The Orkney Islands lie off the north coast of Scotland and have been inhabited for over 8500 years. They are home to thousands of identified Neolithic sites and are frequently visited by the aurora borealis.
We spent the week of Christmas here at Ocean View Cottage in Birsay, on the northwestern coast of Orkney Mainland Two big storms blew through (named Barbara and Conor). We all loved watching the hail and the churned up sea out the windows, especially Bosco! Bosco checking out a storm and the standing stone that’s part of the fence This is Maeshowe, a Neolithic cairn and passage grave dating from about 2800 BC Jeff and Bosco outside of Scara Brae, a cluster of 8 well preserved Neolithic houses occupied from around 3180-2500 BC, older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Egypt. Scara Brae is one of the 4 sites comprising the Neolithic Heart of Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. The others are Maeshowe (above) and the Standing Stones of Brodgar and Stenness (previous post) Skara Brae is on the shore in the background. Unfortunately, this was the closest we got to seeing it because they closed the site on account of the storms. Ah well, next time! Jeff and Bosco braving high winds to check out the Broch of Birsay. Visible from Ocean View Cottage, the Broch (pronounced “brock”) is a tidal island only accessible by a rocky causeway during low tide. It contains remains of both Norse and Pictish settlements Angry seas on the Birsay shore the day before Storm Conor rolled in The Earl’s Palace, built by the first Earl of Orkney, Robert Stewart in the late 16th century, looks a little spooky Bosco admiring the pastures during the calm before the storm Bosco loves backyards with gardens and green energy The Orkney Brewery makes some pretty nice brews A backyard windmill provides power for Ocean View cottage. Orkney generates more renewable energy than it’s entire annual usage! A rainbow over the Broch of Birsay seen from Ocean View Cottage backyard Jeff and Bosco outside the Highland Park Distillery Blocky causeways like the one seen here are known as “The Churchill Barriers”. They were built by Italian Prisoners of War during WWII to block eastern approaches to Scapa Flow. Now they’re convenient roadways. The Italian POWs also built this, “The Italian Chapel”. Almost like we never left Italy Scapa Flow is a sheltered bay with a long naval history. It is the site where the Imperial German Navy scuttled (sank on purpose) their entire fleet following defeat in WWI It’s not hard to imagine why Scapa Flow is now a world famous diving location. The wrecks are fascinating Bosco realizing what “ferry ride” means By the way, we also saw the northern lights a couple times. Turns out the iPhone camera isn’t great in low light conditions though. It was a ribbon of light above the horizon in the north, more white in colour and moving more slowly than we were expecting, and once it branched way up into the sky