‘The Orkney imagination is haunted by time.’ George Mackay Brown
Under the wide horizons, endless combinations of water, land, sea and sky can be experienced on the Orkney Islands, varying both with location and the weather. Movement is brought to the landscape by the almost ceaseless wind, whether the scudding of clouds, the shafts of sunlight moving across the fields and moors, the patterns on the water, or long grass blowing in the wind. The contrasts of the fertile low ground with its farms and fields and the open, uninhabited higher ground of moorland and hill are emphasised by the differing colours of the two areas – the bright greens of the farmland and the browns of the uplands.
Spectacular coastal scenery
With their towering red cliffs, the Atlantic coastline creates a spectacular scene, enhanced by the presence of the Old Man of Hoy, the highest sea stack in the British Isles. These vertical structures of red sandstone, home to numerous seabirds are both a landmark and an iconic image of the Orkney Islands, especially for those arriving by sea from across the Pentland Firth. In comparison, the sheltered waters and gentle topography of the western approaches to Scapa Flow contrast with the Atlantic-battered western seaboard.
On the island of Hoy, set at the end of a glacial valley, between towering sandstone cliffs and a rocky beach, the distinctive village of Rackwick contains stone buildings and crofts in a traditional layout and in a spectacular setting.
The stone-built settlement of Stromness, rising steeply out of its harbour, further enhances the character of the area. The town has always been dependent on the sea and maintains strong maritime links with constant movement of boats in the harbour and the surrounding seas.
An archaeological landscape of world heritage status
The ancient monuments of central Orkney comprise the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, and have become recognisable landmarks of West Mainland and include the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and other standing stones composed of large flags of Devonian sandstone. Maes Howe and Unstan (Onston) cairns, in contrast, form distinctive, grass-covered low mounds in the landscape.
The images used to promote this tour were captured by Colin Prior either on a personal trip or on a previous tour and are representative of the type of weather that we may or may not experience throughout the duration of this tour. In Scotland, one must be prepared for constant change.