Stromness to Loch Eriboll 54nm light winds, 2 gusting the occasional 5, sea state slight. This is day 46th day on the water, and our 90th day away from Fowey.
We spent four nights at Stromness in the Orkneys, during that time we visited most of the tourist attractions available to us. On the first morning we took day tickets for the open topped bus which picked us up at the marina.
Our first stop was Skara Brae, a world-famous archaeological site which enabled us to see a number of superbly preserved Neolithic houses and artefacts, I thought the visitors centre was excellent and I also enjoyed Skaill house, which belonged to the landowners of Skara Brae. Whilst we were here we bought the Orkney explorer pass which gave us access to a number of other attractions, with a saving of £13 pp on all the sites.
It’s difficult to describe everything that we did whilst we were here, as I don’t want to move away from a sailing blog, so it’s probably ideal just to tell you briefly where we went and how we got there. So with our bus pass we also visited, the ring of Ring of Brodgar ( standing stones pre dating Stone Henge), The Bishop’s Palace and Earl’s Palace in Kirkwell, plus the museum.
The following day a storm came over the island, so we stayed local to Stromness, visiting the museum, catching up on washing and shopping. Then in the evening when the sun came out, Sean, Mike and I went for a long circular walk along the coastal path and back over the hills back to Stromness; Simon and Marian went to a local music evening, which they also enjoyed.
Then we hired a car, Sean drove, we collected the car at 8am and had a full day, whizzing all around the Islands. We had to get to the Brough of Birsay at low tide because there is a causeway we needed to use to get there. We were quite worried about visitors numbers at all the attractions today as we had been informed that three liners were in Kirkwell, but as it happened it didn’t affect our day at all. We left the car here and walked along the coastal path to see the old fisherman’s hut. These stone-built huts with flag and turf roof were used for storing nets and fishing gear of the fisherman of the parish, they also kept their boats in the small cove below, dragging them up to the huts in the winter.
We stopped at a mill, which was on a brochure called ‘off the beaten track’; the existing mill was built in 1873 and is still in use. We had a wonderful guide called Arthur who made Bere meal production sound riveting, that in itself had to be quite an art.
We had a scheduled appointment at the Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, an impressive 4,700 year old chambered stone tomb, built so the midwinter sun shone along its entrance, a great example of a Neolithic burial site. A massive mound, with a small tunnel type entrance, which led into a sizeable room, probably 4m x 4m with then had three chambers off this.
Obviously a trip to the Orkneys wouldn’t have been complete without visiting Churchill’s bridges and the Italian Chapel, the story of the Italian Chapel moved me to tears. I can genuinely say we made the most of our visit to the Orkneys, not only for the Neolithic attractions, but for the geology, birdlife and flowers.
I did the passage plan with Mike on our wet afternoon; I don’t think Mike had any idea of what went into a passage plan, so it was great fun, getting him to work out the calculations. This meant that we left Stromness and the Orkney Islands at 5.30am this morning. Sean, Mike and I saw the boat out of the harbour and into Hoy mouth, which we shot through at 8 knots and this is neaps and a calm morning, I wouldn’t like to encounter the over falls on springs with tide against wind.
We followed the Island of Hoy round to the ‘Old man of Hoy’; which is a stone stack, the birdlife along this stretch of coastline is pretty spectacular, we saw skua’s, puffins, fulmars, razorbills, and guillemots. From here we aimed straight for Loch Eriboll at 245’, again taking hourly watches. Sean and I are chief cooks and bottle washers today. I made everyone porridge for breakfast, serving refreshments throughout the day and BLT sandwiches with eggs for lunch. This evening Sean is making pie, carrots and mash. We have eaten well on board in the last few days, Marian made a lasagne and coleslaw last night, and the day before I made homemade pizza, garlic bread and a salad.
We made our way into Loch Eriboll arriving at 4.45pm, Sean and Mike laid the anchor, we have anchored at Ard Neackie on the southern side. As I sit typing this this evening on anchorage the boat isn’t moving and all I can hear is Oyster catchers in the background, totally peaceful. We had a small problem in our gas locker on route, Sean went to change the gas bottle in the locker and discovered that it had several inches of water in, for some reason the self-draining holes were blocked. I produced some very hot water in a large jug, and this aimed at the hole as it was poured in unblocked it, Sean thought it might have been paint flakes.
On arrival we took the tender into the bay at Ard Neackie, where there was a deserted house, on the door was the sign which Simon read out to us ‘your right to roam, does not include a right to breaking and entry’. Behind the house were old lime Kilns, and behind that a lime quarry, as we walked over the hillock, we saw several standing stones and impressions in the hill. We all discussed and imagined this to be a Neolithic site; we will be seeing them all over Scotland from now on.
The bay at Ard Neackie is pebble and mud, a really good protected anchorage set amongst rolling hill sides. But with no internet or phone coverage! ( If this is important to you).
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