RideEatCamp

Orkney Islands

Europe

From Thurso we took a ferry to Sternness, a small city on the main island of the Orkney Islands. Although the ferry ride was a bit over an hour, Carrie and I quickly fell asleep. Our poor Hubba Hubba tent makes such a racket in the wind that it was hard to sleep the the previous night.

Carrie emerges from a replica building at Skara Brae.
Carrie emerges from a replica building at Skara Brae.

People stacked these stones about 7,000 years ago. The corner of this wall at Skara Brae shows off the level of precision and craftsmanship carried out by these Neolithic people.
People stacked these stones about 7,000 years ago. The corner of this wall at Skara Brae shows off the level of precision and craftsmanship carried out by these Neolithic people.
Inside Skaill House, a fancy 19th century house next to Skara Brae, we got a glimpse of life as a posh person. My favorite feature was the brass light switches.
Inside Skaill House, a fancy 19th century house next to Skara Brae, we got a glimpse of life as a posh person. My favorite feature was the brass light switches.
Orkney has a lot of wind turbines. Most farms have smaller turbines for home use. They're a good idea on this treeless landscape.
Orkney has a lot of wind turbines. Most farms have smaller turbines for home use. They’re a good idea on this treeless landscape.
On the ferry to Rousay, in case of emergency somebody is responsible for breaking the glass to retrieve the special skeleton key. We couldn't figure out what the key would be good for if the boat was sinking.
On the ferry to Rousay, in case of emergency somebody is responsible for breaking the glass to retrieve the special skeleton key. We couldn’t figure out what the key would be good for if the boat was sinking.
Look, it's the sun. We had nice evening light as we visited different archeological sites on Rousay.
Look, it’s the sun. We had nice evening light as we visited different archeological sites on Rousay.
Carrie reads up on the Midhowe Broch. Brochs are circular buildings built about three thousand years ago. Experts cannot agree on what the brochs were used for. Regardless, they're fun to walk around to admire ancient architecture.
Carrie reads up on the Midhowe Broch. Brochs are circular buildings built about three thousand years ago. Experts cannot agree on what the brochs were used for. Regardless, they’re fun to walk around to admire ancient architecture.
Access to the archeological sites on Rousay was superb. We were allowed to enter a couple of covered cairns, where the dead were placed thousands of years ago.
Access to the archeological sites on Rousay was superb. We were allowed to enter a couple of covered cairns, where the dead were placed thousands of years ago.

This is the biggest complaint I have about the Hubba Hubba. When the wind picks up the fly rubs the spine of the tent pole making this loud squeaky noise. We’ve seen a lot of other campers at the holiday parks with Hilleberg tunnel tents. Although heavy and bulky, the tents appear to be rock solid in high winds.

From Sternness we went to the major tourist draw Skara Brae. Skara Brae gives us a glimpse at the lives of people from the stone age, about 7,000 years ago. It was impressive to see the quality of work that went into building these stone homes.

From there we rode to another pier on the island and took another ferry to the smaller island of Rousay. Rousay is called the “Egypt of the North” because of the wealth of ancient artefacts scattered around the island.

Before we did some site seeing we had to pay a call to the hostel on the island to see about us pitching a tent for the night. When we met the woman in charge, she seemed bothered that we just showed up without booking in advance. The hostel was not available because archeology students had it booked for all of July. She suggested that we wild camp on the beach on the other side of the island, but when she saw the dismay in our eyes at that suggestion she suddenly was able to accommodate us by allowing us to pitch our tent near the hostel while giving us access to an unoccupied apartment on the farm. We thanked her profusely for being flexible, but we could tell she felt a little put out. Regardless, she got some of our money without needing to lift a finger while we got a nice place for kitchen and bathroom duties. So if you’re reading this and you plan to visit the hostel on Rousay, make sure to contact the owner first to check availability.

After dinner we decided to do some sightseeing on Rousay. The sun was out and the wind was calm. We didn’t have to go very far to visit four separate archeological sites, the biggest of which is called Midhowe Chambered Cairn. It’s housed in a stone barn to protect it from the elements. There people who lived in these parts 7,000 years ago were excellent stone stackers. It’s impressive that their work, although weathered, still stands today.