I’ve learned a bit from the past few island hopping holidays, where I used a holiday company to organise the ferries and accommodation. This holiday was to be rather different as a friend – a fellow dressage judge, the only dressage judge on Orkney – had invited us to stay with her. As a consequence, I booked the ferries myself and, taking my cue from the tour company, I chose different ferry routes to get there and back again. In fact, two different ferry companies altogether.
There are many ways to get to Orkney
Pentland ferries run this one route, aboard the ‘PENTALINA’, a very broad catamaran ferry, good for crossing the Pentland Firth, which has some of the fastest running water in the world – up to 30 kilometres per hour (16 kn) has been recorded in recent years.
Here she comes, not hanging around!
We were fortunate to have a lovely day for the crossing – I don’t think I’d like to do it on a windy day!
Even so, there were some spectacular waves breaking over the nearby shore lines
But a bit calmer as we left the firth and came in amongst the Orkney islands
Hint for what’s to come: that building up there? Think WW2. Orkney is a place filled to bursting with history, old and modern, with everything in between.
At about 10 seconds into the following video, you’ll spot some strange-looking, round buildings. This is the oil terminal on the tiny island of Flotta – the second largest major oil terminal serving the UK North Sea. On an island with a population of around 80.
Like many of the islands, Flotta had a big part to play in both World Wars. Until I began researching Orkney for this trip, I had NO idea of it’s massive involvement in that dark part of our past.
And as we cruised into St Margaret’s Hope, we passed a couple of oil rigs, and many, many ships. A very busy waterway.
And then, once we’d disembarked and found a café to top up on caffeine, we set off to explore this fascinating group of islands…