So, I'll begin with the obvious, which is that, OF COURSE I am in love with my dear husband Pete, first. He's the best blessing in my life, for sure.
However, I've found a secondary love – the Orkney Islands.
We docked yesterday morning at Kirkwall, the “mainland” of this northern archipelago. It's beautiful. SO beautiful.
We had decided to take the ship's tour to some of the Neolithic sites on this island, and were hoping my knee would hold up (it did). We boarded a coach to travel there, and passed by such lovely scenery! I'm not sure how many miles of coast there are here, but probably more miles of coast than inland miles, and all of it stunning. Cliffs, beaches, green, mountains. It's all here, and all gorgeous.
We went directly to Skara Brae, a neolithic village that was discovered when the frequent winds here uncovered parts of stone walls and houses. It is the most ancient site we've ever seen, predating the Egyptian pyramids (and almost everything else you can think of) at nearly 5000 years old. It is partially excavated, and shows dwellings including firepits, beds, and even dressers and storage areas. Fascinating.
Even better, it's set just next to a lovely beach, full of stones, driftwood, and people walking their dogs. We talked to a man walking a lovely little Gordon Setter, remembering Rex, our Gordon from years ago. Just the presence of a Gordon Setter made me love Orkney a little bit more.
We went from Skara Brae to Skaill House, the nearby 17th century estate of the man who found Skara Brae. It was interesting, but I wanted more of the Neolithic sites. For someone brought up by antique dealers, old houses, furniture and china is not much of a draw. However, notable here is a set of china owned by Captain James Cook, the great explorer. I liked the library – it had a swinging set of shelves, and a secure area behind it for valuables. Pretty cool.
I soon got my wish to see more of Neolithic Orkney when we drove to the Ring of Brodgar, and had the chance to walk around – though not through – this ancient henge, or ring, which predates Stonehenge. Like Stonehenge, no one really knows why this giant circle was built, but it's pretty spectacular. 28 of the original 60 stones are still standing, and, as at other monuments of this type, you can almost feel the presence of the ancient people.
We also drove by the Standing Stones of Stenness, another henge with fewer stones. Since buses of over 20 people are not allowed to stop, a closer inspection of those stones will have to be fun for a later time. We also saw Maes Howe from a distance, which is an ancient burial cave with Viking runes. That, too, will be for another time.
Arriving back in Kirkwall, we walked around the tiny but lovely town, admiring the mix of Scots and Viking architecture and culture. We stopped for Orkney ice cream – I got toffee with Orkney fudge which was amazing! – and bought a few local craft items. We also walked into the beautiful cathedral of St. Magnus.
Maybe it's because my heritage is Scots and Viking, but I fell in love with the town, the island, and the people of Orkney, old and new. I can’t wait to come back.