Speedwell of Rhu Ship's Log

6 th to 13 th of August 2011 - Orkney Mainland again

Crew : Helen and Andy
Destinations : Kirkwall Marina.
Distance : 4 miles

We had our usual leisurely start and motored across to Kirkwall where we were berthed on a pontoon by 0945. It was the Kirkwall Regatta, so lots of boats were going out to race in the harbour. The traditional Orkney Yole, slightly different to the Shetland Yoal in more ways than just the spelling, was one of the classes being raced.

In the afternoon we found the showers and laundrette and explored the town. We had a car hired for Monday and Tuesday so planned our itinery for the next few days. Of course we had to pay a visit to the most northerly distillery in Britain and we thought we should do this without the car. This was just as well as the tour included two rather large wee drams as well as a try of the whisky we eventually chose for the boat.

The day we picked up the car was a day of rain and gales. We had had a very noisy and disturbed night because of the weather so were not in the mood for sightseeing, however, we soon woke up and enjoyed our drive across the Churchill Barriers to the south islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay, as well as the tiny island of Lambs Holm with The Italian Church. This was built from a nissen hut by Italian prisoners of war whilst they were building the Churchill Barriers to protect our Navy during WWII. We visited The Tomb of the Eagles, which involved a walk in the wind and gales and then a skate board ride on our knees through the entrance of the tomb where they found over 100 human skulls. They had left a few in there for us! They also found lots of eagles tallons (hence the name).


Before we returned to the boat we visited The Broch of Gurness overlooking Eynhallow Sound on the north coast. This was an incredibly intact Broch, although not as tall as the one on Mousa.

The second day with the car was still windy but not so wet. We visited some great places, including having a tour of The Ness of Brodgar by a really interesting man. The Ness of Brodgar has only recently been discovered and is probably more significant than Scara Brae. The whole area is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is fascinating. We also paid a visit to a tidal island, The Brough of Birsay, where there were the remains of an ancient settlement going back to the 7th century AD and the ruin of the first cathedral of the northern isles, founded in the 12th Century by Earl Thorfinn. One of our favourite places was a farm museum at Kirbuster, which we just happened upon whilst waiting for the Ness of Brodgar tour. It had been lived in by two bachelors until the 1970s. They had refused to have any heating, running water, electricity or plumbing, despite having been able to afford it and the old farm was incredibly intact with the only original firehouse on Orkney.
BROUGH OF BIRSAY NESS OF BRODGAR (Hoy in the background)

Unfortunately once we had finished with the car the wind didn't improve. Tortuga left to pick up the mooring in Elwick Harbour and to wait for a weather window to go to Wick. We decided to stay in Kirkwall where we could be on a pontoon. We only had 2 day sails to get to Inverness via Wick. This, just as the wind went east. Wick is not a good harbour to enter in easterly winds. In addition all the safe harbours in the Moray Firth are either east facing or too shallow and we didn't fancy sailing the whole way to Inverness without diversionary ports. It looked like Sunday will be the next possible departure date. We spent some time carrying out boat chores: Servicing a few more winches, until we ran out of grease, washing the tender and putting it to bed for the winter and cleaning the forward heads thoroughly. Fortunately it became sunny so it was good for drying things out. Andy practised his knot tying and we did a bit more reading.


Our last day in Kirkwall coincided with the County Fair which we thought might be interesting and it certainly was.


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