So our wonderful hosts at John O Groats Guesthouse had booked us in for a day trip to Orkney. The trip cost around £65 and included the return ferry trip and the bus tour around the islands.
We made our way to the harbour and waited for the ferry to dock. It was high tide so we were able to board on the lower deck. It was still a bit chilly so we decided to sit inside – anyone been on a ferry before? The doorway had a threshold that was about 10cm high (could have been higher). We enlisted the help of one or two of the staff and hoisted Pete over in his chair then got comfy for the 40 minute trip over to Orkney.
On arrival it was super easy to get off the ferry and the bus had been notified that we were coming. They even had a reserved sign on the seat behind the side door as we thought that might be easier to get into (it wasn’t). Everybody on the bus was really patient while we got seated, which was nice.
Our first stop was Kirkwall, which is the largest town of Orkney. The harbour is home to 140 cruise ships throughout the year as well as fishing and dive vessels.
We had about an hour to wander around the town and make use of the facilities. Pete and I used our time super wisely and bought snacks and drinks and had a toilet break.
After the stroll around town we were back to the bus. Pete had asked the bus driver before the break if we could move to the front seat and he had kindly kicked out whoever was sitting there for us (I’m sure they had to agree as well).
One of our stops was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skara Brae. Skara Brae is a 5000 village that was uncovered in 1850 when a huge storm hit the island and stripped the grass of the hill. Proper excavation didn’t start till the mid 1920s though.
The site is incredibly well preserved due to the sand covered it.
Skara Brae entrance tickets are £9, but the accessible ticket was £7.20 and included a free carer, so Pete and I split it and it cost us £3.60 each.
They also have electric scooters, but they only go from the visitors centre to the gate of the excavated site, then you got to get out. Luckily Pete didn’t do it otherwise he would have been stranded at the gate! The site itself is only partly accessible, as half way around there are stairs down then up again to get out.
As we travelled between stops our bus driver pointed out the islands are connected by a series of causeways known as the Churchill Barriers. These roads were created by Italian prisoners of war during World War II. There was some controversy using the Italian work force as the Geneva Convention prohibits POW labour for war efforts, but old Winston justified it as improvements to communications in the islands. The barriers were created after a German U-boat had gotten into the harbour and sunk a battleship.
The prisoners of war also created their own tourist attraction in the form of their converted Nissen hit into a chapel. There is a £3 entrance fee, but you can admire the beauty from outside too.
Our last stop was the Ring of Brogdar. Unfortunately, we didn’t have all that much time so the bus driver did as Pete to stay on the bus so we could make the ferry we were scheduled to get back. But I did a quick walk around a took many photos.
These standing stones were huge! There are 36 stones in the stone circle and dates back to the 3rd millenium BC!
Pushing for time, we made our way back to the ferry and got on no problem. Back at the mainland harbour at John O’Groats, the tide was down which meant disembarking from the top deck. We waited for everyone else to clear off and then Pete got his guns out. To the amazement of all the ferry workers, Pete dragged himself up the stairs and we made our way back to the car to head to our next accommodation stop.