moura later shone a torch at the right angle and made lots of it clear. It did live up to what I thought it would be like.
Stones of Stenness:
There may the oodles of stone circles over the United Kingdom and particularly Scotland, and so far this is my favorite. Only a few of the 12 original stones remain, sticking out of prefect green grass, high into the air. The grey of the stones contrasts to the surrounds nicely, and the small circle keeps a nice atmosphere to what is suspected as a spiritual space from close to 5000 years ago.
Ring of Brodgar:
Much larger in both area and the amount of stones than Stenness, this ring could easily be people’s preferred simply because of size and grandeur. For me though it ranks second. It is impressive yet lacks a little bit of connection. I think this stems from the distance between stones. The furthest stones from where you stand almost seem to belong to another monument or ring, being so far away. The ring is also filled with heather and damp earth, which means looking on only from the outside.
Smaller than I expected, this ‘village’ from 5000 years ago is closer to the size of a small house. Tiny homes lay breath the current level of earth, excavated and persevered below. Walking around the paths above and peering in, it is hard to imagine people did so much with only stone. They had fires, beds, cooking and halls between houses. It is absolutely mind boggling to know it sat underneath the earth undiscovered for thousands of years. And frightening to think such a great history could have been lost easily if the shoreline washed away.
Skara Brae was the definite highlight, the others not far behind. Now, laying inside the tent waiting for morning, early morning, to arrive to catch a very off Orkney, I wish I could stay. I would happily go and see the sights one more time. Maybe even two.