I knew of Orkney, but like many, was not sure exactly where it was! I knew of Scara Brae and Maeshowe and in my youth, I always had great ambitions to visit them one day. I never did, life got in the way…
A few years ago, my (then) new beau decided to take me on a tour of Scotland, as I’d never been and he knew and loved the country well. The plan was simple, travel up the East side, and across the top and back down the West side. We planed to spend Midsummer some where special, a Sacred place, perhaps Callenish Stone Circle, on Lewis.
We’d been travelling for a week or so when we found ourselves at John A Groats a few days before Midsummer. We decided to stay on a little camp site, just a few miles outside the village, before heading West the next day.
That evening, we were talking to the owner of the site, when his wife came up to join us. I kept looking out to sea, wondering what the Islands in the distance where. They seemed familiar in a strange way, and were ‘calling’ to me! I had no idea what they were called, so I asked her.
“Oh that’s the Orkney’s,” she said.
“Orkney!” I exclaimed! And promptly burst into tears!!! I don’t know who was more shocked at my reaction!
“I have to GO!” I sobbed, breathlessly, as tears streamed down my face. I was utterly at a loss to explain why I was so upset. I felt really silly bursting into tears for no apparent reason. But I now know people often have such emotional reactions when faced with past life experiences.
Needless to say we got the morning ferry the next day, the ferry that takes the old Viking route along the Pentland Firth from Gill’s Bay in Caithness to St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay in Orkney. That in it’s self was a treat and we both took to imagining Viking longboats sailing the route, and laughed as we watched little Puffins flapping furiously across the ferry’s bows. So many sea birds, and seals too. With the fresh wind in my hair I enjoyed the hour long journey, watching with a strange thrill in my body as the Islands drew closer and closer; I had the distinct feeling of increasing familiarity. Was I really coming home?
We docked and drove off onto Orkney, though the little town of St. Margaret’s Hope, a picturesque village of quaint houses and quirky little shops. My first impression was one of stepping back thirty years or more. I liked it! I liked it allot! But we didn’t tarry, we wanted to go on and explore a little and perhaps find somewhere to celebrate the solstice, so we drove on.
Orkney is a land, swept by the wind and rain. It’s open, treeless and some would say bleak, but not me. The land is farmed right down to the fore-shore and cliff tops, as it has been for generations of Orkneys inhabitants. Here and there are little ruined crofts, once home to many a family, now derelict and decaying. There are no villages as we would understand them. There are parishes; areas of homes scattered about the landscape; the nearest neighbours, not over the fence, but over the next field or two. This gives the land a wide open treeless vista.
You can see for miles!
You can see the mountainous Island of Hoy just over the sea, so close you could touch it, but not drive there. You can see the Island of Shapinsay and Balfour Castle, just over the sea. Rousay, Wyre, and other little islands are all just over the sea and as we drove north, we left behind South Ronaldsay, and crossed over the Churchill Barriers on to Burray and the mainland, past sunken ships, their gapping hulls pearing at us as we passed. On we went, through Kirwall the capital of Orkney, on towards The Ring Of Brodgar and The Standing Stones of Stenness, Maes How, Skara Brae and the Ancestors!
I HAD come home!
My soul was zinging… I was in love with the place and I was on Orkney! I had to keep pinching myself to see if I was dreaming!
We spent two weeks but a day there and had many adventures and experiences, which I will write about in the near future. Some were mundane, but most were magickal!
While I’d cried on the ferry, watching all the little deserted islands along the way, spirits of long forgotten people staring out from the glass-less windows of the derelict homes, once so warm and cosy, but now forlorn and forgotten; I cried too, tears of joy at my ‘return’ and at the beauty of the place; it’s wide open, wind swept vistas; it’s friendly folk and I cried too when I left, thinking I would never return to the Land of my Soul!
Orkney calls me on the wind,
Orkney speaks to me in my dreams,
I miss Orkney,
And Orkney misses me..
…a love affair with my Soul Land,
That will never end.