Day 99: Kirkwall to Stromness, Thursday July 27th
I read quietly after waking, and when I finally did drop out of my bunk I tried very hard to be silent. Then Deb got up and pointed out that we were the only people still in the room. Those were some seriously soft-footed hostelers!
We hurried to pack up the bikes before the (according to numerous signs) strict checkout time of 10 am. The manager told Deb we could use the facilities for breakfast, so we were able to fuel up.
The weather was perfect. We lingered in Kirkwall only long enough to look at St. Magnus Cathedral and the ruins next to it.
National Cycle Route 1 is on a not too busy “A” road at first. We took a hobbit stop at Waulkmill Bay, and were pleased to find a set of those great public toilets Scotland puts all over the place. I’m not being ironic; we’ve found that only Scotland (and to a lesser extent, Sweden) have had adequate public toilets along the cycle routes.
The cycle route used some really great smaller roads after that, and we ended up at a scenic lookout over the Lochs of Stenness and Harray where we ate our lunch. In the distance we could just make out the standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar.
Back on the A road, we took a short detour to see the Standing Stones of Stenness. These massive rocks were part of one of the earliest stone circles in Britain (3100 BC), but only four stones remain, so they seem to have been overshadowed by the nearby Ring of Brodgar. Google Maps has the site listed as a bus stop.
When we got there, there were three tour buses parked, and the place was busy. Then, like magic, everybody disappeared, and we had the stones to ourselves.
We climbed the last hill and cruised down into Stromness. After checking in at the Orca Hotel, we explored. We saw the old well where Cook’s ships and countless HBC vessels took on water. We saw the statue of John Rae, a favourite explorer of Deb’s. I love that the Inuit named him, Aglooka, Long Strider.
I guess because of its location, Stromness seems to be a town full of adventurers. In addition to John Rae, and countless other HBC men, we saw plaques on the homes of many amazing people. We learned of Eliza Fraser, who was shipwrecked in Australia (and is apparently rather infamous) who lived here, and Isabel Gunn, who disguised herself as a man in order to join the HBC.
Next to the statue was a shop where we purchased Orkney ice cream. Toffee fudge, so good!
The Ferry Inn had cask ales from the Orkney Brewery to cap off an excellent day.
Distance: 35 km