The rain had returned overnight but by the time we’d finished breakfast it had stopped although remained overcast. Our first stop was the Rock Rose Gin company just a few yards from the hotel. Although we weren’t able to tour the distillery (too early) the shop was open so Angela treated herself to some ‘ Navy Strength’ gin (57% as opposed to the usual 41.5% ABV) on the basis it will last longer – yeah, right!
From here we headed to Dunnet Point, the northernmost point of the UK mainland. I was disappointed we couldn’t get right to the very tip, the lighthouse was private property, but we got quite close which I recorded as 58° 40.271’N. This area is also an RSPB reserve with birds nesting on the cliffs. We saw many types flying around but were particularly amused by the Puffins!
We continued our journey north heading to Scrabster for the ferry to Orkney to spend the night on the largest island ‘Mainland’.
The ferry crossing, which took about 90 minutes, was smooth and comfortable; I’d booked us into the lounge so we had complimentary drinks and snacks, a comfy sofa and no screaming kids!
After disembarking in Stromness we made straight to the north end of the island to Birsay where we toured a working watermill. Sue, our not-very-Scottish guide, gave a wonderful insight into the history and workings of the mill, she even tolerated my technical questions! I also got to play, turning on the water to start the wheel (a large wooden lever, not a big tap!) and get everything moving, and then using the bag lifter to bring the flour bag from the lower floors to the top through the trapdoors. Definitely big kid time!
The roads on Orkney are amazing! Pretty much dead straight from point to point, two carriageway so even the tractors weren’t a problem, and well maintained. Better than the mainland roads! However we were disappointed to find no place signs for the settlement of ‘Twatt’, Angela was looking forward to taking a picture of me there (can’t think why?). Although clearly marked on the map, and even signposted from Stromness, when you get there …. no Twatt!
While in Birsay we popped into Earl’s Palace, built in 1574 by the then Earl of Orkney, Robert Stewart. These days it’s not looking its best, it needs a lick of paint (!), but it was interesting to see where the various rooms would have been, each marked by plaques and illustrated with drawings.
Driving back along the south coast of Mainland we made an impromptu stop at Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement, reputed to be one of the best preserved groups of prehistoric houses in Western Europe, which was uncovered by a storm in 1850. We arrived to be told the site closes in five minutes, so we made a hasty tour of the site photographing all the plaques to read later!
We continued along the coast to Yesnaby Cliffs, a stunning view of …. you guessed it, cliffs! They were pretty spectacular, and with no fences you could get right to the edge! Angela was a bit nervous when I was taking photos (“give me the car key”!) but I survived.
Having packed a lot into the day, thankfully with very little walking, we headed to Kirkwall and our room for the night at the aptly named Kirkwall Hotel, a typical British seaside hotel that has probably seen better days, but with a good view of the harbour so we’re happy!
Today we travelled 69 miles by land and 24 nautical miles (28 miles) by sea, so 97 miles in total.
We have now reached the northernmost point of our driving tour, just four miles shy of 1,000 miles in the car since we left home. Tomorrow we start our journey south.