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 www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kirkwall/kirkwall/index.

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 www.genuki.org.uk/big/sct/OKI/ 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 www.scotland-inverness.co.uk/stones.htm. For an overview of the islands that comprise Orkney, see www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usmapindexes/orkney. 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 ://www.orkneyjar.com/history/brodgar/

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 www.orkneyjar.com/history/brodgar/. 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.