Friday, August 22, 2008

To Inverness and beyond!

I'd never been any further north than Dingwall until this trip, but I'd have to say that Orkney is well worth the trip. A place that evokes feelings of bleak remoteness, yet a place where you're rarely out of sight of a house.

Ros and I were there on business, but Alastair Carmichael, the unexpectedly youthful MP for Orkney & Shetland, took the time and trouble to show us some of the sights of Mainland, the largest of the cluster of islands that make up Orkney.

Above is a picture of part of the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of standing stones whose age is unknown but likely to be of a similar age to Stonehenge. Set amongst the heather, they attract a much lower number of tourists, but you can walk right up to them, touch them if you so wish, and are probably far more interesting and interactive than Stonehenge is.

On the western shore is the neolithic village of Skara Brae, a World Heritage Site dating back 5,000 years. I've visited a surprising number of World Heritage Sites but Skara Brae would be on any highlight reel. You approach the site by means of a path marked with markers depicting various historic events. However, what makes this special is that the markers are spaced relative to their distance from the sight so you start with events such as the American Declaration of Independence fairly early on your stroll. The birth of Christ is a fair way and, eventually, you get to the establishment of Skara Brae. You then look back and realise that it's quite a walk back to the visitor centre...

As I noted at the time, if such a site was within an easy drive of London, it would be visited by millions, would probably be only visible from a distance, and would be one of the must-see attractions. Instead, it is far away from an international airport, is at the end of a long road and is accessible to the point where the visitor path takes you through the centre of the village itself.

I'm quite keen to go back, especially as I've discovered that there is a flight from Sumbergh, in the Shetlands, to Bergen...

1 comment:

Chris Black said...

I went to Orkney (once) and Shetand (twice) about 16 years ago. Both are very special places that I would like to go back to.

I remember glimpsing a frail -looking Jo Grimond walking down a street in Kirkwall.

If you think Orkney is bleak and remote , try Shetland :)