Felicity Cobb

A Place Beyond Belief

Felicity Cobb
A Place Beyond Belief

In this blog post, Felicity describes her journey to Orkney through pictures that speak a thousand words.

Group photo.
A friendly, lively group who all found this holiday fascinating!

The Stromness hotel, Stromness.
At the heart of the community; lovely food; friendly staff, and right by the Harbour and shops.

The War Graves at Scapa Flow
Young men and women of all nationalities lie buried here in a beautiful environment. The Garrison force in Orkney built up to 60,000 during WW2.

St. Magnus’ Cathedral, Kirkwall.
Constructed of sandstone and red ocre. It contains the bones of St. Magnus in one of the pillars.

 

“The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of the sea and land, darkness and light.”

So wrote the Orkney poet, George Mackay Brown, who was born in Stromness and lived most of his days in the town. He is buried in the local cemetery, and his life is celebrated by a plaque in the poets’ corner of Kirkwall Cathedral of St. Magnus.

He is not the only Orcadian to bring pride to the town. Amongst its many sons is the Arctic explorer, Dr. John Rae, who added over 1,000 miles of Canadian coastline to existing charts, and in 1854 discovered Rae Strait, the last link in the N.W. Passage. He also made public the tragic fate of the Franklin Expedition . Also celebrated in the island’s cathedral are William Balfour Baikie, translator of the Bible into the language of Central Africa;  Robert Rendall, the poet and conchologist; Edwin Muir, and the Orcadian novelist, Eric Linklater.

At the heart of the history of Orkney lies the tragic death of St. Magnus, Earl Orkney, who was killed on the island of Eginsay and canonised in 1133.To his memory Rognvald built a cathedral in Kirkwall.

It was against this background that we began our wonderful holiday in these enchanting islands. Orkney consists of 67 islands, off the coast of Caithness. 16 are inhabited. It is separated from mainland Scotland by the Pentland Firth.

We stayed at the Stromness hotel, Stromness. This was large and faded Victorian. It served creamy food and comfort: a whisky bar with over 100 different Scottish whiskies; a storytelling evening full of charm and imagination; a peat fire; darkness and tales of old Norse legends.

Orkney:  a magical place of clear skies, sunshine, showers, light floating clouds, heavy dark clouds promising storms; poetry, creativity, and the clearest light I have ever seen.

Also, unspoilt beaches and hills, many archaeological remains (Skara Brae, Maes Howe, Wideford Hill cairn; the Stones of Stromness, the Ring of Brodgar, and many more….

Another name for Stromness was, “A Place Beyond Belief”.

And it was.

 

"A Land beyond belief" This sign greets the visitor at Stromness. And it is true!

 

Group Photo

 

The Stromness hotel, Stromness. At the heart of the community; lovely food; friendly staff, and right by the Harbour and shops.

 

The War Graves at Scapa Flow Young men and women of all nationalities lie buried here in a beautiful environment. The Garrison force in Orkney built up to 60,000 during WW2.Login's Well, Stromness. This supplied visiting ships with water, and was recognised by the Hudson Bay Company. Staff from Orkney were recruited and shipped out to Canada. Sir John Franklin (N.W. Passage) watered his ships here.

 

St. Magnus' Cathedral, Kirkwall. Constructed of sandstone and red ocre. It contains the bones of St. Magnus in one of the pillars.

 

Orkney, the shoreline with large flat sandstones.