Around the World with kc: A visit to Orkney
Since so many of us are stuck at home right now, I'm sharing some pictures with you of the beautiful and remarkable things I have seen in my travels. Many of these experiences served as research for my novels, including EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, due out this summer.
Click here if you missed yesterday's visit to Iceland, but today on Day 2, let's travel just a little bit southward to amazing Orkney. While this collection of islands belongs to [and is a little north of] Scotland, there is definitely a Scandi feel to the place. The islands number somewhere around 70, although many fewer are inhabited. It is a brilliant, starkly beautiful, windswept place, and I hope I can get back there one day soon.
My first view of this beautiful archipelago as I arrived by sea was of these amazing cliffs, set between the competing blues of water and sky.
Further north, the cliffs take on even more personality, with a sandstone stack [commonly known as the Old Man of Hoy] being one of the most famous sights on the islands.
I sailed in on the last ferry of the year from John O' Groats, and when the bus arrived to pick me up, I was the sole passenger into town. The driver -- who was from away himself, but nevertheless a keen Orcadian at heart -- took me off his route and onto my own private tour. It was amazing, and I learned so much -- from the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow after the armistice was declared in WW I, to Orkney's pivotal role in WWII. Near the start of the war, a German U-boat crept between the islands, sinking a British battleship. Since Orkney was the mooring place for the British fleet, Churchill ordered barriers built to prevent this from happening again, which allowed for the bridging of many of the islands.
These causeways were constructed, for the most part, by Italian prisoners of war, who were also responsible for this:
The Italian chapel was constructed inside a Nissen hut, and pieced together in exquisite detail from mostly found materials. The walls are painted in trompe l'oeil, giving a three-dimensional feel that is simply remarkable. Candle holders were fashioned from discarded corned beef tins and the pillar of the baptismal font is a heavy-duty, repurposed spring. The preservation of this still-consecrated church is a point of pride to Orcadians, and it is a stunning place to visit.
Father north on the mainland lies the remarkable Ring of Brodgar, a neolithic henge and stone circle. This mammoth circle is the northernmost of its kind in Britain. I have visited many other stone circles, including Stonehenge and Avebury, and Brodgar holds an equal sense of majesty to any that I have seen. The deep quiet, with only the roar of the wind off the two nearby lochs, is just remarkable. Remarkable too, is the fact that the interior of this circle has never been examined by archeologists. How many secrets lie buried here?
Even further back in time is the incredible neolithic site of Skara Brae. Likely occupied as long ago as 3000 BC, it's older than the pyramids in Egypt, but wasn't discovered until the 1850's when a local laird went for a beach walk after a storm.
Skara Brae contains the remains of eight compact houses, complete with with bed-frames, storage boxes and even stone shelving units that are still intact. So much is not known of the people who lived here, for their world was completely different than the one that exists here today, but the scope for speculation [and storytelling!] is enormous.
As with yesterday's post on Iceland, these pictures barely scratch the surface of this remarkable place, but I hope they have given you enough of a glimpse into Orkney to capture your heart. I feel so lucky to have had a chance to see it, and I cannot recommend a visit highly enough!
Come back tomorrow as we journey onward on this virtual trip around the world. I think it's time to venture into one of the world's greatest cities, don't you?
A reminder that if you subscribe to my newsletter (first issue coming at the beginning of April), in addition to more international pix, you'll be eligible to win signed copies of Lee Edward Fodi's wonderful Zoone series for middle grade readers. There's a sign-up at the bottom of this page.