Orkney, From Ancient History To The Brave New World

From sustainable food, beauty from adversity to ancient stone rings, the spirit of Orkney endures.

There are many reasons to visit the Orkney Islands. They are a place of striking beauty, abundant wildlife and steeped in history. I came to see the future in a land renowned for leading the way in renewable energy. Whatever your reasons for visiting however, you are sure to get more than you bargained for.

You can read about my preparation for my visit to Orkney in my post entitled Is Orkney The Sustainable World Of The Future?

Evidence of Renewable Energy generation can be seen everywhere.

From the moment I set eyes on the Orkney Islands looking out the plane window on my approach to Kirkwall Airport, the evidence of renewable energy generation was everywhere. Energy producing wind turbines could be seen in every direction.

Devices off the shore of Eday testing the ability to generate electricity from the motion of the waves.

I had also learnt from research that Orkney is leading the way in testing new ways to generate electricity harnessing the power of the sea. Though I never got close to the machines that were being tested, I did get to see them at a distance from the ferry from Mainland Orkney to Westray. You can read all about what I saw of these devices in my post entitled Harnessing The Power Of The Sea Off The Orkney Islands.

Bus stops are very rare in Orkney and the bus doesn’t stop at them.

It is possible to travel throughout Mainland Orkney on a budget with a seven-day unlimited travel bus pass costing only £25. With the bus network reaching all of the tourist sites on the island and connecting the main towns, this is great value for money. All that said, you will be limited for time and you need to get to know the quirks unique to Orkney when it comes to getting around on the bus. You can read about this as well as some details of accommodation costs in my post entitled Orkney On A Budget.

As well as seeking out the future on these islands, I also spent some time exploring the history and the culture. It was so easy to get lost in the ancient and spiritual aspects of some of the sites on the island. For sure the stones at The Ring Of Brodgar evoked a sense of the ancient and the spiritual. It was at the Italian Chapel, at one of the most plain parts of that location, that I experienced a moment of intense spirituality, peace and self love. You can read about it and the history of The Italian Chapel in my post entitled Miracle At The Italian Chapel.

The St Magnus Way is a pilgrimage where walkers are prompted to reflect on aspects of their lives.
Earl’s Bu near Orphir on the shores of the Scapa Flow

It was during a short morning walk on my last full day on Orkney where I was moved to reflect on the culture which prevails on these islands. I visited the Earl’s Bu, a ruined church and Viking feasting hall which stands on a long-distance walk called the St Magnus Way.

Information on signs at the site spoke about the Viking hospitality and conjured images of what it would have been like in that ancient Feasting Hall located by the church. There were also prompts for self-reflection on the signs. They asked about our favourite meal and about the hospitality we had encountered.

As I walked on down to the shores of the Scapa Flow and on along the top of the cliffs above them, seabirds circled around me and my ears were full off the hiss of the incoming tide. Nostrils flared with the scent of salt and seaweed, and I reflected on those questions as related to my visit.

I was a stranger walking among the people of Orkney in the midst of a global Covid Pandemic yet still I was made to feel welcome wherever I went. Trish, the owner of the sprawling farmhouse come B&B at which I had stayed stood out a mile. She was so easy to talk to and so welcoming. As to my favourite meal, Trish’s fried breakfast was as enjoyable as her conversation whilst I ate it.


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