The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 8 - Granton-on-Spey to Orkney Islands

Friday, May 8, Day 94 - Granton-on-Spey to Orkney Islands 

We had asked to be served breakfast at 7:30 this morning as we have a long way to go to catch our ferry to the Orkney Islands. Our hosts have agreed to do so and Dick has decided not to go looking for coffee. When he gets up about 6:45, he dresses and goes to move the car out front so that it is easy to load.

COLD! FROST! The car thermometer reads 25F and there is heavy frost on the car. It has to warm up so as to clear the windshield before moving it out front. The day is clear with a bright blue sky but boy is it cold!

Carolyn rolls out on time and we are ready for breakfast at 7:30 as agreed. Salmon and scrambled eggs for Dick and her usual poached eggs for Carolyn. By 8AM we are done and loading the car and are gone by 8:15. Today is much nicer than yesterday and the sun quickly warms up the world to an acceptable mid to upper 40s.

We take the fast route to Inverness and then on up the coast, heading northeast, toward Gills Bay and John O'Groats. Our ferry boards by 1PM and the drive is fully three and a half hours without stops. We are in good stead time wise so a few stops are in order for pictures. This is a fabulous drive on this blue bird day!  At one stop we meet a man on a bicycle who is 10 days into a ride from Land’s End to John O'Groats; 847 miles! He will finish today and is obviously pleased with himself.

We make a stop to photograph the direction pole at John O'Groats and now know how far it is to Land’s End and New York City then on the few miles to Gills Bay and the ferry terminal. As we pull in shortly after noon, we are quickly checked in and told to pull into the boarding line and to be back at our car by 1PM. So, into the small ferry building for a bathroom break and some lunch. Carolyn has a pannini sandwich and Dick has soup and three oat cakes. The oat cakes are an experiment. He describes them as thin, hard and tasteless but, when crumbled into the soup, they add some texture and consistency so they are OK.

The ferry boards on time and leaves on time for its hour’s run to St. Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay Island in the Orkney chain. Dick visits with a Scotsman who seems pleased for the opportunity to expound on the islands and learns to be sure he has ferry passage both ways reserved if we take any of the inter-island ferries while we are visiting. "They will let you go but do not guarantee to bring you back!"
It is a pretty but cool day and Dick rides part of the way on the upper deck. Our hotel, the Sands, is in Burray, a ten minute drive from the ferry dock. The hotel is a new renovation of a 19th century cannery building. Our room is a suite consisting of a large living area with an electric fireplace, dining table, sitting area and bath off the sitting area. Upstairs is a room with two twin beds and a bedroom with a queen bed. Note, that the bedrooms are on a different floor from the bath (toilet!).

Eating out is expensive and that is why we wanted this small kitchen plus we are just hungry for our own style of cooking! After unloading, we drive into Kirkwall, the main town on this island, and go to a Tesco grocery store and lay in some dinner supplies for tonight along with some additional snack items.  Along the way we do our first bit of sight seeing. We have to cross several causeways that connect the little islands around Scapa Flow to the main island where Kirkwall is located. Scapa Flow is a bay like area formed by some of the Orkney islands chain.  This natural harbor was home to the British Royal Fleet. During WWII, the Germans sank the battleship Royal Oak here. At that point Churchill ordered all but one of the entrances to Scapa Flow sealed by causeways. To protect the fleet until the roads were finished, they sank some ships to block the passages and those rusting hulks are still visible today.

Once in town we see is a cruise ship in port so we drive down to the dock area and find it is an MSC ship. We think that is an Italian line. While stopped, we briefly talk to our son regarding a summer time issue with a grandchild and then head back to the hotel.
Remember, it is staying light until way after 9PM but we still get hungry and tired on a more normal schedule. Dinner tonight is a roasted chicken breast, fresh corn on the cob and stuffed baked potatoes; mostly all microwave stuff and it turns out to be almost like home.

We watch some analysis of the British general elections of the 8th and then Dick heads off to bed while Carolyn stays up until mid-night watching TV. It is nice to have the apt style lodgings.

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