Thurso to Kirkwall (Orkney)

Day 49 Sat 16 April:  After 11 days, 456 miles, 7 islands, a couple of dozen good hot Campervan meals/hot brews, a moderation of wee drams,  many laughs and now, almost a whole teardrop, it’s time to say goodbye to my great and very dear young brother Phil. It’s been so good to have your company over such a significant part of this challenge. I’ll never again underestimate the value of meals-on-wheels. When I eventually grow old enough to qualify, and the last morsel of our beloved national health and social care system has been sold off to private contractors,  can I please place my regular order with you? Is there such a thing as a mobile retirement home? Safe journey home little-big bro, I hear it’s still quite a long way home from the top right corner of Scotland down to Cornwall, even with a diesel motor. Don’t ever sell that lovely van. But PLEASE let me paint the top half Lifeboat Orange. You know it makes sense.

Continuing north from here obviously demands yet another ferry crossing.  Just 1.4 miles from last night’s stopover at The Weigh Inn down to the Scrabster Ferry Port. Fondo and I must now get used to hauling all my baggage once more.  If Fondo could talk,  the question would probably be “does my bum look big in this?” Yes, it does. Enormous. Also, with such skinny tyres and my silly cleated cycle shoes, we’re now more likely to take a Bambi type spill on the slippery, wet ramp on boarding the boat. Thankfully, we didn’t.

The Captain’s first announcement was that, due to the moderate to heavy swell at sea today, we shall be taking the calmer, easterly route around Hoy to Stromness. Mixed feelings. The usual westerly route would have given us a great view of that well known, magnificent geological feature known as The Old Man of Hoy. However, the calmer, easterly route will take us through the famous waters of Scapa Flow, over the sight of the scuttling of the German naval fleet. I’m glad the choice was the Captain’s and not mine. A comfortable crossing, with just the right swell to rock me to sleep for an hour. This being a Saturday,  the visit to Stromness Lifeboat is best left until my southbound return on a midweek morning next week. Just a 17mile cycle across the flat but very cold, exposed main island of Orkney to Kirkwall on the north shore. Lots of sign posts to sights of historic and archaeological interest en route. Not today, thanks. Kirkwall itself also appears to have much to trumpet, including a grand Cathedral, Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Castle… but again, not today, thanks. For tomorrow is another day. A full day off.

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