Stef here – the Ops Manager of Wilderness Scotland! Orkney has always been home for me. I lived there for three years, running a country house hotel overlooking the sea. It was as enchanting as this might sound like.
The lifestyle suited and I fell in love with this island archipelago straight away. A very special place really… Orkney consists of 75 islands, 18 of those are inhabited – the population ranges from 2 (Gairsay) to 18000 (Orkney Mainland).
You literally stumble across 5000 years of human inhabitation. Neolithic, Pictish, Viking – you name it. All there. And very accessible. Historic Scotland are doing a great job looking after the main sites such as Skara Brae, Maes Howe and the Ring of Brogar.
Over the years, I managed to walk around most of those inhabited (and 2 uninhabited ) islands – Hoy being my favourite. I’m still gob-smacked by the sight of the Old Man of Hoy peeling away from some of the highest sea cliffs of the UK. What a sight! Rackwick Bay is probably my favourite beach in the world – its location and haunting peacefulness is what I’m longing for, when it gets busy. Basically – you just can’t beat Orkney on a good day. And even when you experience the liquid sunshine, there are so many ‘bad weather options’ (apart from donning the waterproofs :)).
The museums are first rate. The recently renovated Pier Arts Centre can keep up with some galleries in London and beyond (their collection on Barbara Hepsworth (one of the most influential sculptors of the UK) is next to none!). Both Orkney Farm Museums (Corrigall and Kirbuster) are bringing the Orcadian lifestyle and culture back to life with very enthusiastic custodians!
Have I mentioned the food yet?! Expect to get off the island a wee bit rounder. Think Orkney Fudge, ice cream, shortbread (try the one from Westray!)… Delicious!!!
I just came back from a wee visit to my second home (now living in the Cairngorms). The weather has been kind and I got a reminder why I got ‘stuck’ there for 3 years (I only planned to stay 5 months). I spent a couple of days with our wilderness walking group who thoroughly enjoyed the Orcadian way of life.