TO SKARA BRAE
Now that Strict Lady had proved herself to be completely useless once past Inverness (no, when I think about it quite a long way south of Inverness) I had reverted to a book of maps. Most of the books of maps I had from home were well past their use by date so had been binned in the house move. I knew I needed a fresh road atlas and had been advised to get a large scale one. In the event there wasn't much choice at the motorway services and I just bought the best one I could find, which really isn’t that good. Even with my reading glasses on I couldn't make out the road numbers, but for some unknown reason, one of the things I had packed into Thebus before leaving was a Jeweller's Loupe with an incredible magnification level which allowed me to read the road numbers. But it was such a faff managing that and a huge book of maps that I just tore the page out. One thing with Orkney is that once on one of the islands its not all that far round if you do get lost.
We headed off once again with wonderful views. View that really are breath-taking in the true sense of the word, in that once ones eyes focus on the far distance it relaxes and invigorates both the mind and the body, and for some reason one takes a deeper breath. I think I remember reading that the Native High Plains Indians in America were very spiritual and it was partly to do with seeing such long distances. Or as it says in one of the psalms – 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills'
We dropped down a bit and in a small village came to probably the first shop I had sighted since the ferry and certainly the only one with any chance of parking Thebus. We had come on it too quickly to stop so we had to do a three point turn into a farm track, but the joy of driving in Orkney is that at least there is the chance of making a manoeuvre without instantly causing a backlog of traffic. As one of the people I spoke to said 'I have never been in a traffic jam in my life'. I think a move to Orkney would certainly result in a better quality of living.
I was in desperate need of stamps, as though I had packed a jeweller's loupe I had forgotten to take any of the small box full of stamps accumulated in the drawer of the kitchen table. This shop not only sold everything, but part of it was a Sports and Social Club with a notice saying Visitors Welcome, and having bought some stamps and affixed one I was most taken with the fact that the post box outside was cunningly fitted with a little flap over the letterbox in case of bad weather.
From there we cut across over the tops with heather and peat moors, and though the road was only just wide enough for Thebus there were lots of passing places, and people actually stopped to use them instead of just driving straight towards you, then looking surprised when there was not enough room to get past.
Skirting tight round the edge of a loch we arrived at Skara Brae and Skaill House. Unfortunately Skaill House is only open during the tourist season, but I would imagine it is well worth a visit, if I am back this way at the right time I would certainly call in. It has the most beautiful setting and is romantic but in a traditional way, rather than with so many of our mansions nowadays, done up till almost overdone, if you know what I mean. You can even stay at apartments there http://www.skaillhouse.co.uk/ - if you don't have your own Thebus of course!
It was built in 1620 and is still within the same family some four hundred years later, though the current Laird lives at another of his properties. It was the Seventh Laird who discovered the village at Skara Brae after a great storm had washed part of the shore and sand dunes away in 1850.
Sign on Shop Door
Sports & Social Club
with weather proof flap
Interestingly there is no
as with all the postboxes
where I lived.
Starting with VR
Notice I said - 'where I lived'-
and not 'at home'
Looking down into one of the excavated Stone Age Houses with Skaill House in the distance
The central square is the hearth and the oblong to the left of it one of the beds
To the top right of the house the stone dresser has more or less collapsed, but you can see there is a small alcove behind it and if the dresser was in place the entrance would have been concealed - panic room or treasure hidey hole?
There are lots more photos on the next page so check those out to get a better idea of how they were built and used
Skaill House from pathway to Skara Brae
Evening View over the moors road towards Skara Brae