I have just returned home after an inspirational trip to Orkney. Funded by the John Muir Trust (Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant), I set out to investigate and report on disability access to the archaeological areas of Orkney. I spent the week looking at historical sites and remains from as far back as the neolithic age and experienced the wonders of times long ago. As well as visiting Historic Scotland locations, I experienced a breathtaking array of scenery, colours and wildlife and I have had an amazing trip.
Earlier this year I applied to the John Muir Trust (Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant) for a small grant to enable me to visit Orkney. The idea came after looking at guided tours on Orkney that specifically said that disabled people are not catered for. Feeling somewhat frustrated I decided I wanted to go there and see for myself and so that is exactly what I did.
Leaving Edinburgh at 6am we had a long journey ahead of us. Due to sailing from Gills Bay at 4pm we decided to leave in plenty of time so that we were not under pressure. We made good progress up the A9, that notoriously slow road, and stopped just south of Aviemore, for breakfast. The Ralia Cafe by Newtonmore provided a delicious bacon sandwich and a well needed break. Once we passed Inverness, the next stage of the journey was all new to me. I hadn’t been up the far north east coast since I was a child. We passed through some quaint coastal towns. The further we got to the north coast, the flatter the landscape became but the rolling moorland scenery made for a very nice journey. Before I knew it we were approaching John O’Groats, a place I have wanted to experience for sometime. An experience it was ! Full of tacky tourist shops and not a lot else. We made our stop there brief and travelled further to catch the ferry at Gills Bay a few miles west along the coast.
Arriving on Orkney
After a smooth ferry crossing we arrived at St Margaret’s Hope around 5pm and had about a 40 minute drive to our accommodation. It was a fine, dry evening after some late afternoon showers and it gave us our first taste of the wonderful scenery and sites that were to come. Approaching our accommodation, I caught my first glimpse of the Ring of Brodger, something I had been looking forward to seeing for such a long time. There it was in open moorland slightly elevated above Loch Stenness. I was so excited. This was just the first taste of what was to come in a week packed with the most magnificent sites.
Our cottage, which would be our base for the next week was lovely. Not far from Stenness we sat looking out over the hills of Hoy feeling an enormous sense of gratitude. As the evening progressed and we settled in we were very conscious of the difference in daylight hours between Orkney and Edinburgh. Towards 11pm it began to get dim, although I would not describe it as dark, we could still see clearly outside.
Having settled we began to plan. There was so much to see and only a week to do it in. I’ve been to many of the Scottish Islands but I have never arrived on one with so much I wanted to see. We were both exhausted after the long journey and finally got to bed sometime towards midnight. I still wouldn’t describe it as dark outside.