Friday, December 15, 2006


Technorati Profile

No third-party direct links in posts. Written web addresses instead. Regrets. Until the issues noted at, in the internet and copyright areas are resolved (please, somebody - unleash the web somehow), we are not doing the blue underline quick-links.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Orkney; view near Kirkwall

Orkney view, near Kirkwall

Orkney, near Kirkwall.

Orkney views are not as rough as I expected. People said that the Shetlands were mountainous, but these are agricultural, flattish, rocky shale, and lovely, but not fierce. This is Norse by settlement, and many places have Norse names. In the tales of King Arthur, as I remember, there was King Lot and his wife, Queen Morgause from Orkney. Long way to Cornwall.

The area is some 70 islands in all. And the Neolithic sites inland are part of the World Heritage sights. Being off the usual tourist track means they are less well known, but probably better preserved. There are also artist colonies here - lovely silk screening, for example.

Kirkwall is another main city, in addition to Stromness. There is an airport there. A good website for Kirkwall is

More blogs about Orkney Road Ways.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Anchoring your road trips - Graveyards

What do you do when you land, with car, off a ferry in a totally unknown place. We aim immediately out of the town, to anywhere for coffee, a look at the guidebook, and any place names from family - graveyards. See Geneologies: Graveyards and marriage/ death records. See for Orkney records.

We were looking for distant relatives who lived here in the 19th Century for a time. We found them later at Sanday, but spent enjoyable hours in churchyards, up and down roads. There is a calming effect of graveyards.

Dr. James McConaghy:  We were looking for family here, who moved from Scotland's in the 1800, the husband (a doctor), died, and the wife and children went to Australia. Trail then lost. We had not done any Orkney family-tracking source-work before leaving the US, however, because we never dreamed we'd end up here. So we did what we could by car, trooping around the graveyards and hoping to get lucky, rather than stay a day in records offices.

That was excellent. Graveyard wandering is pensive and the clues to life and death are like our own. Looking for names gave us exercise and gave us an anchor for stopping at every church yard we could - and strolling or running wildly through (if noone was around) to spot the names. One thing about driving yourself is this: you need to get up and run around.
Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones, Orkney

Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones For an overview of the islands that comprise Orkney, see There is a map of the Orkney Islands there. Click on the towns and place names for the best overview.

These date from 2500-2000 BCE, see ://

We put the car on the Scrabness Ferry from Scotland mainland, and went the route past Hoy (that is a tall stovepipe stone formation called the Old Man of Hoy) to the town of Stromness. We had no reservations, so were on line at the ferry at 5:30 AM. Fun once in a while, and great food on the ferries. Huge breakfasts,with the addition of baked beans to the fried eggs, sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, breads. Big ferries, lots to walk around and see, or just nap.

Standing stones: if you get your pictures mixed, internet photos help identify. See that fine site for an overview of much of Orkney, at There are some 27 of an original 60 stones originally set in the ground there, for more on the Ring of Brodgar.  It is considered a "henge" because of the outer earthwork area, a large ditch.  The alignments were important.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

World Heritage at Orkney

Overview: This is a World Heritage Site, see Artists, sculptors, crafts. We missed the St. Magnus Festival, that started in 1977 by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, see Financial Times June 7-8, 2008, at page 12 Life and Arts section.

We thought we would see barrens and isolated people - not so. See also That shows artists in Orkney. The rest of the address is: aspx.LocID-hianewlx6.RefLocID-hiacg5002.Lang-EN.htm;%20%3Ca%20.

See also for specific artists' works.

Orkney artists' colonies. Orkney silkscreening. St. Magnus.  ://  See lovely silk squares, shawls, painters, sculptors. Programs encourage artists to settle there. Crafters: you will enjoy it here. See the variety of crafts at

St. Magnus Cathedral - founded by viking Earl Rognvald in 1137, to honor his uncle, Magnus Erlandson, Earl of Orkney, see ://

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Scrabster to Kirkwall.

Scrabster to Kirkwall. See map at  The benefit of a car.

Getting there - There is an airport at Kirkwall, see We went by car ferry from Scrabster, Scotland. See for Scrabster. Scrabster is near John o'Groats, the most northern tip of Scotland mainland. John o'Groats corresponds in the north to Land's End at the south, the tip of Cornwall, England. Seeing the British Isles from literal top to bottom.

If you have no reservations for the Scrabster ferry, get on line in the car at the ferry about 5:30 A.M. We were lucky - fine, big ferry with full Scottish breakfast -- baked beans, eggs, meats, mushrooms, tomatoes, breads, porridge. We waddled off. On the way, the ferry passes the Old Man of Hoy - a big rock. There was an old magical battle fought at Hoy, where the dead were revived to fight again. See There you will find the Old Man of Hoy. The formation is called a seastack - see

The Old Man of Hoy is a favorite for climbers, but you will be on your own. See Climbing the Old Man.

For getting around Orkney without a car, see

Skara Brae settlement

Skara Brae. People there for 6000 years. Until you are there, it is hard to appreciate just how old the cultures are that still show on Orkney. Look at this timeline, and see that Skara Brae settlement and the standing stones of Stenness was there 500 years before the pyramids in Egypt.

See for a view of the history here, stretching so far back. Go to for more on Kirkwall.

Get an overview of the historical sights at See its museums at Next time, I would get to the Orkneys fast, and spend a week there and on up to the Shetlands . See what we missed at Shetland Islands. We broke our own rule. We saw a ferry sign to the Shetlands and did not hop on. No time! No time!

Bishop's Palace - ruin with tales

A ruin not to miss. See the Bishop's Palace at

This is a skeleton now, but one of the stories was a murder after services, where the assassin walked in front of the doomed after nightfall, in a small procession, and ducked into a wall cavity. As soon as the doomed man behind him passed(a King? A Bishop?), the assassin then immediately darted out again, stabbing the King/Bishop, and then ducked back again in the dark. The King/Bishop turned, and mistook the person behind him for the assassin, big melee and many deaths. Gives a whole scary flavor of reality to ruins.

There is a fine visitor's center with exhibits, and films. This was one of the stories, as I recall. Trying to find it and fix any wrong details. The fun of the research later.