Antipole cruises

The Orkney Islands with Stefan

It has been great to discover the Orkney Islands.  Apart from the southernmost Hoy, they comprise low rolling hills with many inland lochs, and are very fertile.  Agriculture is still the major activity.  Culturally, they are quite distinct from mainland Scotland, having been under Nordic rule until 1468.  The local accents vary from island to island but sound closer to Sunderland than Scottish, often with a Welsh-like lilt.

We arrived in the port of Stromness on Mainland island, which is a delight.  It is an ancient town with a long twisting paved street and many narrow alley ways off.

Login’s Well with plaque about the Franklin expedition

We had not realised how important it has been as a departure or arrival port for transatlantic passages and even passages to the southern oceans  – often preferred over the English Channel route where attacks from continental powers were more likely.  Orcadians, as Orkney folk are known, made up ¾ of the manpower of the Hudson Bay Company operating in Canada and much of the whaling fleet.  We saw the well from which the Erribus and Terror took on water before departing on Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated voyage.

The Orkneys have a wealth of neolithic remains.  The islands were probably populated from 8,500 years ago.  We explored on cycles and saw many standing stones, sometimes in someone’s garden.  We saw the ancient stone circles at Stenness built about 5,500 years ago and the large Ring of Brodegar.  These are 2-3000 years older than Stonehenge!

There exist the remains of several villages of those times.  We visited Skara Brae, which was occupied for some 600 years up to 2,500BC before being abandoned and buried under sand and thus preserved.  In 1850 another storm exposed it again. In its final form it comprised a number of subterranian dwellings and a workshop all interconnected by passage ways.  Each dwelling had a central hearth, a stone side board, two bed boxes, a larder and a small pond for keeping sea food or sea bate.  It was extraordinary to be able to see the domestic arrangements and stone furniture of a family home.

We also visited the burial chamber at Maeshowe, which dates from 5000BC – about 2,500 years before the pyramids of Giza.  The long entry passage was built so that at winter solstice the setting sun shines along the passage and illuminates the back of the chamber.

It is known that shortly after Christmas 1153 a group of Norsemen broke into the tomb to hole up during a snowstorm.  They spent their time carving graffiti runes which survive to this day.  The inscriptions include things such as “Otarr carved these runes”; “Ingigerth is the most beautiful”; “Thorni bedded. Helgi carved”. Not much has changed!

On Thursday we made passage from Stromness to Westray island in the north.  This was an exciting passage: beating out through Hoy Sound; picking our way between the rosts (the tidal overfalls of white water that occur here); up the west coast; in through Westray Sound and between more rosts before passing through the narrow Weatherness Sound to reach the eastern side of Westray, by which we came to the small harbour of Pierowall.  Off the west coast of Mainland we had past the tidal test site of the European Marine Energy Centre, where we could see experimental rigs for harnessing tidal or wave energy.  We hear from locals that most of these have failed in the face of the waves thereabouts, which can reach 17 metres high.  They were nothing like that for us, but they sometimes seemed that way.  We were running under just a reduced genoa and the seas astern towered over us.  It is not often that we close the companion way and have everybody clipped on with safety lines, but in the event not a splash came inboard.
We are now in Pierowall harbour sitting out a gale before heading up to the Shetland Islands.

Ynskje, Tony & Stefan

IMG_1716Stefan writes:  I have had an excellent time learning more about sailing.   I was positively surprised how the quality of the food matched the quality of the sailing.

I have enjoyed the magnificent views of northern Scotland and the islands.

One thought on “The Orkney Islands with Stefan

  1. Alison Naisby

    Great to hear news of all 3 of you, & the fascinating Orkneys. What an amazing wealth of history, no idea it went back so far. Thanks so much for sharing your news & pictures. Hhat a wonderful way to spend your retirements! So looking forward to coming on board at some time, & experiencing an Antipole trip, not to mention Ynskje,s fabulous cooking!!
    David will send link to awesome pictures of Competa forest fire.

    Much love to you all from us both, Alison XXX

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.