Sunday dawned a glorious day and stayed that way until the very end. We were in no hurry to leave beautiful Rackwick and in many ways we both felt that we would just like to stay and put down roots.
I left the camera in the van while we took Nell for a final ramble around Burnmouth. The sun was very hot and I was wilting. Apparently Rackwick can be the warmest part of Hoy on a good day.
We were heading almost as far as it was possible to go on Hoy, to Hackness.
Hackness is in fact on the smaller island of South Walls, connected to Hoy by a causeway. South Walls has a very different character to Hoy and the contrasts were strong.
Not being in any hurry, I asked Mr Snail to pull up anywhere that looked feasible and desirable so that I could redress the lack of photos from Friday evening. In particular we wanted to investigate a lay-by that we had identified as a possible wild camping spot for the future.
Once again we were lucky not to meet oncoming traffic on the minor road - just a few cyclists, none of whom seemed very polite or friendly when we pulled over or slowed down for them. Once on the B road we pulled over so that a car following us could over-take. We were soon at the lay-by of interest and Mr Snail pulled in...
... and suddenly there were cars everywhere! We deduced that the ferry was in. It was a sunny Sunday and clearly Rackwick is a major destination at such times. Car after car sped by while I played chicken, crossing the road with my camera. Mr Snail wisely decided we should stay put until the traffic had all gone by. He spent his time surveying the ground and deciding where we might park in future.
The road should be quiet at night and there is a great view to wake up to - plus there is that useful picnic table.
Our next stop was at the Pegel Burn picnic site where I had spotted an interesting stone on Friday evening and wished to further investigate.
Thence to Hackness and the Martello Tower and Barracks. An interesting and very photogenic site, run by Historic Scotland.
Hackness Martello Tower and Battery
Bruni just squeezed through the cattle grid, with barely an inch to spare. Phew.
The knowledgeable and friendly curator made the entrance fee worthwhile. His tour of the Martello tower made the place come alive. I was unsure of the ladder to the first floor entry but managed to get up in one piece and even went up on to the roof, where the sun and a light breeze combined to make for a very pleasant experience and a marvellous view.
Despite the military order of the place, wild flowers still found a place to flourish and I was enchanted by the wild Thyme that I found clinging on here and there.
The buildings all carry plates identifying their original purpose. One building I was quite ready to find was the Latrine Block, still in use for its original purpose, though thankfully with updated facilities.
We drove off to return to Lyness in order to visit the Scapa Flow Museum, stopping at a car park on the causeway back to Hoy for our lunch. This is another spot that will serve for wild camping in the future and there is a lengthy coastal walk that starts here. I failed to take a photograph and Google Maps Streetview is not up to date.
There was a very flash RV in the car park at the museum when we arrived. We parked next to it and looked like the poor relations. Mr Snail took this opportunity to illustrate his repeated point that Brunhilde really is not all that large.
The Scapa Flow Museum looks insignificant on first drive-by and nothing can quite prepare one for the scale of the place. What at first glance appears to be a sparsely-occupied scrap yard turns out to be a wealth of interest and treasure. It is also a rust-lover's Heaven and something of a Steampunk Nirvana.
There is rust!
There are knobs!
There are cogs!
There are gauges!
There are boats! and cranes!
... and there is rust.
We visited the Romney Hut first, pausing along the way to chat with a family of ducks. The scale of the Romney Hut took me by surprise and the contents were surprising too. I had not read up on the museum before visiting and had no idea what to expect. It certainly was not this collection of historic boats. The Otter Bank was there and it was a real thrill to see her in the flesh, as it were. This gorgeous boat used to sail between Kirkwall and the outer islands. bringing the bank with it. These days our bank arrives by air.
A number of types of Orkney boats were on show, with their histories. There were boats from Shetland and Scandinavia too.
From the boathouse we went to investigate the Oil Tank (And what did you do with your weekend? Oh, we went to look at an old oil tank....) This held another surprise. It was huge on the inside and dark and very, very atmospheric. It was reminiscent of a planetarium, with the bright daylight streaming in through the rust holes.
Informational films were being projected directly on to the wall of the tank and the voice-over track reverberated eerily.
The collection housed here - eclectic! I liked best the large collection of strategically-placed yellow buckets.
We spotted the sign to the Air Raid Shelter and headed off to look at that but deduced its distance and elected to save it for another visit and so we made our way to the Oil-pumping Station, where we managed to miss out on coffee and cake as the cafe closed during our debate on whether or no the coffee would be proper or not.
The Oil-pumping station not only houses the toilets and refreshments but a lot of brass and shiny knobby twisty turny things. It is glorious. As with the rest of the site, the display is eclectic and you may look up and see models of aeroplanes, or stumble over a bicycle.
External Link: Scapa Flow Museum and Visitor Centre
There were random exhibits outside, which I had some fun with before we drove away to find a space to park up for the night. Against advice, we went to look at Wee Fea, where the access actually proved perfectly suitable for Brunhilde. The views were fantastic. The midge quotient was low.
As we pulled up, we saw a car already parked there. The owner was out and operating this
and that caused much excitement as this drone was the very model that Mr Snail has contemplated buying. He engaged on conversation that was somewhat one-sided as the other half of it was extremely Orcadian and frankly the old man did not understand very much of it.
There can be few better places to wake to at 5 am than Brodgar. We had crossed from Sanday on the evening boat after work on Wednesday, having only one other vehicle on the car deck to keep Brunhilde company.
The weather at home was distinctly grungy but as we sailed across to Kirkwall we could see that we were headed into fairer weather.
Indeed we woke to a near clear sky. I had no time for morning photographs. We forwent our shower or any refreshment, just warmed up the windscreen and drove off into the dark towards Stromness, where we needed to check in for the ferry between 5:30 and 6:30. We made mugs of coffee and fried egg rolls to eat while we queued.
On board the Hamnavoe we sought out one of the cushy sofas and snuggled down for a snooze.
The sun rose behind Hoy and was under heavy cloud so we were almost in Scotland before we saw her. My little camera did not cope well with the lighting conditions (User Error - I forgot that it has a Sunrise/Sunset setting!) and this photo is little like the scene that I saw when I wanted to capture those rays.
Thurso was wreathed in a light mist and had evidently suffered a ground frost. When we pulled up at the new forest at Sibster, we found everything bedecked in twinkling cobwebs. It was quite magical. I took many photographs of sparkling webs but few of them were in full focus.
We lingered and walked Nell around the trail, stopping to brew coffee afterwards. Even Teddy came out to play while we sat at the picnic table and supped.
We were aiming to arrive in Golspie in time to try out the Fish and Chips from The Trawler for our lunch but actually parked there a little before twelve, so Nell had another run, this time along the beach.
The sun was going full tilt by the time that we ate and I was grateful to be back in the shade of the van when we left Golspie for Dornoch, although I liked Golspie very much and would have liked to explore further than we did. It was a remarkably floral place and even at this time of year most houses had flower tubs and baskets out. It was all very colourful.
Dornoch was a delight but very hot indeed. The cool calm of the Cathedral was most welcome, as were the ice cream sundaes in Harry Gow's. The early morning start was beginning to show around Mr Snail's edges and so we left for the beach car park where we planned to stay for the night.
It was full to overflowing! The beach was full too. There was swimming and paddling and sunbathing and dogs frolicking. On the 1st October. In Scotland!
It was well in to the evening before we could move Brunhilde into the car park and settle ourselves down for a night that was not quite as early as anticipated.
Tide times dictated our departure from Dornoch; we wanted to try some Dolphin-spotting at Chanonry Point and had been advised that the best time to go is an hour or two after low tide. That meant being there by around 10:30 am and we wanted to call at The Storehouse of Foulis on our way.
Another glorious sunny morning turned chill and overcast by the time that we had parked at Chanonry. We gave it a couple of hours, seeing three or four pods pass through but not gaining any really good photographs.
Ideally we would have parked up here for the night but those unfriendly orange signs from the highlands and Highlands council made us feel most unwelcome. We knew that the same fate awaited us in Cromarty but we wanted to explore the town anyway and in particular wished to try the wood-fired pizza at The Sutor Creek and to visit the East Kirk.
A visit to Munlochy Clootie Well rounded off our day on the Black Isle and then we were off to stay the night on a club site at Culloden Moor.
Another early start set us on our way to Broomhill, at the unfashionable end of the Strathspey Railway. Broomhill does however offer a car park large and empty enough in which to leave Brunhilde while we rode the train to Aviemore and back again.
There followed an unnecessary amount of camera work and general nerdiness.
Our stop for the night was at Glen Banchor, in a small rural car park about a mile out of Newtonmore. A location of stunning and unexpected beauty and affording mile after mile of walking.
Brunhilde's first trip away with the cat on board and I have to say that it all went terribly well.
It had been such a glorious day on Thursday, really hot and so sunny that we were enticed into fleeing these shores and heading for parts Foreign. We went to the East Mainland of Orkney for a few nights. I could have taken a hundred photographs before we ever left Sanday – the approaching cloud cover and resulting interesting light made for some stunning landscapes but as we had left home the moment that Mr Snail finished work at 4pm and had a 4:35 pm ferry departure, we just kept on going.
The sky grew ever more ominous until finally we were driven off the deck and under cover as the heavy rain and hail struck.
Luckily the rain had passed by the time that we reached Tesco, where we stocked up on provisions and then drove off to see if Brunhilde would fit into the car park at Inganess Bay [Site Report]. We had tried a dry run on our way home from Hoy last trip but the GPS had sent us the wrong way and we were still at this stage unclear whether or not the site was suitable.
There were a couple of cars parked when we arrived but there was still room for Brunhilde to tuck herself in.
Another hot and sunny day ensued and we took the opportunity to explore the footpaths that are available from the car park, taking all morning over it.
We left for Deerness with the intention of lunching at the Geo [Site Report] slipway, where in the event we elected to stop overnight because we simply enjoy being there.
It rained considerably at the Geo but cleared sufficiently for the full moon to show when it rose and I was able to take photos before bed time.
Saturday saw us heading for our original destination of Mull Head [Site Report], where we now spent one night instead of two. On Saturday afternoon we set off to do the circular walk to the Covenanter’s Memorial – a hike of 5 miles or a little more.
I left my camera behind, so there are no photographs. Some of the views were simply stunning and made me wish that I had brought the camera but overall I was pleased to have had the sense to leave it behind. What should have been a nice easy stroll over pleasantly springy turf was after our long wet summer unpleasantly wet and a continuous battle against mud, puddle and bog, causing very careful foot placement and often extraordinarily long steps. In short, it was very hard work indeed. Had I been carrying the weight of the camera and lens on one side I should have been thoroughly worn out.
We were both agreed that we should have liked to say “I enjoyed that” when we got back to the van but neither one of us could do so in honesty.
It was not a very pleasant walk overall but I am glad that we did it and Nell certainly was too.
Sunday morning we took slowly and simply ambled down the road to St Ninian’s kirk where I played with my camera in the kirkyard.
We’d had a good cooked breakfast, intending to skip lunch in favour of a late afternoon meal at Helgi’s back in Kirkwall and so we took our time getting back there by stopping off to investigate the car park and picnic site at Point of Ayre [Site Report], which we found that we liked very much and so just sat for ages, watching the view and a creel boat working, while we simply chilled out.
Teddy seemed to have a smashing time and we might be forgiven if we assumed he had always been brought up to a nomadic life. Just as when we took him up the island for a dry run he was very cool about the whole thing. He travelled mainly on my lap on his leash, though sometimes just sleeping on our bed in the sunshine. The first night at Inganess, he left us alone and slept we think on the front passenger seat but thereafter he settled on a mix of sleeping alone at first and then climbing in with us. He ate normally and used his tray with great success, wherever we chose to place it (in the shower when on the move and under the table when we were in bed) and he thoroughly enjoyed all the attention that he got from people who spotted him.
Next time we plan an extended trip, to see how it works out before we plan a long holiday. Teddy has a new folding travel carrier and a beautiful new igloo bed, the first to keep him (and us) safe, the second to make his life a little more comfortable.
Should I rename this site "Two Snails (and a cat) (and a dog)" ?