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micheledunlop’s Travel Diary

Friday, 29 Jun 2007

Location: Orkney, UK

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Arrived in Stromness this evening after catching the ferry to Kirkwell. Good trip. Staying at Brown hostel and ate at the local pub tonight. Tomorrow doing the sites here and then making my way to Westray - www.westray-orkney.co.uk I am going to look at Puffins.

Stayed at Bis Geos in Westray. www.bisgeos.co.uk/ £12 per night. Best hostel. Got picked up by a mini bus which meets everyone at the ferry and there is a standard £2 fare no matter where you are going. Everyone knows everyone so no problem needing directions. Walked into the conservatory and it was roasting hot, it is a real suntrap of the most comfortable kind. Soft sofa, heaps of books, looking straight out to the sea and cliffs.

The kitchen has two stoves, heaps of gear for cooking and utensils for eating with. Complete contrast to the hostel in Evora.

I had a rest, read and then walk to see what was on the cliffs = birds but no puffins.

Next day was raining and really cold. So miserable that i had to stay inside in the warm and read, sleep, eat and drink. I still had the hostel to myself, but met up with the gardener Kathleen, and handyman whose name i have forgotten but will add it when I remember. Alena pops in once a day.

beside the hostel there are two cottages and the residents of one them them called and said that they were off for fish and chips and brought me some back.

Next day raining but patches of fine and a bit warmer. I went to the village and then walked back, saw the work of Hume Sweet Hume, fabulous design of knitwear. Expensive though if converting to NZ and OZ dollars.
In the evening I went out with Westray Tours and saw the Puffins, in rafts, scout Puffins checking out the lay of the rock and then other Puffins coming in for the night. Some had chicks and some were just there in pairs being nice to each other.

Next day wet and misty again so caught the 0830 ferry back to Kirkwell, stayed at the Peedie Hostel £10 per night, lovely and small (peedie means small) a pretty and clean hostel, no common room but great location. There was no room there for the following night and so found the Kirkwell Youth Hostel (SYHA) about a 10 -15 minute walk. It is fabulous, £13.50 per night, good facilities and great spaces for people to eat and talk. A big dining room and lounge, spaces which just seem to encourage talk and laughter.

I visited most of the sights including the distillery. The Orkneys also have a boutique beer producer so I sampled a different one every evening. Hints of chocolate, cherries and so on. Very like descriptions of wine. I have seen middens, mounds where people built and lives in houses 3000 years ago (older than the pyramids) the St. Magnus cathedral and the centre which has a really good 15 minute free film. The distillery also has a film as part of the tour ( a bit expensive at $5.00, although you get $2.00 off if you buy a bottle of whiskey) I think it really has the best background about Orkney.

I had paid £20 for a deal which was three island, so 3 return trips by ferry or 2 ferry trips and one plane. I chose to fly to the most further island. I thought that I would just book for next day t North Ronaldsay but the planes were absolutely chocka so booked for early flight Friday. I did not realise that there was a folk festival on, when I did I tried to extend my stay but not it was not too be.

Friday we were two hours late departing due to the low cloud. The plane was tiny and flew with its wheels down. We were just over the water and once the cloudbank appears he flew straight up into the blue. Landed fine, the hosts fro the Bird Observatory picked up and no sooner had we put our bags in hey had a call to say that there were Orcas in the bay so it was all into the jeeps again and we saw the fins and occasional back out in the water. Just google North Ronaldsay to find out about the Bird Observatory - heaps of info. Has a hostel and rooms, B & B , generous with breakfast, you can buy lunch and dinner there and well worth doing. £27 for dinner bed and breakfast in hostel. There is also a very well stocked bar, gratefully frequented by all. Seaweed eating sheep are a bit of a feature of this island and I did taste a mutton sandwich - tasty but not noticeably sea weedy. I did also enjoy the crab soup, and buffet diner that was offered before the Friday night concert.

Love to type more now but brain needs a break. Will do so because it was one of the best two days I have spent while away and have actually bought a T Shirt featuring fiddle playing sheep. Cool as.