Saturday, April 08, 2006

Windswept Isles


Up here on the Orkney Isles, the weather is particularly strange. The temperature is apparently the same all year round. It's island weather.

North Atlantic island weather.

One minute it is bright and sunny, the next it is sleeting ice. The winds are fierce and cold. Yet there is never really snow, and they never have a frost, even in the middle of winter. The only thing holding back the tourists during the winter months is the lack of light, I suppose.

The winds made for a very interesting ferry crossing. Probably the most turbulant boat trip[1] I've ever had, and that includes the times where I've flipped a sailboat. Luckly, that only lasted for forty minutes, until we could get inside the Scapa Flow. From there, it was smooth sailing.

It was a late ferry, due to the winds. I had to walk, in the sleet, to my hostel at about eleven PM. The only time I've really been caught in the rain, so far. Thanks, strange island weather.

There are some marvolous sights up here. The center of Kirkwall is dominated by the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral, built by the Vikings in the 12th century. It is full of great stained glass, and old tombstones from the the early 17th century. The interesting part of the inscriptions is that they all end with Memento Mori - Remember Death - instead of the standard Rest in Peace or whatnot. I'm not entirely sure what the significance is.

There is also a great single malt wiskey distillery in town, Highland Park, which offers tours of their facility. They bill themselves as the "most northerly distillery of whiskey in the world." A very tasty Scotch.

Interesting, but not worth the entry fee, are the Earl's and Bishop's Palaces, ruins of 17th century castles. The tour is self guided, and the cold made for a rather rushed experience. For once, being the only person at an attraction also made it a little less interesting. It was a little too quiet.

Today, I'll head out to see some other sights on the island. There are some great iron- and stone-aged sights to see...

[1] Not enough, mind you, to make me ill. I just lay there and listened to music with my eyes shut, hoping that it would all just go away...

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