We ride all year, but spring does bring some lovely days for biking. Yesterday was just such a day, and we zipped in a leisurely manner from the Hope to Stromness for a picnic overlooking the town. We took the Orphir Road, with its wonderful views over Scapa Flow and then cut up the Scorradale Road as a more fun option. We had to stop at the top of the hill as the view that opened up before us was simply too stunning for words.
Son William said: "We've got to tell our tourists about this!", and I'm obeying the injunction. (Like a fool, I hadn't grabbed a proper camera, so I'm afraid this is just an iPhone snap.)
This was one of the best views of the hills of Hoy that we had ever seen.
The exact location is here.
And this is where we had our picnic in Stromness. I didn't take a snap so Google Maps comes to the rescue!
The exact location is here
So much so, in fact, that it is said that Orkney has no trees. The picture below gives the lie to this, but perhaps also has *a little* bit to say about the breezes we have.
One of the many, though perhaps less frequently mentioned, reasons people come to visit and enjoy Orkney is the pollution-free, fresh, clean air that get pumped into one's lungs.
This picture, not taken by me for a change, but by a Facebook friend, was brilliantly entitled by her "In Stromness, what direction does the wind mainly blow?"
Photo by Joanna Wood, used with permission
It's a slightly different story here in St Margaret's Hope. When we step out onto the waterfront or into the village here, one can often be fooled into thinking the day is a lot less breezy than one imagines. The Hope is in a sheltered position: in winter gales, one can get quite a surprise on reaching the top of the hill when leaving the village as suddenly a blast of the real winds whips at one!
…and another beauty spot, this one with some relatively recent history thrown in. Son William and I set off on another Sunday morning walk/excursion yesterday. Once again, we picked a potentially promising road-end on the OS map, and then drove off to see if it would deliver. This being Orkney, it delivered in full and more (with one caveat, see below).
Our destination was Rerwick Head and the plan was to walk round the headland and take photos of the natural arch at Orwick indicated on the map.
The drive, of course, was easy and we pulled into the car park and fed the parking meter (just joking!). Since we had picked the destination rather casually, and hadn’t googled anything about it first, our great surprise was that this place didn’t just have lovely views, but was covered with the remains, in an excellent state of repair, of a massive coastal battery. And that’s how we got our double dose of interest for the morning. See here for details and more, very good, photographs.
One thing that amazed us was that the concrete looked liked it had been poured yesterday. Given the sort of weather these things have had to put up with for half a century, all I can say is that we made wonderful concrete back then.
This was the lovely view that greeted us on arrival.
Super spring day
Another – older – kind of shelter that we found on the walk
Unsurprisingly, gun emplacements command superb views. It's safe to come now, though, as someone has nicked the guns.
There was a sign warning about going into these places. Naturally, we went in anyway; they don't look like they propose to collapse any time soon.
The cliffs and sea were lovely too.
This rock formation reminded me of an eagle's head looking out to sea.
But, but, but!!!
Where's the promised natural arch at Orwick? The map and GPS said we were there but we saw nothing.
there's a complimentary round to any of our guests who go there, find it, and bring back a pic!
Yesterday was the new year Ba' in Kirkwall. See this link for a proper explanation. In my view, it's just a grand excuse for half the county to gather in Kirkwall to tough out the weather while the toughest of the tough do battle, with considerable courage, over possession of a ball, which disappears into a mélée of brave and strong guys, and may or may not reappear ever again.
In other words – the Ba' is great fun – a bit strange, wild and simultaneously civilised (just like Orkney is), and an event not be missed.
I took a load of photos.
This was just before the throw-in
Here it comes
The mélée then surges to and fro as the teams try to take possession of the ba'. The onlookers do their onlooking just behind the players and the whole streetful rolls to and fro
as the action surges. Not too many get trampled. I only saw it happen to one person, who was ever so kindly and promptly helped up by onlookers and some players..
It's practically impossible to see anything much for any length of time, but some people know what to do about that.
Waiting for things to start. All shop windows and premises along the route of the game are barricaded to protect against the future crush. Of course they can be used for other purposes too. It's not like there are any rules, and the health-and-safety nazis (did I say nazis? Surely I meant nannies? Or did I?) have not yet found a way of spoiling this fun.
A surge in one direction.
And then in another. (This was the first time a noticed a strange phenomenon: I thought I had a smudge on my lens but then realised that haze above the centre of the melée is actually steam rising from the overheated gladiators. From then on, I knew how to tell where the centre of the action was.
The tough being tough
The action moves down Albert Street. You can see the steam rising by Boots the Chemist
Then surges to the other side of the road
One of the heros
And another. (And how wonderful that this is a game in which you take smoke breaks!)
And that's all I saw folks. The gladiators got stuck in one of the lanes where the battle continued invisibly for over an hour. Weakling that I am, I sneaked off home after 40 minutes' waiting for something to happen as my toes were freezing.
But I took some iPhone videos as well.
There's an excellent new documentary series about Orkney on BBC2 at the moment. The first in the series was yesterday.
For those with iPlayer, it's available for the next 28 days.
Screenshot only. Nothing to click here! Use the buttons above.
The last issue of The Orcadian this year brings news of this event which is to happen in April. Orkney is wonderfully attractive at all times but this sounds extra special.
Conor, on the other hand, was rather more impressive. I wanted to go to the Ba' in Kirkwall but wondered if the wind would let me. (It certainly wasn't letting the Pentalina sail – crossings cancelled all day!). So I grabbed my things and set off. Got a salt-water carwash at No.4 barrier between South Ronaldsay and Burray and made my way to No. 3 barrier, where I stopped to take some photographs.
Heavy-bevvy salt-water carwash in operation
The waves were constantly bashing into the barrier and I decided that, alhtough not officially closed for safety reasons, i would probably give my Kirkwall trip a miss since glimpses of No. 2 barrier in the distance looked even worse.
The sea was beautiful though.
This was happening at a rate of about one every second or so
Having decided to chicken out, I thought I had better do something. The wind direction told me that Burwick ought to be rather exciting, so I made a U-turn and set off in the opposited direction.
And Burwick was wonderful! Here are the pics.
The pier was taking a battering
The air was misty with salt spray
No checking creels today
I wonder where the seals go in this sort of weather
And my best shot last!
I took all the pics standing in the lee of my car, or of these concrete blocks piled up for a pier enlargement as otherwise it would have been difficult to stand. I had wanted to go to the top of the cliff to look out further over the Pentlnd Firth, but there was so much spray whipping up over the clifftop that this would have been impossible.
I went out on 24th during Storm Barbara to see the rough weather. But in fact, down here on South Ronaldsay, the only real difference between this and a normal winter's day was facefulls of stinging hail. Also a certain difficulty in opening and retaining car doors and standing still enough in the wind to get a photo (I had forgotten to take my monopod.)
Dark and stormy it was, but no less lovely for that
Loooking out to Brough Ness
Burwick, where I got my first facefull of hail.
Overlooking Sandwick. (This house is for sale, I believe)
Sandwick Bay. I love the lonely standing stone in the middle of a field.
Some blue sky started to appear as I stood at the Sand of Wright. The weather changes fast when the wind is 100kph or more.
The waves are so even in this bay.
The dark cloud was being blown away...
...and a few seconds later, I was in full sunlight as the storm clouds were pushed North-East
Photo locations circled in green
Last Sunday, son William and I picked a promising road-end to ride to and set off, out to Finstown and then right on the A966. We went here (the Bay of Hinderayre, https://goo.gl/maps/AZTwYANWTM12) and the reward was super.
A beautiful beach, views back to Kirkwall, and a wonderful, little lost cemetery, made all the more special for us as it held some Loutit graves.
Parking up at The End of the Road
The view towrads Kirkwall
The lonely cemetary on its little promontary
Ruined church and graveyard
Wonderful lichen and moss
Wonderful lichen and moss
Wonderful lichen and moss
We find a William Louttit resting here
One William Loutit on, and the other in, the hallowed ground
Yesterday was bright and lovely. Son and I rode into town on our bikes, aiming to hit a film at the Pickaquoy after lightfall and before that explore some more places where the road ends and views begin. For that day, we had picked two possibilities from the OS Landranger – Car Ness, the peninsula sticking out East of Kirkwall and Inganess Bay. Car Ness was a failure for us when we reached a 'Private' sign and a gate with the road continuing beyond. Since that put paid to that idea, we turned round and roared off to Inganess Bay and the Sands of Wideford, a road-end where we struck gold. in the form of a beautiful beach, bay and romantic wreck.
The limpid water of the wide bay and its decorative rusting wreck made for a perfect view for our picnic.
Here is the map for the failed Car Ness jaunt
and here is the way to the Sands of Wideford
PS – on no account go to see the film Arrival. It's turgid, sub-moronic dross. Still, we only went after dark, so it can't be said we lost time enjoying views.
I like to take photos and am fond of clichés - so I'll say I find them to be worth a thousand words.