With the Terns comes the mist

With the Arctic Terns comes the mist.. or so the fishermen on Orkney say. Right they are! Not that I would ever doubt such a statement. I find it reassuring that these fact’s need no academic grounds to be based on. That is also why I put great trust in “After rain comes Sun” I have no doubt… We left Ullapool last Tuesday in the wake of the Vikings. Destination, Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, Faroe and finally Reykjavik, Iceland. A great Itinerary with endless places to visit.

The Old man of Hoy - picture by Debbie Purser

We crossed the Minch for the last time this spring, on our way to Stornoway. A backing WSW’ly made the sail closer hauled than first expected. None the less we beat the ferry from ullapool but only just by minutes (Also she done the round trip twice in that time..). 

The next day was spent exploring the Island of Lewis. Most made it up to the Callanish standing stones and the black houses. On their return, we casted of and set sail for Hoy, Orkney. We refused to be chased by gales any longer and so the wind dropped and left us all together in the end. A quick passage none the less. 

  We dropped anchor in the bay of Quoys around 1000 and where greeted by some shy rays of sun. The plan was a visit to Rackwick with a detour to the Old Man Off Hoy and back via the postman’s trail. The weather did not let us down. As soon as Albert picked us up with his minivan the sun came out.  

Of to the dwarfies to see the ancient tomb and this time also the nesting eagles! Wauw this year it looks like the young pair is going to pull it off. After 3 years of unsuccessful nesting. On the previous trips we had already seen both white tail and golden eagles. 4, even on the Shiants! These majestic birds seem to be making a great and steady come back!

 

We have been quite lucky with the bird life so far. The first trip to st Kilda we spotted some Arctic Skuas in the sound of Harris. The same week we also spotted some Manx shearwaters and two Shooty Shearwaters. When we sailed into Stromness last evening the Arctic terns came up out of the mist. They make the coming of summer a fact!.

Tecla below Ward Hill by Debbie Purser
Skua by Gijs Sluik

  Today was spent exploring the main Island of Orkney. Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe where the highlights. Skara Brae is one of the best-preserved Neolithic villages. Standing on the site it is not hard to imagine the live these ancient people used to live. They cultivated the land long before the Vikings came. Although these people where believed to be primitive they had knowledge of the tides and seasons and where able to use them to. The site is said to be revealed first in 1850 after a severe storm and extremely high tides. It has been well preserved ever after! 

The Postman path by Debbie purser
Rack Wick Bay by debbie purser
Ring of Brodgar by Debbie Purser
Inside Scara Brae by Debbie Purser

The ring of Brodgar is one of the finest stone circles anywhere. Right in the middle of Orkneys agricultural heart on the Ness of Brodgar. It is believed to date as far back as the 3rd millennium BC and was of great importance until at least the 2nd millennium BC. The site was undoubtedly chosen for observation of the moon. There is a great variety of alignments which may have been intended by its builders… The stones are believed to be cut out of a quarry in Sandwick where prepared megaliths can still be seen. 

  Maeshowe is considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of Neolithic Europe. It has been preserved since 1861 but has always been of great interest. It is believed to be an ancient cathedral more than a tomb. Vikings also took great interest as can be seen by there Norse graffiti!

   I spent the day on board and went to visit the Museum in Stromness to see the exhibition on John Rae.

John Rae the Arctic explorer was born not far from here and is considered a great hero on the Orkney’s. His stories of arctic travels are fascinating and a source of great inspiration! On the way to the museum the pebble stones tell the story of the little town over the years. The Hudson Bay Company and many of the whalers used the place for there last stop before crossing the north Atlantic. They stocked up on food and water but also on men.

The Orkney men where known as great boatmen and well sought after. They shipped the furs and goods over the lakes and rivers of north America and Canada, where many of them made a new home!

A well spent day all together. Tomorrow we head north for Rousay or Westray. gijs