We traveled to the very tippy top of Scotland to visit the Orkney Islands. Orkney isn’t the easiest place to get to. We ended up taking the train to Edinburgh (with a stop to visit the zoo!) and flying the rest of the way to Orkney.

Kirkwall Airport is very small. In one room there is the check-in desk, cafe/shop, waiting lounge, security, car rental, baggage return, and of course, bar.

Our first night was spent getting settled into our self-catered flat and picking up some groceries.

The next morning we headed straight to Skara Brae, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site!

Skara Brae is the ruins of a Neolithic village dating from 3180 BC. The houses were made of stacked stones and had stone furniture – beds, dressers, and storage boxes. The roofs are no longer there, but near the visitor center is a reconstructed house you can go in to see what it would have been like.

The walk to the ruins takes you along a beautiful stretch of the coast.

The houses in the village are too fragile for tourists to enter. The visitors’ path takes you along the outer perimeter so that you can look down into the structures. Seven of the houses had the same layout with a central dresser and a bed on each side. The eighth house is different, and it is hypothesized that it was some kind of workshop.

After leaving the ruins, the path takes you to Skaill House, the manor home whose property the ruins were discovered on.

We played in the gift shop for a while before we continued on.

Our next stop was the Maes Howe chambered cairn. It dates from 2800 BC and is one of the largest tombs on Orkney. We took a tour and got to go inside and see the runes carved by Viking graffiti artists.

Continuing on our tour of Neolithic sites, we stopped at the Ring of Brodgar. You can stop wondering why Neolithic people built stone circles. They are great for playing hide-and-seek with a one-year old! Most of the stones are still standing, but a few have fallen over or broken.

After an ice cream break we drove over to Stromness. It is not a very big town, but it was very charming.

The next morning we got an early start and headed for the Brough of Birsay. The views were gorgeous. You can walk across a land bridge at low tide to explore the ruins of Pictish and Norse settlements. We saw a dead pilot whale, which we thought was pretty interesting. It was incredibly windy on the sheltered Southern side of the island. We walked across to see the view from the Northern side but the wind was ridiculous so we didn’t stay for more than a quick look. Unfortunately it wasn’t puffin season, so we didn’t see any.

The sun was shining so we tried to take a walk along the Bay of Skaill. Neil did NOT like how windy it was, though, so we had to nix the hike.

Neil then fell asleep in the car, so we drove to the Yasnaby cliffs and then the Stones of Stenness and took turns looking around.

That evening we explored Kirkwall. The lammas festival was going on and there were pipers and a Cream cover band. We stopped in to see St Magnus Cathedral which had lots of interesting grave stones.

Randy got a battered, deep-fried haggis for dinner.

The next morning was rainy and even windier than the previous days. We headed south and drove across the Churchhill Barriers. The barriers are causeways and were built during WWII to protect Scapa Flow, the UK’s main naval base at that time.

Near the first of the Churchhill barriers is the Italian Chapel. It was built by Italian POWs during WWII. It is made from Nissen huts, but decorated with a concrete facade and painted the inside to look like marble blocks.

By this point it was too rainy and windy (are you sensing a theme?) to do anything outside, so we found a hotel serving Sunday lunch. We got to relax in the cozy lounge while our food was prepared.

We then took a tour of the Highland Park Distillery, conveniently right next door!

The next day we flew back to Edinburgh before taking a train the rest of the way home. Orkney was a beautiful and unique place.

Our little world traveler

Full Album