Scotland: Orkneys – Magical Islands of the North I
The Orkney Islands are located on massive cliffs north of Scottish shore. There are 70 islands and only on about 20 there is some permanent settlement.
We began our journey on the largest island Mainland. Sporadic traffic consists of ferries on two lines: Aberdeen – Kirkwall, or Scrabster – Stromness. Despite we lived with our friends in Aberdeen we chose the second line, its boarding station was 200 miles away. Reason? Due to my fear and not good weather it was better to spend 5 hours in car and only one and half hour on the sea than sail 6 hours in raging storm.
When we finally boarded after a night spent on a journey direction Orkneys waves were dangerously high and data on our sail safety were red. In case of bad weather ferry company claims to postpone a ride if there is a a danger. However, our captain was an adventurer, a walk on a board was almost impossible for the ferry was swinging unpredictably. While my friends tired of a long journey fell asleep on a couch, I was thinking of scenes from Cameron’s Titanic. This is the reason why I can’t describe what I felt when the sea cooled down and we got into a niche between small island. Few minutes later, beautiful scenery emerged out of haze. Impressive cliffs of the island of Hoy looming above the sea and tops covered with snow. This was a promise of many good experiences. The ferry finally stopped at neighboring island and a picturesque town of Stromness appeared in front of us set in a diverse landscape. When we get out of the car strong northern wind greeted us. This made us postpone exploration of the town until the evening. We found quickly an accommodation in a small hostel; its owner, George, gave us many tips where to go and again he showed pleasant and friendly nature of northerners.
With all information we needed, a Scotch whiskey to keep ourselves warm and Wieners we were ready to explore the western part of the island. Our firs top was in the most preserved Neolithic village of Skara Brae. It consists of eight houses built in 3180 to 2500 B.C., thus it is older than Brittish Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Giza . In the houses you will see stone beds, family fireplace and also well arranged storage space. Almost indestructible these houses remained for they disappeared under sand sediments. For this reason the village is called the Scottish Pompeii. It was discovered during a storm in the year 1850 and it is no wonder that Skara Brae is included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage lists, like many other landmarks around.
Text/photo: Lucie Mařasová
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When one is in Scotland he/she should’t miss Edinburgh, its capital. This city located near the sea is worth at least several day stay. Still, you should bear on mind that you wouldn’t see everything.
In the morning, we set out to beautiful Highlands situated in the northwest. On our way, we pass snow-caped mountains veiled in morning mist. This tempts us to stop and take a beautiful picture. This time we are heading to a place to what we are looking forward the most to – Skye island. A road bloc complicates our travels. It absolutely confuses our GPS which frighten us a bit. We are running of fuel while gaining kilometers and there are not many gas stations around. Eventually, everything works out well and we continue in our journey.
On this day we set off to central Scotland, to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond is the largest Scotish lake with the area of 71 square kilometers, the maximal depth of the lake is192 meters. There are over 30 small islands and we strive for visiting one of them.
Autumn is an unusual time of the year to travel. For a long time, we were thinking if to even set out despite less dayilight time, winter, often rains yet Scotland captured us with its beauty and we would eventually buy our flight tickets. There is a regular connection between Prague and Edinburgh. Glasgow is about an hour of car ride from Edinburgh. Yet first we would travel bit further to the west and make a trek in the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.
Today, we visit one of the four countries creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is Scotland which is situated in the north of the island. The Atlantic Ocean creates its boundaries on the north and the North Sea in the east.
The Scottish referendum is popular topic in world media. Even if the Scots decided not to get out of three hundred year long relationship with England. It is almost certain that London would loosen its tight to Scotland. It is a question how would Scotland do as an independent country and how its would fare on international level.
Today, we get to the last part of the series of articles on rough yet magical Scotland.
Fortunately, in south part of Lewis there are hills that flawlessly continue to Harris. Islanders also need wood so they planted there a small forest. Now I lay in a warm sleeping bag, in a tent attached to three trees, I listen to an ugly sound of drops constantly hiting my tent. Well, I have to get up eventually. After all I come here to learn about the islands, not to lay all day long.
I have almost no water, no battery in my cell left, thus I travel to Mallaig, a port town from where ferries heading to Skye, Rum, Uist and other, smaller, islands depart. Right next to the port, there is a small train station. Its loading platform has not been used for a long time, obviously. It has two platforms.
Again, I woke up cold. This time it was not on the Orkneys. It was about half the way between Inverness and Perth, close to A9 road. Islands on the north, I had left 19 hours ago. Strong wind is blowing outside. Fortunately, it does not rain.
Cold and raindrops hitting a side of my tent wake me up. It would be better if there was no thermometer for knowing that it is just 1 degree above zero is not very encouraging. Fortunately, the wind got better. I quickly pack my tent hoping that my hands will not freeze.
After a half-an-hour ride I get off in Aberdour, a fishermen town in the Forth Bay. I have no idea where to go so I just follow arrows of the Fife Coastal Path. The reason is perhaps that it goes along the railway (and thus along the coastline as well).
Already in the summer of 2011, I was in Scotland for a few days visit. But this time it was different. And maybe even a little crazy. At this time I was a fresh adult student, only with a flight ticket to home, about three hundred pounds in his pocket and an overnight stay for the first night.
The last part of our visit of the islands we spent on Mainland and neighboring island on the south. These islands are interconnected with the so-called Churchill barriers.
We continued along the coastline to east and we were amazed with a beautiful road without holes and patches. There are just three main roads on Mainland, however, unlike ours they were in splendid condition.
Near the village is Yesnaby, perhaps the most popular cliffs we just had to visit. A look from above on wild waves made took one’s breath. After we explored the surroundings we headed to mysterious stones.
So what next you should miss when in Edinburg? For example Royal Yacht Britannia that traveled astonishing 1 million naval miles in its existence, it is as if the yacht traveled around the world for 40 times. In 1997 it was put out of service and today it is opened to the public.
My visit to Scotland was coming to an end, but I still had about 2,000 kilometers to go home. But Scotland is beautiful, so why hurry? So I stopped at several places on the Isle of Skye and gradually reached the highest mountain of Ben Nevis.
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