‘Part nine’, my hypothetical reader might be thinking, what happened to ‘part eight’? Not a lot – it was absolutely weeing it down that day but we had decided to spend it in Kirkwall anyway, as luck would have it, doing a tour of the gin distillery and Looking at Stuff. Not being used to gin, I was, um, ‘warmed’ by all the tasters, plus the free gin at the end, but the rain continued unabated and it didn’t stop me getting soaked as soon as I stepped outside. We looked at the shopping street, we looked at the cathedral, we looked at the ruins of the Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces, but it was too damn wet to even get the cameras out for any of it so we looked at each other and went to look for a pub.
The St Ola’s Hotel on the waterfront has quite a nice one, which you might or might not expect from the outside. (Expectations might include: sawdust on floor, knife fight already in progress, accidental interruption of illegal, high-stakes poker game, student-y music on jukebox, depending on what you’re used to encountering in similar-looking locations). We ate many things and we drank a few things and we hauled our haul of gins back to the apartment and that was that.
Indeed, that was that, because that was the last day of the holiday, and today we had to get up early, pack, recycle, and so on, and then be flung forth into the archipelago to find something to do for the six hours between kick-out and the ferry. Given that I was woken from a series of ever-more-horrible nightmares by the whistling of the wind (and not a cheerful, ‘sing a merry tune’ type of whistling, either) I had Trepidations about this. However, the south-eastern parts of the archipelago turned out to be pretty calm; sunny, even. Summery, even.
We went to the Fossil and Heritage Museum and Tea Room, two whole seconds ahead of a coach tour, too, but it turned out they weren’t going to the museum bit so we were advised to hide in there and seek breakfast after they’d gone. It had a pretty cracking exhibition on the local Devonian period, if anybody got to the end of that phrase without falling asleep, and a more general exhibition on fossils and geology. Also, I finally learned all about the Churchill Barriers and all those sunken ships you can see here and there and lo, the ships are not the barriers, they are the German fleet after WWI, only the sunken ships you can see were British and sunk to create tide-breaks for the barriers (or, causeways) and… yeah, maybe I like prehistory because there is just less to have to remember. A very great deal less.
On that note, it was off to the Tomb of the Eagles, right down the end of the island. As a bonus, next to the sign for The Tomb of the Eagles was another sign, announcing, Skerries Bistro Bar and Tomb of the Otters (Both Shut Saturdays) which was disappointing because a) Saturday! b) we’d been recommended to have lunch there and c) four hours still to kill.
The Tomb of the Eagles was pretty damn good though. Neolithic tomb of a people who seemed to have eagles as their totem (rather fortunate that they’ve recently been reintroduced after being eradicated a hundred years ago – the eagles, not the Neolithic peeps), and bonus Bronze Age Hut of Unspecified Activity (the most popular theory is: baths). But first, the talks.
They didn’t quite hand around the skulls of prehistoric people, as we had been lead to believe, but they did get waved about for a gander at, and they did hand around a bunch of Neolithic tools, pottery and jewellery that I would not normally be trusted with. As a nice touch, we were assured that the skulls, who have all been given names, used to be up in the house of the farmer, Ronnie, who discovered the archaeological sites, and were considered members of the family.
On our way to the Tomb of the Eagles, we spied a standing stone of quite impressive size, but when we got up close a small plaque said that it was the grave marker of Ronnie, ‘back with his ancestors’. Awww. I was surprisingly moved, which probably means I’m coming down with something just in time to go back to work.
You can ride into the Tomb of the Eagles on a skateboard; popular opinion among the peeps we visited it with was that it was far easier just to crawl. Certainly I managed to get said skateboard wedged in the entrance tunnel not once, but twice and had to be rescued the second time. I also got chased back out by a roaring monster (specifically, the G Monster) but hopefully we will never see any of the witnesses to any of this ever again, right?
The Murray Arms in the wee village at the ferry terminal (finally! A wee village at a ferry terminal!) does a not bad menu and has a cute little beer garden with a cannon in it.
The rain came on as we sat outside, thanking our stars we weren’t sitting in the car eating pea-based ‘crisps’ (is there anything Lidl can’t sell?), but it is Scotland.
And so. The adventure is nearly over, and all without a single whale sighting. Since the whales were in the Kirkwall Harbour the day before yesterday – but not yesterday, when we were in the Kirkwall Harbour – but are back in the Kirkwall Harbour today, when we are not, I conclude that it was not meant to be. Especially since these were a whole bunch of apparently-scared pilot whales and row boats have been drafted in to herd them somewhere safer. I shall therefore claim the moral high ground of ‘not gawking at possibly-terrified intelligent lifeforms in difficulty’, though obviously if they’d been there yesterday I totally would have, and would right now be claiming the moral high ground ot be lying somewhere entirely different i.e. right under wherever I happen to be damn well standing, because that’s how homo sapiens rolls.
Anyway. All there is to do is get this boat of a car onto the ferry – next to, I can’t help noticing, an actual boat, which seems like cheating – and then drive about six hours home.
All of which, so I have just been told, I volunteered for.