Sightseeing on Orkney
We have one day for a brief tour and impression of Orkney and so have forsaken pedal power for motorised transport in the form of a hire car. We go for role reversal and Sheila steers while I navigate. I manage to take us further than intended at one point looking for a settlement that features in large print on the map because I have not adjusted to the fact that some “villages” only have one house in them.
We visit the third millennium BC World Heritage Sites of the Ring of Brodgar and Standing Stones of Stenness, and then reach Skara Brea for coffee in the visitor centre before visiting the museum and site of this incredibly well preserved 5,000 year old Neolithic village. We also visit the Seventeenth century home of the Lairds of Skaill that is next door to the site. Our journey takes us south again to Stromness where we have lunch before travelling on to Deerness where in the nature reserve there is the Gloup, which is a spectacular natural arch. Finally we visit the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm before returning to Kirkwall. The Italian Chapel is a decorated Nissan hut created by Italian prisoners of war. The quality of the exterior cement rendered stucco and statuary and the beautifully created trompe l'oeil interior are witness to superb standards of craftsmanship achieved despite the limitations of the available materials. We return to Kirkwall in time to visit St Magnus Cathedral, wander through the town centre and have a late afternoon tea (and change back into cycling kit) before returning the car. Our impression of Orkney is that the sky and sea are everything in the landscape. The land has a gentle glaciated form but we feel we could not cope with permanently living in such a totally treeless landscape. And those long dark winter days.
While Sheila is taking the car back, I return to the B&B for the tandem. We are going to cycle back to St Margaret’s Hope this evening so that we are within close striking distance of Burwick to catch the morning ferry tomorrow. As I return into town for our rendezvous pushing the tandem a passing old lady stops me. It is a classic “You don’t see many of those nowadays” conversations. The last one of the trip. But she manages a novel twist by informing me that she owns a “boneshaker” with a wooden frame and iron-shod wheels. She also had an “Ordinary”, but sold it to someone from America. I can’t be sure but I have the impression that both bikes have been in her family for several generations. She does not volunteer any information on her actual cycling habits.
We walk up the first part of the hill past the Bishops Palace out of town. After all this is our site-seeing day. Then it is back into the saddle to retrace our route south. It is a fine sunny evening and we can take it easy as we pedal through the ups and downs and re-cross each of the Churchill Barriers in turn. The Italian Chapel is looking good in the evening sun. At St Margaret’s Hope we find that our landlady cannot take us, but she has arranged a transfer to the Anchorage Inn that is in the village itself. We freewheel down the hill to the small harbour and find that we are housed in a cottage adjoining the pub. We have the run of the house, which looks to be comfortable enough. After a wash and change again we head next door to the bar. The barman is a chatty Glaswegian who is happy to talk about various Orcadian subjects including the local gossip and his views as an outsider from a big city. We eat at the Anchorage and enjoy a good dinner with the dining room to ourselves. I remember to phone Kevin and give him our last instalment of mileages, including the prize-winning final mileage, so that he can enter them onto the NFDC Intranet.
The morning dawns with a slight mist on the water. It is dead calm across the bay. After breakfast we pedal back up hill to the main road and then cycle at a leisurely pace across South Ronaldsay in the early morning sunshine. We pause for a time at the viewpoint in the centre of the island and note from a plaque there that we are a mere 3,000 miles from America. Finally it is all downhill to Burwick.
We arrive at the harbour with lots of time to spare. We knew that if we left early enough we would have a good chance that the puncture gods would not come out to play. Sheila takes a photo as I ritually unbolt the sign from the back of the carrier, and then find a rock to sit on beside some lobster pots to write up my diary while we wait for the ferry. The tandem is loaded first onto the boat and because it is such a dead calm sea we both sit outside on the deck. Visibility is much hazier, however, than it was on the crossing out to Orkney.
At John O’Groats we rack up the tandem onto the car and depart southwards. Within a short distance on the road to Wick we pass a couple of cyclists heading north who must be End to End travellers. We wave. And not much further on we pass a tandem trike also heading north. The car journey reinforces just how large Scotland is. We spend the rest of the day driving the length of the country, with a lunch break in Inverness, before reaching Penrith for an overnight stop. Gianni's is not open tonight and we opt for an acceptable but much quieter dinner in one of the town centre hotels. We decide that we deserve a bottle of wine. On Monday it is steadily southwards to arrive back in Lymington at the end of the afternoon.
End to End ~ The end
Sheila’s advisors at the Bureau, who have sent us encouraging postcard messages while we were on the trip, treat her as a returning heroine. She happily plays up to this role. I make her a framed certificate to record the achievement and also send off to the CTC for one of their official tee-shirts and certificates for each of us. I have to do some hasty cleaning of the tandem because we are due to lead a 40 miles day ride starting from Lymington for the Tandem Club on the following Sunday.
We have no current plans to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End, nor to any other distant place.
But as Sheila says: “Don’t be so silly Paris-Brest-Paris is not for the likes of us”.
To Lands End
Prologue - Lands End to Ludgvan
Day 2 Ludgvan to Trelill
Day 3 Trelill to Great Torrington
Day 4 Great Torrington to Bridgwater
Day 5 Bridgwater to Chepstow
Day 6 Chepstow to Ludlow
Day 7 Ludlow to Church Minshull
Day 8 Church Minshull to Slaidburn
Day 9 Slaidburn to Penrith
Day 10 Penrith to Eskdalemuir
Day 11 Eskdalemuir to South Queensferry
Day 12 South Queensferry to Blairgowrie
Day 13 Blairgowrie to Tomintoul
Day 14 Tomitoul to Alness
Day 15 Alness to Bettyhill
Day 16A Bettyhill to John O'Groats
Day 16B John O'Groats to Kirkwall
Orkney and Home