Memorable Orkney Islands

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Orkney Islands are a fascinating location both physically and culturally.  I was pretty much a tabula rasa when it came to what I knew about the Orkney Islands. I spent 8 -days in awe or perplexed.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is the heart of Neolithic country with a complex of villages and dwellings that date back to 8,500 years ago and were occupied by Neolithic and Mesolithic people (Picts).  In the attached photos you’ll see many ancient dwellings (Brough) most of which have a large tower with and inner and outer wall (Broch)(Honestly, I find the terminology confusion).  The lost heritage between the Picts and the Norse (9th Century) is a huge missing link in my understanding of these people and their culture.  We saw many standing stones which when the ancient people put them into a circular configuration with a ditch around it, the normal speaking voice was amplified to aid in communicating to a crowd.  We were enamored with the rugged coastline of Scotland and have more hikes we’d like to get back there to do.  We stayed in the youth hostel where frankly youth was the exception save the 10-15 students in archaeology.  It was a mix of professors of archeology, construction workers building the hospital and tourist of a certain age like Carl and me.

We had the good fortune of hiring a private tour with Kenlay Francis (Orkney Uncovered).  Rick Steves is making a video on the Orkney Island’s this fall for PBS and Kenlay will be the guide.  Here is a link to Rick Steve’s short narrative (

The link to my photos are at:

The list below is our itinerary and the links


July 4 (Wednesday)

  • We went to the Information center and bought an Explorer pass for entrance to the sites around Orkney and rented a car. Elaine was the designated driver.  The first day and a half was a white-knuckle for the driver and passengers alike.
    • Lunch at Strynd Tea Room (photo of fabulous cakes)
    • Dinner at St Ola’s Hotel (wonderful chili)

July 5 (Thursday)

  • Curween Hill Cairn with main chamber and side chamber is related to the great tomb of Maes Howe. Remains of 8 people were found inside with 24 dogs, suggesting a culture connected to hunting.
  • Maeshowe –
  • Stromness – Carl got his hat at the old soda-fountain store from WWII. A historical site, now a clothing store.  Church here and elsewhere are now occupied by the city government as the townhall.
  • Eat at Helgi’s restaurant – excellent

July 6 (Friday)

July 7  (Saturday)

July 8 (Sunday)– Guided Tour by Kinlay Francis

Orkney Uncovered

July 9 (Monday)

  • Rent Bikes to take the ferry to Shapinsay
  • Visit the Burroughston Broch

July 10 (Tuesday)

July 11 (rainy day; Wednesday)

  • Highland Distillery
  • Magnus Cathedral and Saga of St Magnus (Elaine)
  • Ran into Nanette Davis and Burl Harmon from Bellingham on the main drag in Kirkwall
  • Scapa Distillery (Carl and Stefania)
  • Shopping in Town
  • Eat at Brothy’s watch semifinal World Cup match between England and Croatia. Sad that England lost.

July 12 (Thursday)

  • Packed and checked out of the Hostel.
  • Stopped in town to pick up gifts and then drove to Yasneby.  We walked the cliffs and took in the sights and sounds until we had to return the car.
  • Arrived in Malpensa and we were met by Roberto. Got to bed at Stefania’s home about 2AM.