As I said on my previous post we have been on holiday, and as Hubby said over on his blog it can be difficult how to blog about a holiday without boring you, dear reader. This time around Hubby is taking your on a series of Orcadian Odysseys, while I am going to use the five classical elements, water, earth, fire, air and aether as a guide, after all it is these elements that have made the islands what they are and today I start with water.
While the waters that flow off the peat bogs are tinged orange and brown the waters that surround the islands are incredibly clear and play with various shades of blue and green depending on what is beneath them, I was constantly fascinated by the ever changing pallet as the suns rays brighten and darkened the shades.
Like the Shetland Isles, Orcadians are proud of their Viking heritage and the view that they would rather still be part of Norway than part of the UK was often expressed. Indeed in 2007 Orkney got its own flag symbolising both its Norwegian and Scottish heritage I, however, think it looks far more Norwegian than Scottish.
The Vikings ruled as Earls in Orkney and indeed these Orkney Earls ruled much of the northern part of Scotland also, Orkney rather than being on the outskirts of everything was at the center of it in the days when the quickest and safest way to travel was by sea. I have always had a great love of all things Scandinavian, must be my name – no it isn’t Scottish it is the Nordic form of Christina – and one of the things that tugged at my memory and heart strings was the remains of a boat in Scapa Flow (Hubby will probably blog about Scapa Flow and you can read short but good introduction about the area if you don’t already know about it here).
You might be wondering how I make the leap in centuries and what exactly I am going on about (you wouldn’t be alone Hubby did) well the wreck in the foreground, despite being 20th century iron had a viking long-ship feel and reminded me of the Solfar in Reykjavík Harbour:
Stromness is a delightful town with its cobbled and paved Higgly Piggly streets and harbour which once was the home to the herring fishing fleet, just as the Lofoten Islands in Norway had once been the hub of the cod fishing fleet. It was said that you could walk across the harbour and not get your feet wet because of the number of boats. I was charmed by it and the idea of living this close to the sea.
Orkney is rich with wild-life and while I could now regale you with tales of sea birds rafting, diving and others just plain floating I am going to save the birds for when I get to air, well mostly – I did mention the elusive puffin in my previous post – no I will finish this elemental of water with that love it or loathe it creature, the seal. I say love it or loathe it for we discovered much to our surprise that they are commonly shot on the islands, mainly by creel fishermen.
Firstly at Kirkgeo Beach, Hubby was the one who first spotted them, I was looking at the birds wondering if there was anything other than the every present oyster catchers searching through the seaweed, newly exposed by the low tide.
And all in all distracted me from the shelducks that were paddling back and forth with their bright red bills and golden collars. This hadn’t been our first sighting of seals in fact during the holiday we saw them most days but this was the first, and indeed only, sighting of them out of water and in numbers.
This had been our first sighting, on our second day, two of them swimming in the incredibly clear water around the island.
Water can not be mentioned without the weather in Orkney. Water in the shape of rain (which we got more often that we would have liked), hail (which we got every day for the first week), and snow (one brief flurry), but it did lead to rainbow after rainbow after rainbow. For apart from our final day, during which it rained a lot, as soon as the clouds opened the wind blew them away and the sun broke through declaring more often than not, that water was the treasure at the end of the rainbow.