A daytrip on the Orkney Islands
We are on the “Mein Schiff 2” cruise ship on a Northern Europe tour. The kids are with us, so we try to match their preferences on the shore leaves to ours. At least we try to.
How could we inspire a female teenager for nature on the Orkney Islands than staying on the cruise ship with its many entertainment facilities?
We try it with a romantic tour: old buildings that must have seen quite a lot, romantic gardens and very ancient, mysterious tombs of the ancestors.
With this you cannot inspire a male teenager. So we divide the family. We two women have a cozy day in a bus, the two men will discover the main island of the Orkney with the capital Kirkwall by bike. These bikes are already on board.
This is a worthily idea with all that good stuff to eat and drink on board.
For the bus tour we have to disembark first. Staying outside a strong wind blows and we are happy to pull on our hoods, just in time for the starting rainfall. We got the impression that the rain does not only come from above but from all sides. We are happy to climb into the already waiting bus.
First we go a bit over the island. We see some small mounds and a lot of green. Lots of green! But mostly grass; only few trees and bigger shrubs are growing here with this extreme weather. From the Tingwall Orkney Ferry Terminal, that is not much more than a ramp in a tiny village, we go with a really small ferry to the northern Island of Rousay.
Here on this island the wind is even stronger, so we have just a short glimpse over the iron age broch Midhowe Broch before we go further on to the chamber tomb from the 3rd millennium BC, named Blackhammer Cairn. This tomb is situated at a slope, next to it some Angus cattle are grazing peacefully.
After this stop we head to the Trumland Gardens. Here the wind is nearly non existing because of the hedges. So we sit down for a late lunch.
After is sunny break our bus goes back to “Mein Schiff 2” and from here on my husband will for once continue.
Whereas our women are on their way to the bus, we two men have a look after the bikes. It´s going to be a 60 km sportive island tour to the stone rings, so the mountain bikes fit perfect and they are in a perfect shape. After a short briefing and the adjusting of the bikes, we start our tour.
Only the weather doesn´t present itself not so perfectly. Next to the often changing of from sun to , clouds to drizzling rain, a constant firm wind blows into our faces. Very fast, my son decides to quit the tour. How wise this decision has been, I will learn the hard way.
First we drive along the coast, through picturesque villages. The group has got a good speed to manage the whole tour in the given time. Soon we see that the average speed is too fast for the bigger part of the group, as the wind blows quite hard. So the tour guides reduce the speed a bit. That results in shorter photo breaks, but it is compensated by the view over this beautiful landscape.
The first longer stop takes place at the Standing Stones of Stennes, a nearly completely preserved stone circle that is located between the big lakes Loch of Harray and Loch of Stennes. It appears to be in the middle of nowhere.
We get to know about the changing history and then drive on around the lake and further on into the hilly landscape inside the island. Slowly we notice what is meant with the overcoming 400 m of altitude difference. The island looks so flat, but the impression mocks us.
At the beginning we head into the direction of Kirkwall. It´s a rapid downhill drive with the wind from the back and we see the silhouette of the Mein Schiff 2 in the distance, but then we drive to our right around the legendary bay of Scapa Flow.
We drive on, this time uphill with the wind coming from the front. That is too much for my calves, I have to walk the way up. The group has to wait for me, but they show sportsmanship and they wait for me. The way down is easy and ends at the Highland Park Distillery.
The whiskey tasting and the tour through the distillery let us forget about the strain of the last hours. Relaxed and stress-relieved we drive down to Kirkwall, where we get greeted by a boisterous group of young men. It seems to be a stag party.
On our last kilometers along the coast to the harbor the wind freshens up, but without the hills I can master that easily.
Since this tour I know that the Orkneys are one of the windiest places of the world. I will never forget that along with the amazing impressions that I got during this bike tour.
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