And, …. there goes the good weather. It looks like today is going to be a complete contrast to yesterday. Oh well, nothing for it but to get up, take down the tent, and head south. It turns out that packing up without getting getting everything damp and covered in sand is a little tricky. Still, we can worry about that later. While it’s only 15 miles to the Ness of Brodgar, it would be a shame to miss the guided tour!
Well, that blue sky is quite a sight. A huge contrast from the overcast, windy weather from yesterday. Clear blue skies and very little wind. Perfect weather for us! The plan for the morning was to walk over to the Brough of Birsay, the island you can see in the above photograph. It’s connected to the Mainland (Orkney mainland, not Scottish mainland) by a tidal causeway that will be open most the morning. En route, we pass by another of the Earl of Orkney’s palaces.
I always find sleeping in a tent on the first night difficult… there just doesn’t seem to be any way to make sleeping on the ground in a bag with no pillow comfortable. Hence Monday morning was somewhat bleary eyed. Still, our plan was reasonably laid back: buy a new water bottle, look round the sights in Kirkwall, then cycle up to the Broch of Gurness and camp by the nearby beach.
So, summer rolls around again and it’s time for me and Moz to head up to some Scottish islands with our tent and bikes. In 2012 we visited Uist and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and last year we island hop-scotched around the Inner Hebrides (Arran, Gigha, Isley, Jura and Colonsay). I’ve recently moved to Aberdeen, which makes Orkney an attractive option for this year’s tour – there’s a direct (but long) ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall.
Two nights left, and it’s time to move the tent again! Today, we’re heading to Jura. Which turns out to be one of the best islands we’ve made it so far. A lot quieter than Arran and Islay, but bigger and more scenic than Gigha. I like that the ferry from Islay drops you off in the middle of nowhere, 7 miles from the village. Good thing it’s lovely weather for a cycle.
Up early, and off to catch the first ferry over to Kintyre which despite being part of mainland Scotland, feels a lot more remote than Arran. (I guess Arran really isn’t very remote at all, and is fairly close to Glasgow when you think about it.) The road signs are caked in decades worth of dirt and the ferry drops us off in what appears to be the middle of nowhere: the ferry terminal consists of a bus shelter and a portaloo.
Since last year’s trip went so well, Moz and I decided we should head back up into the islands again this year. Our original plans, of heading up over the Easter break were thwarted by bad weather, so we had to wait until August before we both had some free time. Which meant we missed the July heatwave. Oh well. Probably a good thing right? Wouldn’t want to be too hot. Relaxing on those nice Hebridean beaches with some beer. In the sun. Much better for it to be overcast and changeable.
Step one: try and remember how to fit everything onto the back of one bike:
Notice that I have a new bike! The nice elegant looking red one. My last bike got stolen from my flat’s stair, which meant a new (and better) bike was required! I was a little nervous about it, as I’ve already had a flat tire while out cycling. Perhaps bad luck. Or perhaps those road tires really don’t like stony paths.
The plan this year involved Moz leaving his car in Edinburgh, and we’d both take the train from Edinburgh to Ardrossan and catch the ferry over to Arran. From there, we’d head to Kintyre, Islay, Jura and Colonsay and then catch the train home from Oban.
Step two: we have to catch the train.