Day Seven: Kirkwall to John O’ Groats

The weather gods smiled on us yet again with another dry and sunny day. What do they say, the sun always shines on the righteous?!

A few miles out of Kirkwall we clicked over 1,000 miles on the odometer, in the words of the song “… I would drive one thousand miles, and I would drive one thousand more …” or something like that! I doubt it will take us another 1,000 miles to get home but we’ll see.

We retraced our steps from yesterday, criss-crossing the island (well, it’s not that big), first to see the Ness of Brodgar and the Ring of Brodgar.

The Ness of Brodgar is an archaeological site which, as luck would have it, was holding an open day so there was lots to see. We sponsored a couple of squares of the dig where the original Neolithic building had been covered by an Iron Age dwelling so the prospect of a find was quite high. We’ll get an email telling us what’s been found, but alas no share of any valuable items!

The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic stone circle, think Stonehenge but on a much smaller scale! No-one knows the true purpose of the stone circle but it is presumed to be for gatherings and formal celebrations.

We then followed the coast to Scapa Flow. Here the German fleet was scuttled after the First World War. When I was diving this was always the ‘mecca’ of dive sites but I never managed to do it; now I’m here there’s nothing to see! There is an official visitor centre but it’s on the island of Hoy so we made do with driving down a no through road.

Incidentally, I did find a couple of interesting roads to drive on the island, so clearly the planners didn’t have it their own way all the time!

We returned to Kirkwall to visit St Magnus Cathedral, a very impressive building and a “fine example of Romanesque architecture” according to the tour info. It’s also the most northerly cathedral in the United Kingdom. Their WiFi tour videos were excellent, watched using your smartphone, and really bought the experience to life. We even found the resting place of St Magnus himself, hidden halfway up a pillar so his remains were not disposed of during religious reformations, and rediscovered during renovation work in 1919!

After lunch we headed for the ferry back to the mainland, crossing the islands of Lamb Holm, Glims Holm and Burray before reaching the ferry terminal at St Mary’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. The causeways between the islands are know as the ‘Churchill Barriers’ as they were constructed at the direction of Churchill by Italian POWs during the Second World War to protect the British Fleet at anchor in Scapa Flow. I’m sure it is no reflection of Italian workmanship that all the causeways carry the warning ‘Drivers Cross at Own Risk’!

The POW camp was on the uninhabited island of Lamb Holm and they were permitted to construct a small chapel for worship. It comprised Two Nissen huts joined end-to-end, the corrugated interior covered with plasterboard and ornately decorated to look like carved brickwork, very effective! A facade was built at the entrance using concrete from the barriers. It wasn’t finished before the war ended but one of the prisoners stayed on to finish the work.

We boarded our ferry for a short trip back to the mainland and on to the Seaview Hotel in John O’ Groats which lived up to its name; we had (distant) sea views from two windows this time!

Distance travelled today, 46 miles by road, 17 miles (15 nautical) by sea, 63 miles total.

It would be much quicker with a JCB!

Trench ‘T’ – our sponsored squares are in the top right of this picture

Ring of Brodgar

Selfie and stones!

Scapa Flow – so exciting I couldn’t even be bothered to get out of the car to take the photo!

St Magnus Cathedral
Clearly we weren’t the only ones disappointed not to find Twatt!

Italian Chapel
Your supposed to smile for the camera!

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