Sunday, 30 July 2017

Thar She Blows!

So the day has come I finally got to see an Orca properly. Not been butchered like in Greenland and not a vague fin in the far distance, but at times a stones throw away!


This morning Clare and I had been on a ride down the south end down past Levenwick, Boddam, around Spiggie and Bigton and back. When we got home orca alerts told us that a pod had basically been trailing us down the east coast and back up the west! Just typical!


Then some time after tea I heard they were in Clift Sound. We decided to go and have a look, fully expecting that my presence would mean they'd go elsewhere. Parked up near Trondra brig I was sure I could see a big fin from time to time right down at the end of East Burra, but we got another report they were at Banamin, so we set off for there.


Arriving at Banamin no one could see them. Then another report they were near the East Burra shore base. So, off we went...


At East Burra in Clift Sound where I'd seen the fin earlier we saw them!


 It was pretty wonderful!


 The guy with the drone must have got some amazing footage...



But Clare and I and the rest of the people on the shore were more than happy to see them so close and on such a still and gorgeous evening.

They soon started heading south down the coast...


And so close to these lucky viewers they could practically hitched a lift...


A pod of 5 Orcas swimming off in to the distance...


What a beautiful end to the weekend!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Mr & Mrs cycle tour of Orkney




I've been pretty much laid up yet again with my knee issues, but as Beren is away at his Grandad's Clare and I had planned a cycle tour around Orkney. My knees not too bad cycling, walking is the real issue with it.

The route turned out to be around 200km or 125miles over 4 days along the ride line on the map...


Skinny tyres on my 29er...


And both bikes ready for the off at Lerwick Northlink terminal...


We arrived in Kirkwall about 10.30pm and had the tent up just before the rain hit. And hit it did with full on thunder storms and torrential rain through the night. As usual Clare slept straight through it all.


It was pretty wet the next morning and with a late night we decided to treat ourselves to some breakfast at Judith Glue in Kirkwall. Yummy!


And after some faff making travel arrangements for a family funeral sooth this week we got the tent down in a lull in the weather and set off for Evie, our next nights campsite.


Clare's smiling then as the weather had just been a bit damp. It became torrential rain with roads flowing with water before long. Still we enjoyed a few sights on the way as well as a cheese scone on the road side in the rain at Finstown.


When we arrived at Eviedale Campsite and Cafe we were soaked through and Clare was done in after the rain and constant headwinds. Talk about a baptism of fire, or should I say water!


We ate and drank and ate and drank and finally the rain eased enough for us to get the tent up. 



Due to the weather we'd not stopped in at a few interesting locations the previous day, but the next morning was fine for our scenic trip around the coast to our next camp at Stromness...


I had a bit of brake trauma with my bike on the way to The Brough of Birsay, but got it sorted eventually and we enjoyed a stunning day at one of our favourite spots on Orkney.



  



This caught my eye. Coastal erosion protection measures of cast concrete made to look like the natural rock outcrops...



After an early lunch at the Birsay Bay tearooms (yes cycling is an excuse to eat constantly) we carried on around the coast with Skrail Bay next on our agenda, but we didn't go in to to Skara Brea as it was heaving with coaches and cars.


Clare looks happy here, but the constant headwinds were taking their toll as we headed to the Ring of Brodgar...



Having nearly killed Clare of for the second day in a row we set up camp at Stromness Campsite in the middle of 'Shopping Week' and went in search of tea.



There were 'scarecrows' all over the place as part of the shopping festival...


And we came across this rather famous well...


After a blustery night it was a dull start to the day as we got the ferry from Stromness to Moaness on Hoy...



Passing the campsite...


And passing Graemsay with Hoy shrouded in low cloud...


Approaching Moaness...


Once on Hoy our destination for the night was Rackwick bay, a gorgeous bay on the north west side of the island, just a short ride into a headwind again.

First stop on the way though was the Dwarfie Stane...



Its a very atmospheric and empty valley between impressive hills, but luckily the cloud was lifting.


The Dwarfie Stane...



And after a quick stop to look at a peat bank...


We were at the stunning Rackwick where we planned to camp outside the bothy...





The bothy is pretty nice, but very cold with stone slab sleeping platforms. A nice place to cook and hang out, but we preferred the tent to sleep in.


 Once there we chilled out, Clare did some knitting and the sun came out to warm our bones.


 Later in the day we had a ride back to the cafe at Moaness for tea before settling in for a beautiful evening at Rackwick watching gannets fishing and the seals on the beach.

The next morning saw us up and packed for our last day in Orkney. A ride down to Longhope and Lyness before getting the ferry back to Houton and the last ride back to Kirkwall.

It was a lovely morning, if not breezy.





We got to Longhope to find the pub shut (despite the website saying it would be open) and the the shop shut too, so ended up battling a headwind back to Lyness for some food at the museum cafe before our ferry back to Houton.

Clare was on her last legs. She was nearly broken...


But not quite yet!


The war museum at Lyness is excellent, free and even had some old bikes!



And divers boots that even looked too big for me!


 The ride back to Kirkwall was soul destroying for Clare by this point, but she bravely soldiered on it to the ever present headwind with the knowledge of a nice curry for tea in Kirkwall. after that all that remained was to get the ferry back to Shetland. What a fantastic mini tour of Orkney we had and we're both pretty tired!

We camped at Eviedale which was a nice low key site with a cafe, limited facilities and great owners, but a little pricey for me. Pickaquoy in Kirwall is an excellent site in terms of facilities and cost and obviously convenient for Kirkwall and ferries as is Stromness campsite. But none can compete with the setting of Rackwick despite it's lack of facilities its free and has so much more to offer than a hot shower can!

Despite being used to ferries in Shetland the Orkney ferry service remains a mystery to us, though we did manage to get about!

Oh, and it didn't do my knee an awful lot of good! Still OK for cycling, but not any use for anything else, even sleeping is painful...