Alan and David

David and Alan at Skara Brae
The 'NOB Shop' !
My job is to sell these pins
Neolithic way of dealing with the wind!

The other week a good friend of ours visited with his husband, Alan and David are newly married and were on a motorbike tour of Scotland to see Alan’s family so they decided to take a ‘short’ detour and visit us. Their stay was only a few days but we visited the main sights with them and sampled some new Gins as they are both Gin aficionados. It was great seeing Alan after all this time and his husband David is a really nice guy. He was understandably nervous when he first arrived but soon relaxed ( perhaps it was the Gins! ) and they have both promised to visit again. They will be most welcome.

The main event that is occupying some of my time at the moment is the dig at the Ness of Brodgar. I don’t dig at this site, I volunteer for two mornings a week at the ‘NOB’ ( Ness of Brodgar ) shop which raises funds for both OAS ( Orkney Archaeology Society ) and the Dig itself.

My main job here is to sell pins that people put into a square on a large photo of the dig in order to sponsor the dig. The Pins cost £10 and if something is found on your square then you will receive a photo of the object via email. This simple idea is really popular and raises a considerable amount of money each year. I have to stand outside and launch myself at the people arriving, and this year we have been given a communal Hi-Viz jacket with ‘Ness of Brodgar’ written on the back. This makes things a little easier for us as people are a little less reticent at giving money to a stranger if the stranger is wearing this symbol of authority. It does mean however that I often get mistaken for an archaeologist, I soon put people right on this, as if I was an archaeologist would the jacket be quite so clean!

I have included a photo of the table I use outside for all the forms, complete with our solution for dealing with the winds when they get up, some genuine rocks from the spoil tip!

Steve & Julie

Them four
The Italian Chapel

I can now reveal that the find made the other day was in fact a human arm bone from a young male. This was with a lot of animal bones and may be a foundation deposit, they are still excavating in this area so more may come to light.

Our next visitors were Steve and Julie who are good friends and were neighbours of ours. Julie is very interested in Archaeology and Steve is a keen photographer, although he doesn’t share his wife’s interest in the Neolithic ‘hard core’ as he calls the stone buildings.

The day they arrived, we picked them up from the airport at Kirkwall in the late afternoon. My contacts at the Ness of Brodgar dig had told me that there was going to be a little party held by the BBC for all the volunteers, so pushing the boundaries of the invite a little all four of us turned up at the dig for drinkies and nibbles. Neil Oliver was there, as they were spending several weeks filming a new series with him, Anna had a great chat to him.

They stayed with us for a week and had mainly good weather, Julie enjoyed her visit to the dig at the Ness of Brodgar on one of the days that I was volunteering. I particularly wanted Steve to see the Churchill barriers and the Italian chapel in good weather and so when the low cloud came down and obscured everything we decided to give up and postpone the visit for the next day.

The next morning we woke to more of the same fog and I could see Steve and Julie were disappointed as they were near the end of their time on Orkney. For those of you who don’t know, the weather on Orkney can be very changeable, ‘four seasons in one day’ is often quoted. If you are on holiday here, don’t waste a good day, nor give up if in the morning the weather does not look so good. In fact the weather can vary considerably over the island despite how small a land mass it is. I have been at the Ness and seen storms all around me but the Ness itself has been clear and sunny, so don’t give up! So following my own advice I Facebook messengered our friends who live on the Southern Isles of Burray, my first attempt was not successful as they were on holiday in Southampton and so did not know what the weather was like in Southern Orkney! Eventually Claire replied and told me that the weather was clear and sunny, a result! So I bundled everyone in the car as this weather could change and we had a three quarter of an hour’s drive. I don’t think that Steve was totally convinced that the conditions would be suitable for taking photos as we left in thick fog.

He needn’t have worried and we stopped several times at the various Churchill barriers (there are four of them) to take photos. We had a great time at the Italian chapel having got there before a coach turned up so it was peaceful for us. The Chapel now charges £3 admission whereas before it was free, but in the summer it got swamped with visitors and there was some thefts from it and so extra security had to be put in place and this has to be paid for, sometimes it seems a sad world.

Steve and Julie love walking so a couple of times we dropped them off and arranged to pick them up at a different location at a set time, Steve took some great photos whilst he was here and they thought that would like to return in the winter to experience the storms! 

Shelia Visits

Shelia in our guest accommodation!
Shelia - not about to take a swim
Neil Oliver and us on the plane to Westray

Now the house modifications are all done and the place is ready for visitors, we are enjoying being hosts to a lot of our friends and family who have decided to ‘pop up’ to see exactly what craziness we have chosen to do with our lives. Our next visitor is a very long standing friend, Shelia. She came for a few days, flying in from Norwich airport to Edinburgh and then onto Kirkwall. The weather was good and as it was her second visit there was not the pressure to do all the sights. Unfortunately after the first day Anna fell ill with this flu bug and she became bed ridden for a week! I called to doctor out at one point when her temperature kept fluctuating. We have had excellent experience of the Doctors here, and when I said that Anna really was not up to coming to the surgery but would if she had to, there was no question of that and the Doctor would come out to our house. The Doctors diagnosis was that there was nothing serious, just a very nasty flu virus, Anna was prescribed some antibiotics to take if things got worse the next day, but to avoid them if we could. Over the next few days Anna improved but was off her food. It was such a shame for Shelia as she was looking forward to some ‘girly chats’ with Anna, I did what I could but I think Shelia could see through my attempts of feigning interest in such subjects!

Shelia had a day getting some ‘Retail Therapy’ in Kirkwall, unfortunately is was the day a big cruise ship was in and the town was heaving, still she seemed to enjoy the day and said it was fun to see the effect a cruise ship makes to the town. After Shelia flew back, a few days later Anna started to feel well enough to get up and start eating again, the recovery was slow but she is now back to her usual self.

The dig at the Ness of Brodgar has started for eight weeks and I have again volunteered to help out at the ‘NOB shop’. I spend a couple of mornings a week selling pins to sponsor the dig, you stand outside a greet people as they come on the site, it is great to talk to all the visitors some are very interesting, some just walk past with their heads down trying to avoid eye contact! Generally most are happy to buy a pin or visit the shop or both! Last year the sales of these pins raised £20,000 all of which goes to funding the dig. The weather this year is considerably better than last and the excitement is building on the dig, a new trench has been dug and further excavation through the floor levels and to the houses underneath. The BBC are in Orkney for several weeks filming a new series with Neil Oliver, we were invited to the BBC party on the site on one of the first days and Anna spent some time chatting to him, reminding him of the time we shared a flight to Westray in a small plane which had only enough room for him, his TV crew and us two! The excavation continues with more finds, in the next few days there will be an announcement, I am sworn to secrecy, but watch the Digs Blog. 

Celts and Cars

The Fairy Glen
At last at the hotel
The reward !
A swarm of Caenis

We had a little break away from the island as the car needed a new set of alloy wheels because the lacquer on the original ones had flaked badly. The new set was ordered under guarantee and it was arranged with the nearest Main Mercedes dealer in Inverness to not only have the wheels swapped but also fit four new tyres fitted that I had shipped to them from We crossed on the ferry and stayed the night at Anderson’s pub on the Black Isle just outside Inverness. Anderson’s is a great discovery by us on one of our trips in the motorhome. It is a traditional pub / hotel owned and run by a guy originally from Philadelphia, the public bar has some dozen or so guest beers on tap and many more in the bottle. As you enter the bar you are struck by the lovely traditional pub smell of beer and ‘that certain something’. They don’t have a whisky list, they have a whisky book! There is a huge selection there for you to sample in the whisky bar. The food is also great, what more do you want! If you are ever up that way then Andersons is a must stop, as is the enchanting village that it is situated in, with its Museum on the Pictish history and the walk to the ‘fairy glen’, a secluded waterfall where you could imagine a nymph bathing in the clear pool, well I could anyway!

The next day we took the car to the Inverness Mercedes dealer for the work to be done and were run into town to do some shopping. Inverness is a nearest large town to Orkney with a selection of large multiples but like a lot of towns it is currently a little run down in places. We wandered around for some time really wondering what we wanted in town, decided that the stuff from M&S could be sourced easier on-line and went off to treat ourselves to a splendid hot chocolate at So Coco,  a specialist chocolate café. I don’t know if it is the effect of island life, but neither of us could work up much enthusiasm for any retail therapy so we wandered around a bit more and then got a lift back from the garage.

When we went to pick up the car all was fine except we were told that now we needed new brake pads and discs! But of course they didn’t have these in stock so could we book the car in again! Errr no, the round trip and ferry costs enough in itself! However we had already planned to drive that day down to Edinburgh to visit the Celts exhibition and had a hotel booked for the next night. So I rang the Edinburgh main dealer and they could not have been more helpful. If we could drop the car off the next morning they would replace the pads and discs ( as it happened the rear discs did not need replacing ). So we drove down to our Hotel, The Dunstane,  a rather nice boutique hotel, well placed and had a rather lovely meal that night followed by a good sleep.

The next morning we made a fairly early start as we wanted to be at the dealer around 9.15 ish. After the handover of the keys they offered to drive us to the nearby tram park and ride. The car they used was the new all electric B Class Mercedes and rather nice it was too. We were dropped off at the tram stop near the airport, a ten minute drive from the dealer and we bought our £1.30 tickets and rode in the rather smooth and quiet new tram system right into the centre of Edinburgh. This tram system only opened last year and it seems a great way of getting into the centre of the city from the airport. If you are planning your stay, next time consider a hotel outside of the city but near a tram stop, much better that trying to drive in Edinburgh!

The Celts exhibition was fantastic, lots of items from all over Europe that have not been displayed together before. We arrived just as the museum opened at 10am and stayed most of the day, breaking only for a rather disappointing meal at the now vegan Hutchinsons. This place used to be a great place to eat, but this time the food was not only dull but very expensive, I doubt if we will be returning there.

A pleasant trip back on the tram, a call to the dealer and our chauffeur driven electric car awaited us. The work was all done and so after paying them we had a little look around the showroom ( well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? ) we headed back to our hotel. We had planned to eat out at a very famous Indian restaurant nearby, the Verandah, but I forgot to book and as it was Saturday night we were unlucky. We decided to eat at the hotel again as we were rather tired and the restaurant was rather good.

Next day we set off to drive the 350 miles to the ferry, crossing at around seven that evening. The crossing was thankfully uneventful, the sea being very calm, a brief view of some Orcas brought some excitement to those of us on deck. But the most amazing sight greeted us as we drove back over the Ness of Brodgar around 9pm. The air was very still and it had been quite warm, perfect conditions for a type of Mayfly called 'Caenis' to hatch, although at the time we thought they were some sort of midges and did not feel inclined to get out of the car so the photos are not as good as they might have been. This sight was amazing! The road was white with their bodies, it was almost like a snow storm, I could hardly see to drive and the insects were swirling arounds in great clouds making all sorts of exotic patterns, what a sight!

Birds and Grass

Hungry Starlings
Weather front from kitchen window

It amazing how much starling poo lands on the windows …. However, I can't help wondering why, when there is just ONE window I can’t reach the top of without something to stand on, that has to be the one with the biggest poo ?

I was consistently sworn at by starlings with nests in the most unlikely places on the roof as I circumnavigated the house. Their range of bad language is vast and positively enviable.

We went into K2 yesterday and ordered some blackout blinds for our little sitting room – that’s where the sofa bed is, and poor Matthew when he stayed with us, suffered grievously with the long daylight hours – he said 03.30 was stupid o’clock to be woken by the sun. So next time you come up Matthew, if you get bumped out of the spare room by someone else (sorry about that but Steve had arrived first), you will have nice blackout blinds. Or, of course, you could come in the winter !!

We had a lovely mooch round Kirkwall the other day – but must make an effort to find some new cod and haddock recipes. That’s all that was left and I wasn’t inspired and I feel cod and haddock should be inspirational really. Oh, there was one small Witch fillet but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. Chicken thai curry was our eventual supper. And very nice it was too, with a small starter of prosciutto and salami on a dressed salad. But yesterday I got lemon sole fillets which I did with a lemon and caper cream sauce on a bed of baby new potatoes, petits pois, sugar snap peas and English asparagus. And very nice it was too !

We also bought a very nifty hedge trimmer from Orkney Tool Hire – a Makita one that uses the batteries Mark already owns. So we managed to trim back the rosa rugose from the front by the driveway and now we can actually see if a car is coming before we pull out and not take our lives in our hands ! They have just gritted the bit of road beside us, doing a great job IMO – but we prefer it if cars take it a bit easy and don’t stoneblast us as we pass them. It will be interesting when they do the two rather vicious corners up past us because when it is first down it’s obviously a bit skiddy, and I can see an accident waiting to happen. On our way back Mark nearly drove off the road in excitement as he saw a new, shiny, BT green box being installed on the outskirts of Stromness. Could it. Would it. Might it possibly be fibre to the cabinet heading out towards us ? So we can get “real” broadband and speed – we get 2M most of the time from the ADSL but that would mean we can wave goodbye to the satellite dish that we really need for the business to get us better connection. Wouldn’t that be great !!

We have had some great weather recently– clear blue skies and feeling hot in a t-shirt. Warmer than any day last summer and the birds and plants are just LOVING it. Mark got the lawn mowed and it is looking very splendid – maybe lawn is a bit of an exaggeration – grass it is, mostly, but it will never be a bowling green ! And he strimmed lots of nettles down (don’t panic you bird lovers, there are, trust me, plenty more out of our strimmers reach).

Standing by the kitchen window the other day I was almost deafened by the sparrows and their babies in the hedge, all the little ones begging to be fed. Then … a kestrel swept across and their little world went silent as they scurried back into the hedge and safety. Fascinating to watch and experience …


What is it like?

Calm beach
Going for a swim ?
The ring of Brodgar
End of the day, mid winter

We have often been asked ‘why Orkney’? Obviously it is a beautiful place, but so are many other places. It’s not for the warm climate, but it is much milder that you would expect this far north. When we thought long and hard about our love of the islands, we came to the conclusion that it was the people that make it so very special, the sense of community is more as it was perhaps in the 50’s in England and their friendliness and unhurried attitude is a joy. Yes it does take more time to do things as the people love to talk. If you go into a shop wanting to be served and there is someone in front chatting to the assistant, don’t expect them to stop talking to serve you. They will finish their conversation before moving on to you and perhaps have a long conversation with you next.

The shops stock a huge variety of items, some not obviously part of their trade, it is often best to ask an assistant, you will not be fobbed off with ‘is it on the selves’ as you might else ware, but they will know exactly where it is and get it for you.

You can get most of the things you need from the island shops and industrial estates, what you will notice that a store will perhaps only stock one type of a particular item, you will not be presented with 6 versions of the same thing from different suppliers, this is quite refreshing and makes shopping that much easier.

For things you cannot get on the island there is always the internet and although Royal Mail charges the same for delivery to Orkney as anywhere else in the UK, several couriers do not and either charge more for delivery to the ‘Highlands and Islands’ ( anything north of Inverness) some do not deliver at all. Royal Mail post is normally next day but couriers vary, as most deliver to Aberdeen where it is put on the a boat and then picked up by a local courier like Speedlink, this can add several days and also means that you can only track your delivery on-line to Aberdeen. There are several other methods of getting purchases ‘home’ as it is called, from the ‘man with a van’ right through to the local removal company who also will collect items for you. Our new furniture came this way from Loughborough and arrived Christmas Eve morning, how about that for service!

The Orcadians are renowned for their hospitality and friendliness, but take a dim view of incomers ( Ferryloopers ) trying to tell them how to run their island!

Orkney is very well served for most amenities and there is always lots going on, even in the winter.

Bad points? It depends on your views on windy weather. Yes it is windy here, and that does make the temperature feel a lot cooler, but experiencing a 120mph gale, snuggled up in your house ( don’t try to go out in it! ) is quite an experience, any wind below about 40mph is considered a breeze! When the wind stops, be prepared for the midges! But these don’t seem to be the vicious ones that they get on the west coast but still not nice if you are allergic to their bites.

House prices are lower than south east, a decent house can be bought for £200K  and you often get a lot more land and outbuildings with it. Many buy a plot (about £30K ) and build a house on it. We wanted a traditional style building so we bought something that needed a lot of TLC and added a small extension.

There are plenty of jobs ( see the Orcadian Newspaper each week and on-line ) but the wages will be much lower than London. The cost of living is not much lower as everything apart from local produce has to be shipped in, but the need to ‘retail fest’ is not as strong here and so you find less desire to constantly buy more ‘stuff’ so this can make living cheaper, you get your enjoyment out of the environment rather than possessions and expensive holidays.

I would suggest that you do something like we did and visit the islands a couple of times a year for some time ( we did 15 years!) visiting it at all times of the year to experience the weather and the crowds in the summer, and get to know the people. It can sound very exciting, and it is, but a lot of incomers don’t stay. The locals will not consider that you are serious about living here until you have ‘survived’ at least two winters!

Orkney is not perfect, nowhere is, but it is pretty damn close in our minds!

Festivals and Commemorations

Matthew and the Sundae
Matthew at Brodgar
Band at the Cathedral
Princess Anne arrives
The Birsay Boys at the Festival

Well, Oliver and Nicola left us, promising to return whenever they could. They had a better flight back (we dosed Nicola up with travel pills, ginger sweets and acupuncture style wrist bands!). Then there were three days and Mark’s nephew Matthew arrived in his Lotus 7 after his Lotus club “haggis run”. He looked somewhat jaded, but we didn’t let him get away with that, and took him on a whistle stop tour of the island, hopefully giving him at least a flavour of what it is like here. The weather was kind and we managed to tire him out, but he did only have one day to do it all in. As you can see from the pictures, we subjected him to the Ring of Brodgar, but only after he had sampled the delights of an ice cream sundae at Gerri’s – though he bottled at the thought of a Stenness Monster – for those of you not in the know, a Stenness Monster is seven (yes SEVEN) scoops of our very creamy, rich Orkney ice cream in a very large cornet. It has to be eaten by one person and then they get their names in the roll of honour. Some brave persons have done 2 back-to-back and one lunatic managed three but … felt very green afterwards I am told !

At the same time ex-next-door-neighbour-and-purchaser-of-the-Old-Railway-Station Steve arrived. Now Steve was up for the annual Folk Festival and had planned to bring his lovely VW camper up and … camp. But it was not to be – it shattered a wheel bearing in Inverness and had to be left in the tender care of a garage while Steve hired a car and continued his journey. After all he had a lot of the gigs booked and didn’t want to miss them. We understand he was not disappointed. The Folk Festival is great fun, with the set gigs, but also with lots of music in all the bars. We hadn’t booked any concerts ourselves because of one thing and another but we had a great time wandering between the Royal, the Stromness, the Ferry and the British Legion bars and enjoying the music and the atmosphere. And in Mark’s case, some of the beer on offer ! The sun shone (not like last year !) and we really needed the sun block – there were several very red faces about at the end of the first day. And, it has to be said, one or two people a bit the worse for wear … I am told that one man decided to walk off the edge of the harbour on the Sunday night, but his friends duly fished him out and I expect the cold water soon sobered him up. I didn’t take as many pictures as last year, but there are some online on my Flickr account for those interested.

The Festival finished on Sunday – Monday was a bank holiday I am told, but they just don’t happen up here, so it was off to the dentist for Mark and I (deep joy) followed by a soothing session of Mahjong for me while Mark and Steve went and sampled the delights of a tour of Scapa Distillery – an expensive experience for Steve who purchased a couple of bottles of the amber nectar.

Tuesday actually saw us getting up in good time for once, because it was the day of the Battle of Jutland Commemoration and we wanted to get into Kirkwall in good time to find a) somewhere to park and b) find a good spot to watch the proceedings. And we succeeded magnificently on both counts ! We walked from our parking place into the town centre and took up positions about half way along  … the area right in front of St Magnus Cathedral was already pretty full. And didn’t we do well ! this turned out to be exactly where the bands were going to march and … even better … where the “VVIPS” were escorted to in order to take the salute. So in due course, David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon arrived on foot escorted by several top-echelon Naval officers, all beautifully “frogged and braided” and positively weighed down with medals.

They were swiftly followed by a very highly polished dark blue Range Rover which stopped almost beside us, bearing Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. Sadly Prince Philip had been advised by the doctors not to attend so he didn’t accompany her. The next Range Rover brought the President of the Germany, Joachim Gauck along to join the party and they took the and then headed into the Cathedral for the service, while we returned home in order to watch on TV. We couldn’t get over how slick the organisation was, and we were so proud of the band of the Royal Marines who were truly splendid with their intricate marching and their music. It really was a very special occasion. And it was also fascinating playing “spot the security officers” in the crowd !

You can see several more pictures from Mark – he had the long lens and took some great shots so do have a look. Just click here …

We get some fabulous experiences here on Orkney !!

Just after Easter ...

Vickie and the two Marks
Vickie and her Mark
Vickie and Me

Reading Mark’s latest blogs makes me realise just how behind we are with what we are doing here ! There has been no mention of the visit of my elder daughter Vickie and “her” Mark who came up just after Easter. This was, I fear, a case of Falling Between Two Stools, as I thought Mark was going to write about it and he thought I was !!


Mark (that’s Vickie’s one) is particularly interested in the World War stuff that you get up here, so soon after they arrived, having braved the long drive, we had arranged for a guided tour for them with a John Rae Society colleague, Norman Shearer, who is also a tour guide. He showed them a lot of the sites – mostly from the car as it turned out to be a cold, wet and windy day. However they did go to HMS Tern, which was actually a naval airfield, and went round the control tower (and got very very wet and cold). They thoroughly enjoyed themselves with Norman, despite the weather’s best efforts, and whenever we drove out thereafter were able to educate us, as this is part of the Island’s history that we know little about. You will be glad to know that a nice hot bath sorted a very chilled Vickie out when they got back !

As Mark hadn’t been here before – Vickie has been up several times – we wanted to be sure he got a good flavour of what was on offer and luckily the weather cleared the next day and we had some love sunshine. We took them around the major sites, trying to pick the best things for them to see and enjoy because they were only here for a week – so it was Skara Brae, Brodgar, Stenness, Barnhouse for the true essence of the Neolithic in the heart of Orkney, then the Barriers and the Italian Chapel for some more World War experiences. Mark and Mark enjoyed a visit to the Museum in Kirkwall while Vickie and I thoroughly enjoyed the local shops – how lovely it is to have really truly local shops and not the big multi-nationals!

Vickie had asked me to see if I could get a book on Shetland Families 1800 – 1900 … quite an obscure little gem … and I wandered into the Kirkwall Library to see if perchance the had a copy. Yes indeed, no problem was the answer and the manager just went straight to it and handed it to me. Just goes to show how good real librarians are. And here we have the best as our library is award winning !!

Why should she want such a thing ? well she is doing some family research and a prominent family member was a Shetlander. The book led to the discovery that he had a sister which was new information and enabled another bit to be added to the family tree.

We were really pleased that they enjoyed their trip – Vickie had been dreading the drive but in the end hadn’t found it onerous at all, and had enjoyed the different areas of the country they passed through, and they hope to come back again, maybe even this summer. They would, of course, be very welcome! We certainly won’t be seeing my other daughter as she and “her” Mark (why couldn’t she have found herself a husband with a different name ?) have bought a motor home, taken a 3 month sabbatical and are wandering around Europe with their son, Sam, before he starts school in September. Judging by the pictures they are sending back they are having a grand time !

Oliver and Nicola visit 2

Feeding Lambs
Italian Chapel
Anna shows Nicola the Italian Chapel
Oliver plus Stenness Monster
Nicola about to start

After a week of fantastic sunny weather, Oliver and Nicola’s second week has not been so warm. This has not stopped them exploring the island and having all sorts of fun and experiences. We took them to the amazing and very moving Italian Chapel, a second World War Nissen hut that was converted by the Italian prisoners of war into a most amazing place of worship with trompe l’oeil  paintings all over the wall surfaces.

One place of call that could not be missed was Jerry’s Ice Cream Parlour where the amazing ice cream Sundaes are made with yummy Orkney ice cream and the incredible ‘Stenness monster’ can be consumed. This is a large cone with seven scoops of your choice, should you succeed in eating one of these your name goes in a ‘book of honour’ as proof you did it. Needless to say that both Oliver and Nicola achieved this, this being Oliver’s second successful mastery of this task, the first one, some years ago on his first visit to Orkney.

Yesterday we took Oliver and Nicola to the Tomb of the Eagles in South Ronaldsay, this visitor venue is a great introduction to the Neolithic in Orkney. You get a talk about the site, finds and life in the Neolithic and an opportunity to handle some of the finds. Then you walk out to the tomb on the cliff top and haul yourselves into the tomb via a homemade trolley. The Tomb is of the stalled type and is well worth a visit. After this you can take really nice cliff top walk back to the carpark. On this walk the sea birds fly past your heads and at certain times of the year you can see seals pupping on the shore below you. Whilst Oliver and Nicola were doing all this, Anna and I were meeting some dear friends, Peter & Fankie who are on holiday here, for lunch at the Skerries restaurant. After a very pleasant time we headed back to pick up Oliver and Nicola, hoping that they were not waiting for us as we had been some time. We found them sitting on a bench by the cliff tops watching the wildlife, they looked very contented.

Today our picnic was taken in the car for the first time as the weather has really changed to very wet and cold for the first time. We had just finished visiting the Orkneyinga Saga  centre at Ophir and what started as a light drizzle had made up its mind to become a bit more determined. This has not dampened our intrepid couple’s spirits and they are enjoying experiencing the different Orkney weather.

Oliver and Nicola visit

Tradition is if you place a stone here you will come back.
Oliver considers the water far too cold!
A wet cuddle from Nicola
On the way to the Brough
Ring of Brodgar

My youngest son, Oliver and my daughter-in-law Nicola have come to stay with us for a couple of weeks. They arrived by plane, unfortunately because of the turbulence Nicola did not have a good time, she was sick on both flights and arrived looking very green and subdued, for those who know the very excitable and lively Nicola this was quite a worry. However after a gentle drive back from the airport and a little lie down she started to feel much better.

Although Oliver has been to Orkney twice before on holiday with Anna and myself, for Nicola this was her first time on the Island and she was really looking forward to it. The weather has been in this first week has been fantastic with bright sunshine and very little if any wind (although this can bring the midges out) the temperatures have been around 18 – 20 deg C not I know as much as the heatwave that they had ‘dan sarf’ but very welcome here.

We have done masses of walking, Nicola has swum in the Atlantic ocean at Waulkmill Bay, the water is a fairly steady temperature as it is feed from the gulf stream but that temperature is according to Oliver who did go a short way in ‘F***ing Cold!’.

We have explored Neolithic tombs, stone circles, Skara Brae, clambered down cliffs, been seal spotting and a pile of other experiences. Oliver and Nicola seem to be enjoying themselves and are sleeping very well, we don’t often get started much before mid-day!

Yesterday we went on one of the free tours by the Scottish Heritage Rangers around Brodgar. Elaine was our guide and although I have been on these tours many times before there is always something new to be discovered. We sent a couple of hours at the Ring of Brodgar and then had our daily picnic, instead of on a beach, this time in the Neolithic village of Barnhouse.

We have also visited the Italian chapel and Nicola and Oliver fed some lambs at Catherine Corsie’s farm, we finished up the day quickly popping in to the Scapa distillery just before they closed, but Oliver still got a tasting in! On the drive back we all stopped off at Wideford Hill, one of the highest points on the island which you can drive up and from there get amazing ( but windy ) views of all the islands.

Anna is excelling herself on the catering front and also produced for the first time a batch of brioche buns one on which I am eating for breakfast as I type this.

Today we are heading into Kirkwall to show them the poppy display at the cathedral and to get some retail therapy, Nicola is very interested in the jewellery made on the island.