ORKNEY


Orkney landscapeThe landscape of the Orkney Islands is a mixture of soaring cliffs, sandy bays and rocky coves, heather covered moorland, shallow, heavily cultivated valleys, and grassy meadows.

Orkney from DunnetThe county consists of a group of 73 islands, but some of these become peninsulas at low tide, and most are uninhabited. They are separated from the mainland of Caithness by the Pentland Firth and it is easy to see them from the cliffs on the north coast of Scotland. The weather can be a trial, and visitors need to be prepared for it.

Old Man of HoyThe island of Hoy has dramatic sea cliffs and the challenging sea stack called ‘The Old Man’. The islands in the west have generally very steep beaches, and are hilly inland. They are quite treeless, owing to the high winds and much of the land is peat and moor. North Ronaldsay is flat and windswept and scoured by the sea. Westray and Papa Westray lie on the west side and catch the full fetch of the Atlantic. These two islands are connected by the shortest flight in Britain - just two minutes from take-off to landing, but it can take one minute if the wind is right - you may as well jump!

The larger islands are very fertile, a paradise for birdwatchers and botanists, and greatly underpopulated. Most of the Orkney communities are very small and survive on the revenue from the oil refinery on Flotta, crofting, sheep-farming and tourism. The islands are a mix of moorland, some having chambered cairns and prehistoric settlements, attracting visitors to see the large seal colonies and prolific bird life.

John o'Groats FerryView from cabinWe were staying at the John o’Groats campsite and planned to take the motorhome on the Pentland Ferry from Gill’s Bay and stay near Kirkwall. Unfortunately that ferry broke down so we bought tickets for the passenger ferry instead. We walked over to the boat for a sailing at 9 and as it was pretty windy, we sat in the cabin. Half way across, the sea got a bit rough and the waves were coming over the windows.

South Ronaldsay is the southernmost island and the closest to Scotland lying only six miles north of John O' Groats. We arrived at Burwick in about 45 minutes and boarded the coach.

The Mainland of Orkney is pinched by an isthmus about a mile across between Kirkwall in the north and Scapa Bay in the south. The portion of the island to the east is known as East Mainland. West Mainland comprises everything to the west of that isthmus and is the largest part of Orkney.



St Margaret's Hope


St.Margaret's HopeSt Margaret's Hope was probably named after Malcolm III's wife, who became St Margaret after her death in 1093 and there is an early chapel here dedicated to her.

After the untimely death of Alexander III in 1286, the crown of Scotland passed to his grand-daughter, Margaret, the daughter of the King of Norway. In 1290, the Treaty of Birgham between Scotland, Norway and England agreed to her marriage with Edward, the heir to the Crown of England.

Aged only eight, she set sail in a Norwegian ship bound for Leith but storms drove the ship off course to Orkney, where it eventually landed at St Margaret's Hope, but she died, apparently from the effects of sea-sickness . Had her marriage gone ahead, the crowns of Scotland and England would have been united and 300 years of bloody history would probably have been very different.

Ferry in dockToday's St Margaret's Hope has become a busy place following the opening of the car ferry link. The village's growth owed much to the herring fishery in the early 1800s and the development of a naval base in Scapa Flow during the two world wars.

There is an attractive waterfront and the museum celebrates the role of the village blacksmith in local communities and the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery. Coastal batteries and other defences can still be seen on a walk to Hoxa Head.


Churchill Barriers


Churchill Barrier 1 We crossed the Churchill Barriers that join the islands to the ‘mainland’. In 1914 the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet moved to a new base in Scapa Flow. They needed somewhere suitable to take on a German Fleet based in the Baltic and this stretch of water was one of the largest sheltered harbours in the world.

Churchill Barrier At the start of the Second World War, approaches were rapidly defended, and steps taken to close the narrow passages between five islands on the eastern side by sinking blockships. On 14 October 1939, the German U-Boat, U-47, took advantage of a high tide to get past the blockships and into Scapa Flow. Once there, it torpedoed HMS Royal Oak before leaving the way it had entered. 833 members of the Royal Oak's crew were killed.

Barrier 3Within a month, Winston Churchill visited Orkney and ordered that work begin on the construction of four permanent barriers linking the chain of islands from Mainland to South Ronaldsay. Work began in May 1940 and were not formally opened until May 1945, just in time for the war's end.

Concrete blocksThe total length of the causeways was not far short of two miles. 40,000 cubic metres of rock was encased in wire cages and dropped into water up to 70 feet deep from overhead cableways. These were topped off with 300,000 tonnes of concrete blocks, the part of the structure most readily visible today. Material was quarried on Orkney, and concrete blocks were cast on an industrial scale on the islands.

Barrier 4Today, the three most northerly barriers remain much as built, though the roads crossing them have been upgraded over the years. The most southerly, Churchill Barrier No 4, no longer looks artificial as over the years dunes have accumulated on it's eastern side.

Sea levelsOne interesting fact is that the sea on the Atlantic side of the barriers is a different height to that on the side of the North Sea.

Burray is the third island in the chain linked by the Churchill Barriers. The name comes from the Norse 'Borgarey', meaning 'Broch Island'.


The Italian Chapel


Italian Chapel On the island of Lambholm, stands the Italian Chapel. In early 1942 some 550 Italian prisoners of war, captured in North Africa, were brought to Orkney as they were needed to overcome the shortage of labour working on the construction of the Churchill Barriers. Camp 60 was home to the Italian prisoners from 1942 until 1945.

St GeorgeIn the centre of the camp, one of the prisoners, Domenico Chiocchetti, made the statue of St George from barbed wire covered with concrete. The prisoners also worked to produce a theatre and a recreation hut with a billiard table made from concrete.

alterLate in 1943 two Nissen huts were joined together with the intention of providing a chapel in one end and a school in the other. The interior of the east end of the huts was lined with plasterboard and Chiocchetti started work on what is now the sanctuary. The altar and its fittings were made from concrete and were flanked by two windows made from painted glass. The gold curtains either side of the altar were purchased from a company in Exeter using the prisoners' own funds.

sanctuaryChioccetti then set to work on the painting of the interior of the sanctuary. The end result is a work of art that must have been stunning to those imprisoned here in 1943. Another prisoner, Palumbo, who had been an iron worker in the USA before the war, constructed the wrought iron rood screen, which still complements the rest of the interior today.

above doorThe whole interior of the structure was lined with plasterboard before being painted by Chiocchetti and others, to resemble brickwork. A number of the prisoners built the façade which came complete with a belfry, decorated windows, and a moulded head of Christ above the door.

It was still not fully finished when the prisoners left in 1945 and Chiocchetti stayed behind to complete the font. Before the Italians departed, the Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, who also owned Lamb Holm, promised that the Orcadians would look after the chapel they had created.

above alterDuring the years after the war the chapel increasingly became a visitor attraction, and in 1958 a preservation committee was set up. In 1960, the BBC funded a return visit to Orkney by Domenico Chiocchetti. His restoration of the paintwork was followed by a service of rededication attended by 200 Orcadians and broadcast on Italian radio.


Scapa Flow


Scapa FlowWe left the chapel and drove around Scapa Flow, used as an important haven for over 1000 years. This stretch of water, within the shelter of the surrounding islands is one of the largest natural harbours in the world. It is home to a major oil terminal at Flotta, where 10% of the UK's oil arrives by pipe from North Sea before being transferred to tankers for shipment around the world.

Scapa Flow was probably used for fishing by the builders of Maes Howe, 5000 years ago but it first came into recorded history with the Vikings. The name comes from the Old Norse, Skalpeid-floi, or Bay of the Long Isthmus.

In 1670 Stromness, already a whaling and fishing centre, became the main European base for the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1813, commercial shipping going around the north of Scotland came under threat from US privateers supporting the French. This resulted in the first shore defences with the construction of the Hackness Battery and two Martello Towers protecting Longhope Sound, at the southern end of Hoy.

wreckwreckIn the early 1900s the Royal Navy needed a base for the Grand Fleet and many thousands of service personnel were based on the surrounding islands. In 1919 the German High Seas Fleet was brought to Scapa Flow after the German surrender. A misunderstanding over the progress of the peace talks led the German commander, Admiral von Reuter, to believe that war was about to resume. To avoid his fleet falling into British hands he ordered the scuttling of 74 German battleships at anchor in Scapa Flow. Many still remain on the sea bed as a magnet for divers and dive boats cater for up to 20,000 people each year.

Visitor CentreIn 1939 Scapa Flow was reactivated as the main base for the Royal Navy with every headland carrying a disused lookout and a gun emplacement. The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre at Lyness on Hoy is housed in the main oil storage facilities for the fleet during the war. There are vast underground oil tanks in the hillside, the spoil from which was used to build Lyness's large harbour. Nearby is the Naval cemetery, in which those whose bodies were recovered from HMS Royal Oak are buried, alongside many others from two world wars.


Stromness


Stromness harbour We went for a walk around and bought some rolls for lunch, which we ate by the harbour and had some Orkney ice cream. The name Stromness comes from the Norse Straumrnes, or 'point of land by Hoy Sound'. By the 1300s the name was recorded as Strumnay, and "Stromness" first appears in records in 1544.

Ferry terminalOnce the main base of the Hudson Bay Company, Stromness remains the terminus for the main car ferry from Scrabster. Most of the harbourside houses have jetties and moorings for small boats. A plaque beside Login’s Well recalls that for more than 200 years this port was the last watering place for vessels of the Hudson's Bay Company, who traded in fur with the North American Indians.

Main streetCaptain Cook's ships Resolution and Discovery made their first British landfall here after his death and the ill-fated Franklin expedition in search of the Northwest Passage set out from the port in 1845. We visited the Stromness Museum which has displays of these and other historical records.

Privatr wharf Stromness stretches for over a mile along the shore of Hamnavoe, an inlet of Scapa Flow sheltered by the islands of Outer Holm and Inner Holm. The town is just one narrow main street that twists and turns between the shoreline and the hillside behind. On one side paths climb steeply up Brinkles Brae, the 300ft granite ridge that lies behind the town and on the seaward side they make their way between close-packed building to the private wharves. One of the streets climbing Brinkles Brae is named the Khyber Pass!

Stromness HotelThe Hudsons Bay Company said that they found Orcadians to be more sober than the Irish and prepared to work for less than the English and they offered good wages in their Canadian settlements.

Stromness became the centre from which the lighthouses around Orkney were manned and maintained and in the 1820s 10% of the entire local population was employed making straw hats. It acquired a legal distillery in 1817 though what was then called the Man o' Hoy Distillery only survived until 1927. It is now home to businesses serving the needs of divers wanting to explore Scapa Flow.


Skara Brae


Jacob's sheepWe passed the ruin of an old Orkney long-house and a rather old Jacob's sheep before arriving at an even older Scara Brae - which was mind blowing.

This village is 5000 years old!


Reconstructed interior There is a nice visitor centre with the usual video to watch and a life size reconstructed house to walk through. From here, a footpath leads out along part of Skaill Bay that is marked by a series of inscribed stones providing a timeline taking you all the way back to 3100BC, the date at which the village is thought to have been founded.

Reconstructed housePath to ScaraInscribed stone

The village would have been built some way inland but today it lies right on the edge of the sea, protected only by the defences put there for that purpose. For centuries Skara Brae was buried beneath dunes until it re-emerged during a storm in 1850. Sand had preserved the walls of stone houses and their domestic furniture, including food boxes lined with clay to act as refrigerators.

AndySkara Brae was built in at least two stages, and what you see today is mostly from the second stage of occupation. The residents built the village by forming a large pile of domestic rubbish, or midden, fairly similar to garden compost. They then dug down into the pile of midden to create spaces for the houses and the passageways linking them, which they lined with stone.

Covered interiorHouse interiorEach house comes with a set of fixtures and fittings, including a large central hearth with a stone box bed on each side, which would have been packed with heather. Each house is dominated by a stone-built dresser of standard size and design, and in some there is a stone seat in front of the dresser. The houses also contain shelves and recesses in the walls, and waterproof stone fish-bait boxes built into the floor. One of the buildings is a little different and is thought to have been some sort of village workshop, separated from the rest of the settlement by a small open area.

path through ScaraSkara Brae was believed to have been abandoned over a period of time as people's lives changed. These early Orcadians increasingly co-operated in larger groups and over larger areas, building monuments like Maes Howe and the Stones of Stenness. After Skara Brae was abandoned it slowly filled with wind-blown sand ensuring its preservation in its current state. In 1850 the laird of nearby Skaill House, William Watt, realised the significance of what the storm had exposed, and work has been under way ever since both to protect the site and to explore it.


Skaill House


Skaill House is Orkney's finest large mansion and lies only two hundred yards inland from Skara Brae. In 1615, the estate passed to Bishop George Graham following the trial and execution of Earl Patrick Stewart. He built the central wing of the house, probably converting an earlier hall into a separate building now forming part of the north wing. Bishop Graham was unseated in 1638 after allegations he had neglected his duties and used church land to benefit his family. Skaill and the surrounding Breckness Estate found their way into the ownership of his youngest son and has since passed down through his family to the current incumbent, the 12th Laird of Breckness.

The two free standing wings were joined into a square around a courtyard by 1770, when a dovecot, chapel and walled garden were also added. The chapel was demolished in 1806 but in the 1880s, significant extensions were added to the two ends of the building. In the 1950s, alterations were made throughout and the public areas on view today date back largely to this time.

The rambling Skaill House is strangely spartan in appearance, maybe because of the complete absence of trees from the surroundings, but it has a real sense of a country house that has seen a large slice of history, but also has a very 1950’s feel.


The Ring of Brodgar


Stone hit by lightningWhen we got to the Ring of Brodgar, I shot off to take photos before anyone else got there to spoil the pics. It is an awesome stone circle, superbly located on land rising above the saltwater Loch of Stenness and the freshwater Loch of Harray. Originally there were 60 stones in a perfect circle 104 metres in diameter. Today only 36 of the original stones are still standing, and one of those was split vertically by a bolt of lightning in 1980.

BrodgarThe ring is surrounded by a ditch cut into the rock that was 6 metres wide and 3 metres deep with two entrance causeways. It is thought that the Ring of Brodgar was built between 2500BC and 2000BC. To put this in context, the earliest of these dates is about 600 years after Skara Brae was first occupied, about 300 years after Maes Howe was built, and probably some time after the Stones of Stenness had already been erected to the south.

Andy & RichIt has been estimated that it would have taken 10,000 man-days to dig the ditch, plus several thousand more to find, transport and erect the stones. Several hundred people could therefore have built the circle in one summer if they had done nothing else.

It's purpose is unknown - a lunar observatory, used for ceremony? So far only limited excavations have taken place at Brodgar, so there's a great deal still to learn.


The Stones of Stenness


Flagstone roofWe drove on past a house with a flagstone roof and arrived at the Stones of Stennis, part of a ring of 12 tall stones and a surrounding ditch placed here some time between 3000BC and 2500BC and whose purposes are not completely understood. The Stones are superbly located with wonderful views extending to the hills of Hoy.

Stones of StennessIn 1814 the local farmer, Captain MacKay, lost patience with the increasing stream of visitors tramping across his land to visit the stones. He destroyed the nearby "Stone of Odin" and toppled a second stone before he was stopped.

Watch Stonestanding stoneThe Stones passed into the care of the State in 1906. The stone that Captain MacKay had toppled was re-erected, as was another discovered lying under the turf. This rather small and misshapen stone has been the subject of controversy ever since, but it remains standing today. At the same time, the stone that Sir Walter Scott had described as an altar was raised on stone supports, so it looked like an altar. It was pushed off its supports one night in 1972, apparently during a party.

The tallest stone is 19ft high and there are other standing stones in the area that were probably originally associated with the Stenness Stones.Most striking is the Watch Stone overlooking the causeway a little to the north.


Maes Howe


Maes HoweMaes Howe is the finest chambered tomb in North West Europe and is older than the Egyptian pyramids. It was probably built some time around 2800BC and post-dates Skara Brae.

The construction was a vast undertaking. A 38m circle was cleared and leveled and the tomb was then built above ground, complete with its side chambers and entrance passage. Some of the slabs of rock used weigh 30 tonnes and some may have been dragged here for a considerable distance. As the tomb was built, it was buried in an artificial mound, itself containing structures and retaining walls to ensure stability. Much of the material for the mound probably came from the ditch that surrounds it, which is 2m deep and 14m wide.

EntranceWe entered through a long, low passage with a large swivelling blocking stone still in place in its outer end. We crouched as the passage climbed gently and entered the square main chamber. The sides are made up of gently corbelled flat blocks with huge buttresses at each corner. On three sides of the tomb are chambers, each roofed by a single huge slab, which is also keyed into and forms part of the wall of the main chamber. Over the top of everything is a white-painted stone cap that was placed here after the tomb had been excavated in 1861.

The guide told us that it was probably used to house the dead of the community, but only a trace of bone was found during the 1861 excavation. The alignment of the tomb was used as a calendar. At sunset on midwinter's day the sun shines down the length of the entrance passage and illuminates an area low on the rear wall of the main chamber. By 2000 BC, Maes Howe seems to have fallen into disuse, probably due to a deterioration of the climate and consequential southerly migration of the population.

Maes Howe interiorFor 3000 years Maes Howe was no more than a grassy mound in the landscape but in 1153, Harald Maddadarson landed in Orkney from Argyll in an effort to take the islands and his men broke in through the roof and sheltered. The walls of the tomb carry many examples of graffiti left by the Vikings in the form of carved runes. Examples are "Tholfr Klossienn's son carved these runes high up" or "These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean with this axe owned by Gauk Trandilsson in the South land".

The activities of the Vikings weakened the roof and it collapsed, filling the chamber with stone and rubble. In 1861 a Mr Farrar failed to make his way in by the entrance passage so he followed the Vikings in via the roof. His workmen cleared out the chamber and the landowner installed the protective roof that still exists. Now it is a very busy tourist attraction.


The Broch of Gurness


We didn't make it to the north of the island so will have to come back!

Across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland there are around 500 of these stone defensive towers. The Broch of Gurness was built as a planned settlement some time before 200BC. Ditches were dug around the outer edges of the circle and ramparts were built with the spoil. It may have reached a height of 10m and was equipped with stone walls or dividers and a deep well. Around it was built a village of small stone houses, each with a yard and a storage shed.

By AD100 the inhabitants abandoned the site, leaving just one family who set up home amid the rubble in what has become known as the Shamrock House, because of the four rooms that lead off the central area. During the Pictish period this was also abandoned. At least one Viking was buried here, but there was otherwise no sign of any later disturbance or development until the site was excavated in 1929.
Within the thickness of the walls is a stone staircase that would originally have led to upper levels and what was originally thought to be a well has steps down into the interior with chambers built into the its sides.


Earl's Bu and the Round Church of St Nicholas


The Bu was a manor house of the Norse Earls of Orkney and dates back to the 1100s. It was made up of farm buildings, a mansion and a drinking hall but not much remains. According to the saga, Earl Haraldr died in 1127 and the drinking hall was the site of the murder of Sveinn Brestrope in 1136.

After the first crusade, Earl Håkon had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to do penance for ordering the murder of Earl Magnus. Earl Håkon's less enduring memorial was St Nicholas Church, built in about 1123. It was destroyed in 1757 and all that remains is the semi-circular apse and markings on the grass. The churchyard houses a remarkable collection of grave stones and markers, all with stunning views over Scapa Flow to the south. The Orkneyinga Saga Centre is close by and helps give understanding to this Viking influence.


Kirkwall


Craft shopFor a large part of its history the town was more Scandinavian than Scottish and still is. To the Norse, Kirkwall was at the heart of a culture linking Scandinavia with Iceland, Shetland, the Western Isles, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

HotelThe name comes from the Norse "Kirkjuvagr", or "Church Bay" and comes from the foundation of a church to St Olaf. By 1046 Kirkwall was a farming and market centre and in 1137 the Norse Earl Rognvald commenced the building of St Magnus Cathedral and work began later on the construction of the Bishop's Palace.

Wireless MuseumIn 1468 Orkney was acquired by James III for Scotland and by 1540 Kirkwall was the administrative centre for both Orkney and Shetland. 1607 saw Earl Patrick Stewart replace the Bishop's Palace with the Earl's Palace but while Patrick was imprisoned in for tyranny in 1614, his son Robert seized the Earl's Palace and nearby Kirkwall Castle. The castle did not survive the siege that ended the uprising, and neither Robert nor Patrick survived the judicial process that followed it.

HarbourAfter the Scots kings seized Orkney, the islands languished under various Earls and were used as sheep runs, but fishing remained the staple industry, but hundreds of Orcadians, skilled in seal fishing, departed to Canada, recruited by the Hudson Bay Company.

HarbourWe walked to the harbour, where in the early days the bay extended further south to the Peerie Sea, now an inland lake. In the 1100s it formed the harbour and extended almost to the Cathedral. In 1811 work began on a series of harbour improvements which have continued over the years to the extension to the main pier and deeper water port facilities at Hatston. Nowadays, 70 cruise ships call each year and it also serves the NorthLink Ferries to Aberdeen and Lerwick, also ferries to all the northern isles except Rousay.

Tankerness MuseumWe couldn’t resist visiting some of the craft shops in the town and bought a picture of the Ring of Brogar. There is a museum of Orkney History in Tankerness House which includes a set of ba' for use in the annual Kirkwall ball-game. Held on Christmas Day, this 200 year old mass football game has tussles lasting up to six hours.


The Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces


Bishop's Palace We went into the Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces and there was no one else there. They were huge inside and Rich did an interesting video. A large circular tower was a later phase of the Bishop's Palace, built for Bishop William the Old in the 1150s, and known as the Palace of the Yards.

Interior of bishop's PalaceKing Håkon of Norway took up residence in 1263 following his defeat by Alexander III at the Battle of Largs. He died here in 1263 and the palace fell into disrepair in the following centuries before being extensively rebuilt by Bishop Robert Reid in the 1540s.

In 1568 the palace was acquired by Earl Robert Stewart, whose family then effectively enslaved the islands for over 40 years. His son Patrick remodelled the Palace in 1600, before deciding to build a new one.

Inside Earl's PalaceHe acquired neighbouring land in a process involving the trial and execution of the previous owner on trumped up charges of theft and used slave labour to build the Earl's Palace. Earl Patrick Stewart did not enjoy it for long as he was tried for his misdeeds in 1610 and imprisoned in Dumbarton Castle. The Earl's Palace remained intermittently in use until the death of Bishop Mackenzie in 1688, after which it gradually deteriorated.

The Ear's palaceDespite it’s roofless state, the building is deceptively large. At the heart is the great hall with huge stone window frames, beautifully corbelled out from the ground floor walls, an example of French Renaissance style.


St Magnus Cathedral


St Magnus CathedralOur last visit was to the magnificent Cathedral of St Magnus, dedicated to an 11th century Earl canonised after his murder. During rebuilding of the cathedral, a skeleton was found with an axe cleft in its skull; the injury matched that from which the Earl is believed to have died.

NaveIn 1117 Earl Magnus and his cousin Håkon were the joint Earls of Orkney, but there was considerable enmity between their followers. It was agreed that the two would meet to resolve their differences, each bringing only two ships. Magnus had already gained a reputation for piety and gentleness and arrived with his two ships, but Håkon arrived with eight.

Cathedral interiorHåkon ordered Lifolf to kill Magnus after others had refused to do so. Magnus was killed with an axe blow to the head and was buried in the Norse church at Birsay. Twenty years later, Earl Rognvald came to Orkney to reclaim his half of the Earldom from Håkon's son and to build his church of stone.

St OlafWhat you see today is the result of near continuous work over the following 875 years using red sandstone quarried near Kirkwall and yellow sandstone from the island of Eday. On the completion of the choir, St Magnus's remains were brought here and interred in a column.

In 1468 the Cathedral came under the control of the Archbishop of St Andrews and the Bishops were subsequently of Scots origin. Most notable was Bishop Reid who also founded Edinburgh University.

Royal Oak bellMajor work was undertaken on the Cathedral in the early 1900s which included replacing the spire to look like the original that was struck by lightning in the late 1600s. Restoration on the building continues and to celebrate its 850th anniversary in 1987 the Queen unveiled a magnificent new west window. The bell from The Royal Oak that went down in Scapa Flow is also displayed inside.

We were disappointed that there was a lack of cafes and spent a while hunting for a chip shop. When we eventually found one, the huge cheese and chip butties were pretty good.


Tankerness


DistilleryWe drove out of Kirkwall past the Highland Park Distillery although shops selling this brew were sadly lacking in the town. The "standard" Highland Park is a 12 year old single malt that is highly rated by experts.

Highland Park dates back to 1798 when a local Church Officer, Magnus Eunson, began to operate an illegal still on this hillside location overlooking Kirkwall. He is said to have hidden his whisky under his pulpit. The operation was legalised in 1825 as Scotland's most northerly distillery, Highland Park. Overlooking nearby Scapa Bay is Scotland's second most northerly distillery, Scapa.

It is one of the few distilleries that still have their own floor maltings. The kilns are fully functional so you can see part of the process normally only carried out in industrial maltings with locally cut peat is used for part of the drying process.

Mine HoweEarly in 1946 an excavation was carried out at an earth mound known as Mine Howe. A deep rock-built chamber was uncovered which was interpreted as the remains of an iron age broch. In 1999 the local farmer rediscovered the entrance and found a vertical passage accessed by 29 steep stone steps.Half way down, these doubled back at a "landing" with two low galleries. At the bottom there was a very deep step into a chamber. It probably dates back about 2000 years, but there is no agreement about its use or purpose.

FerryWe caught the 7 o’clock ferry and this time the weather was better and we were able to sit on the top deck and enjoy the views. There was a glorius sunset that evening.