Today is what I think of, on these trips, as a “dead” day. We really wanted to be in Orkney but couldn’t get a ferry until tomorrow and it being the far north of Scotland there was not much to do, so basically we had time to kill.
The ferry delay arises from the fact that we don’t plan these trips very carefully. We have a vague idea of where we want to go and then book any caravan sites, ferries etc. a day or two in advance. The disadvantage is that you sometimes get days where you are waiting for the next stage of the journey to begin, but the advantage is more flexibility. Orkney is an excellent example of the benefit of such an approach.
When we started the trip we knew we wanted to visit the Outer Hebrides, but Orkney was not somewhere we planned to visit, so if we had meticulously planned everything in advance we would not have been visiting Orkney. But the more I read about Orkney the more interesting it looks and since we have got the time we’ve squeezed it into the itinerary.
The result of this “dead” day is that we stayed at our excellent wildcamping position until midday with Sarah and I taking it turns to go down to the cliffs to watch the puffins, razorbills etc. Puffins and Razorbills spend all their year at sea, only coming onto these cliffs to breed. Consequently they are very ungainly on land. Today I saw a puffin overbalancing on his grass ledge and literally falling off into the void. Luckily he or she had wings and so flew off. I was very conscious that if I slipped over the cliff edge there would be no such lucky escape.
We eventually decided that we would visit John o’Groats for no better reason than to say we had been there. I reminded Sarah that we must have visited it in 1980 but neither of us could remember. All I can say in John o’Groats favour is firstly it is free to visit and secondly its much nicer than Lands End! It’s all quite low key. There are fish and chip shops, some retailers of tat, a couple of tartan clad men playing the bagpipes but nothing too offensive. There were of course a handful of cyclists finishing the Lands End to John o’Groats challenge.
I went into a Tourist Information Centre to see what I could pick up about Orkney only to find that it was in fact a tat shop cunningly disguised! On exiting I thought I recognised a voice and looking around I was face to face with our friends from back home, Alan and Michelle! I was aware that they were touring the North Coasts 500 this month but the chances of actually bumping into them must have been very small.
We had a chat as best we could given that Mabel was very anxious about their dogs Nimba and Reg and Reg (I think it was him) was very nervous about the presence of our dogs. Our conversation was interrupted several times by outbreaks of barking and at one stage our dogs seemed to set off all the other dogs at John o’Groats with a cacophony breaking out all over the place!
Eventually we said goodbye, with us having recommended last night’s wildcamping spot to them and them having reciprocated regarding their stop yesterday. We did not have far to travel to a Motorhome and Caravan Club Certified Location in the nearby village of Scarfskerry (58.652061, -3.248409). It is, as usual, a five van site, in this case essentially in someone’s large front garden. It has got the minimum of facilities, but a matching price of £6 for the night. In the distance we can see the Castle of Mey, which was apparently the late Queen Mother’s summer residence. Sarah has taken the dogs for a look from the outside (she’s down on her 10,000 steps) while I write the blog.
Tomorrow our ferry is at 1.30 pm from a jetty about 4 miles away. We are staying on another CL while we are on Orkney but we don’t know about connectivity so there may, or may not, be a blog.