Monthly Archives: October 2022

The Hoy life

We can’t believe the spacious car park at Rackwick allows 7 nights free for campers and caravans, and what’s more, that we never saw more than two others during our time there. There’s also a clean toilet block in an old stone building, not to mention the stunning view. What a perfect campsite!

The car park marks the starting point for the hike to the Old Man of Hoy with nearby Rackwick Beach a destination in itself. It’s a rugged expanse of boulders churned nearly round by the sea and tossed onto a swath of pinkish sand. Mainland Scotland is only about eighteen miles away, but I wouldn’t want to be out there on this choppy sea.

Do I need to mention the wind? We’re still debating whether we’re up to the hike to the Old Man, and this ferocious wind is one of the factors under consideration.

Just above the beach is a traditional bothy offered as free shelter to campers, no reservations required. You can stay inside or pitch a tent in the walled yard. There was no one there the day we visited but during our stay we saw a few cyclists and backpackers take refuge from the weather.

Every day four or five cars arrive at the car park from the morning ferry and we watch the occupants prep for the trek: hiking shoes, rain gear, woolen caps, daypacks, cameras, binoculars, water, trekking poles. We amuse ourselves by guessing the ages of the hikers and make note of the time they return and how knackered they are. On a particularly windy and rainy day a group of four very fit-looking men staggered back and collapsed on the gravel, then fired up a camp stove right in the car park for a warming cuppa. Right then we knew it was prudent to wait for better weather. A wet cliff hike in low visibility isn’t high on my to-do list.

While we monitor the weather we visited the Dwarfie Stane, a Neolithic chambered tomb carved from a massive block of sandstone. It’s thought to be the only one of its kind in Britain, hewn from stone rather than built from stone. The stone is a glacial erratic and measures about 28 feet by 14 feet.

It’s hard to imagine the time and effort required to chisel the entrance and chambers using only other stones.

There’s some 18th and 19th century graffiti. One is an inscription in Persian: “I have sat two nights and so learnt patience.”

Our patience with the weather was rewarded and we picked a good day for the assault on the Old Man. I had to move our ferry reservation back a few days. and when I called the office to change it the clerk assumed we wanted to leave sooner. She sighed and asked, “What time tomorrow do you want to leave?”

“No,” I said. “We want to stay longer.”

“Oh!” she brightened. I guess tourists don’t stay long in a place that has a tough time filling a top ten list of What To Do In Hoy. We love it though, and I think the fact that we’re in our own home wherever we go makes the difference between looking for something to do and just being able to appreciate the beautiful place we’re in.

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On the road to find the old man

So, it’s been a while. Kirkwall keeps serving up surprising things to do but inevitably even a tiny palm tree decorated island paradise in the Malacca Strait can get old. There is just no avoiding it. So we are inexorably drawn to it. It’s bigger than us. Passage booked, we are off to Hoy! In addition Marce has found a fabulous free parkup near the jumping off point for the hike to the Old Man. So it’s there if we dare.

We prudently stayed at the Kirkwall town campground to ease camper maintenance, less said the better, and made it to the ferry ahead of schedule.

We’re old hands at ferry protocol but due to the short duration of the trip we just stayed in EV.

Marce planned a few little side adventures on the way to the parkup. First stop was the Longhope Lifeboat Museum featuring the beautifully restored Thomas McCunn in her original rapid-deployment setting. (See link for a short video of the thrilling rapid launch.)

Lifeboats stationed on Hoy respond to vessels in distress in the North Sea and Pentland Firth, some of the most dangerous waters in the world. We were regaled with tales of heroism and tragedy, reminding us of some of the shipwreck memorials we visited in Shetland.

The honored list of lost heros is as impressive as it is sad. When one of the lifeboats doesn’t make it back home, it represents a large percentage of this tiny community’s population including several members of the same family since many fathers and sons serve together.

As sailors we’re grateful for every brave mariner who responds to an SOS. Every time these folks get a call, someone is having the worst day of their lives in some of the worst conditions on earth.

Next up and further down the road was the Hackness Martello Tower, built in 1813 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. The style of tower derives its name from the original design at Mortella Point in Corsica where in 1794 the French mounted two small cannon on top of a projectile-deflecting round masonry tower some 4 meters thick, which enabled the French to fend off two British warships carrying the combined firepower of 106 guns.

This so impressed the Brits, understanding good value for money, that they built over 100 similar towers in the South East coast of England when Napoleon began gathering his forces to invade Britain. They apparently misremembered the name, and the British towers are called Martello instead of the original Mortella.

So you have a nearly bomb-proof structure housing ammunition, complete gun crew, a cistern for water, and the British innovation of an oval shaped tower, with elevated gun platform for a 24 pounder, replaced fifty years later by a 68 pounder.

Two sister towers protected the massive anchorage at Scapa Flow from 19th century American privateers and through both world wars, never firing a shot in anger.

Finally we drove 45 minutes the entire length of Hoy to Rackwick at the end of the road.

On the other side of the mountains the clouds parted and we descended into the vast beautiful valley under a rare blue sky.

Rackwick is the settlement at the end of the earth and the closest you can get to the Old Man of Hoy by car. A good place to stop.

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An unexpected parade

Back in Kirkwall we made a beeline to the ferry office and booked our passage to Hoy. That settled, we loaded the Kirkwall app and set off to continue the guided walking tour we’d started weeks before but never finished. By this time we’ve seen most of the important sites. The tour ended at the cathedral and as we approached the street was uncharacteristically lined with people, with more coming.

We asked a man with a couple of cameras around his neck what was brewing. “They’re bringing some horses through; I’m not really sure.”

It was obvious by his accent that he wasn’t a local but we staked out a spot on the wall in front of the cathedral fence to wait. We saw the local dignitaries in their finery, and tens of crowd control volunteers positioned along the street. Obviously something important was about to happen.

Soon the Kirkwall City Pipe Band assembled in front of the cathedral and spectators surged up the steps to watch. Jack held our prime spots on the wall while I muscled through the crowd to the band.

When the band finished, the safety volunteers patrolled the wall where we were sitting and instructed us all to go up the steps and behind the fence. We were expecting a parade and wondered why we should move so far away from the action. “You’ll want to be behind the fence,” they urged with a knowing look.

We found a spot behind the fence just in time to hear the mayor (we think) begin a very long welcome address with a bit of history of the pageant we were about to witness. We understood very little of it, of course, but with the help of our spectator neighbors and Professor Google we got the 411.

This is the Riding of the Marches, also called Common Riding. It’s a Scottish tradition dating from the 13th to 15th centuries when there were frequent raids on the towns along the Anglo-Scottish border. To protect the clan from reivers, the local lord appointed a townsperson to ride the borders, or marches.

Nowadays, many towns stage an annual ceremonial Riding of the Marches to celebrate their history. The most well known takes place in Edinburgh, but we could tell Kirkwall loves their tradition too. I think everyone in town came out for the festivities.

At the appointed time the lead riders arrived and lined up facing the dignitaries.

It was soon clear why we needed to move back. Some of the horses took issue with the length of the ceremony and we were glad we weren’t sitting eye to eye with an impatient 500kg beast eager to toss his rider and move on.

After much speechifying and presenting of the flag to the lead rider the procession began.

They would ride to the harbour, then follow a route that will take them along the border of Kirkwall, returning to the center of town in about two hours. We were home by then at one of our favorite waterfront parkups when Jack spied the horses approaching from the direction of the cruise ship dock.

We ran out to catch a few photos but the drizzle and early evening chill sent us right back home again for a quiet night and a warm dinner.


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Should I stay or should I go?

We keep reading reviews on various travel and hiking sites of the trek to the Old Man of Hoy. This is how indecisive we are. But when half of the reviews swear it’s a 30-minute heavy-breathing uphill followed by an easy overland romp, and the equally adamant other half report a challenging slog over rough terrain all the way, you can understand our reluctance to commit. And as far as we know, the Old Man is pretty much the only reason to make the journey to Hoy. In fact, we read there are people — and we question their sanity — who take the morning ferry, hike from the dock to the start of the trail, hike up the trail to the Old Man, then hoof it all the way back in time for the mid-afternoon ferry, a distance of about 14 miles and 2500 feet of elevation gain. AllTrails calls this “moderately challenging” and warns to stay well back from the cliff edges and not to attempt in wet weather, high winds, or low visibility. It’s Scotland. Rain, wind and fog are a given. But Jack’s remaining OEM knee is starting to complain about too much hiking, and I’m always mindful of what a misstep on a rocky path could do to my trick ankle. Old people problems, I know.

On the other hand, we’re so close and it calls to us. We know we’ll kick ourselves later if we don’t do it. We still regret not crossing the scary swing bridge to climb the wonky ladder and sit in a 600-year old kauri tree in New Zealand back in 2016. We both chickened out and we feel bad about it to this day.

While we play “will we or won’t we?” with the Hoy question we continue our drive around the East Mainland. There’s less focus on the Neolithic here and more on WWII. It’s also less populated, less developed, and certainly less touristed. We have the place largely to ourselves. Even the honesty boxes are mostly empty of homebakes and just stocked with convenience store snacks.

We had high hopes for the pretty village of St. Margaret’s Hope, but it didn’t satisfy our café craving.

After a couple of quiet nights in peaceful parkups we ran out of ideas for this side of Orkney and turned back to Kirkwall to see if we can book a ferry to Hoy. Yes! We’ve decided to go!

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The Gloup

So I said, ”Dear, what the hell is The Gloup?”

“It’s where we’re going to park-up tonight,” she cheerfully offered.

I thought it must be a theme park from Gwyneth Paltrow. Turns out that The Gloup has the Full Monty of attractions, a free overnight park-up, decent view, a reasonable hike to a massive geo which is a collapsed sea cave or blowhole, and Marce’s favorite, an honesty box right in the parking lot. I’m thinking of putting a warning sign on Escape Velocity that says “This van makes sudden stops for Honesty Boxes.”

On the way over to the sunny trailhead we stopped at an innocent-looking plaque that told a grossly different story. It seems that indeed the geo is no more than a mile away but the scenic rocky coastline goes on for miles. Out came the hiking boots and poles. We’ve seen at least a half dozen interesting geos, most of which are wonderful. However, to avoid another Rule #2 infraction (don’t get jaded) I quickly smiled and said, ”I’ll do it.”

Making our way along an undulating narrow path lined with sunny tall golden grass that snapped as you extricated your foot after every step, we approached the payoff. You see, that’s the thing about geos. There’s little to see at ground level.

The fencing is to keep those pesky sheep from falling in.

You really can’t see much until you creep cautiously up to the edge of the geo and peer down into the cavernous, vertigo-inducing…hole. Still, it’s a fine hole and the best of them have a water feature of some sort. It’s really kind of magical.

It turns out that Marce, when confronted with dizzying heights, is afraid she’ll take that final step out into the ether. Yours Truly, on the other hand, instantly thinks of the first few pages of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in which he imagines, in a flight of fancy, the passengers blown out of flight AI 420 over London somersaulting through the stratosphere, some even recognizing their overhead luggage tumbling nearby. Same result. I say, ”To each their own.”

And so it was.

You see, the problem is that Yours Truly has a curiosity compulsion that I knew would inexorably suck us into, if that plaque is to be believed, a long and arduous tour of this rough and rocky Scottish coastline.

A natural bridge used to connect these cliffs.

Turns out the best part of this day was the incredible Scottish coastal landscape. We trudged along with my throbbing knee becoming more insistent until a “Dangerous Conditions” sign blocked our path. The remnants of a wooden staircase still clung to the rock wall leading down to a private beach but that went with the same earthquake. Recognizing my opportunity I said, “Well, it must be time to turn back.”

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And now for something completely different

Hundreds of years after the architectural contributions of the brutal Black Earl et al, another team of forced laborers created a triumph of wartime shortages and homesickness on the tiny island of Lamb Holm on the eastern shore of Scapa Flow.

Scapa Flow is a wide body of water bordered by the Orkney mainland, Hoy, and the isles to the south and with a shallow sandy bottom. It’s one of the best natural harbors in the world, used at least as long ago as the Vikings as a safe and sheltered anchorage in the North Sea.

Map By Siałababamak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There’s some history to catch up with, so bear with me. At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain thought they might want to relocate some of their naval fleet to better defend against the buildup of the German navy on the North Sea. After a few false starts at other locations, Scapa Flow became the main base of the British Grand Fleet. To protect against attacks by German U-boats, the channels between the small islands to the south were fortified with mines and blocked with sub nets, booms and eventually block ships.

These efforts were largely successful with only a few failures but by the beginning of World War II the block ships had collapsed and the previous defenses proved inadequate. In October 1939 a German U-boat breached the perimeter and sunk the battleship HMS Royal Oak causing the loss of over half the 1400-man crew. Three days later Scapa Flow came under attack by Luftwaffe bombers.

In response, more blockships were sunk, more booms and mines were deployed, and anti-aircraft batteries were installed to defend the fleet. Winston Churchill ordered the construction of causeways linking the small islands to the southeast, essentially blocking the entrance to Scapa Flow from that direction. The causeways are now called the Churchill Barriers.

By that time there were hundreds of Italian prisoners of war encamped in Orkney and they were set to work constructing the barriers. At first the prisoners went on strike, claiming the Geneva Conventions prohibited prisoners of war from being forced to support the war effort. In response, the Brits claimed the barriers were only meant to improve communication between the small southern islands and mainland Orkney. You be the judge. In any case, the Italians ended up working on the barrier project.

Far from home and missing their culture, a small group of Italian POWs petitioned their captors for permission to build a chapel. They were given two Nissen huts which they connected end to end, then lined the inside with plasterboard, scrounged for scrap materials, bartered for paint, and set to work.

The result is a masterpiece of ingenuity, talent, faith and dedication, and the best example of trompe l’œil either Jack or I have ever seen.

A sign at the entrance asks visitors to refrain from touching the walls, but of course the first thing Jack did was reach out to feel the smooth surface of the plasterboard, that’s how good the illusion of 3D is.

The base of the holy water stoup is a giant spring covered in concrete. Visitors are advised not to lean on it.

There’s so much to know about every detail of this beautiful little chapel and the men who created it. You can read more here.

And feel free to go down the rabbit hole about Scapa Flow on your own time. Here’s a good place to start. We came to Orkney for the Neolithic sites but ended up fascinated by the dramatic history of Scapa Flow. I’ve only touched on a few high points.

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They’re Baaack!

I like to think of ourselves as observant intuitive people, open to new experiences. So when we found out that not one but two remarkable well preserved antiquities were hiding in Kirkwall, if I’m being honest, I was shocked. Turns out they were not hiding and not at all far from the St. Magnus Cathedral, which we see almost every day. In fact they are across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral.

I had seen a small sliver of the Bishop’s Tower many times but thought nothing much of it. The tower looked closed, which it was, but we were still flaunting Rule#2 in a clear violation. Don’t know why, just assumed there wasn’t much there there.

We’d gotten to calling friendly Kirkwall home and after walking up to the launderette to drop off some badly needed washing, we ambled over to the side street beside St. Magnus to the tower. Much cooler closer. We found that the tower was part of William the Old of the Norwegian Catholic Church’s Palace, built in the early 1100’s.

We skated on in, Scot-free as it were, due to our Historic Scotland pass thingie.

It’s basically two rectangles of two stories each, with a large hall on the second floor, divided by a second story entryway and the Bishop’s living quarters in the tower facing St. Magnus, which is ironic because it seems that Old William hated Magnus the man, considering that he was murdered in a dispute over money. In short the Bishop considered Magnus a charismatic fraud and poo-pooed the cult that sprung up among his followers who claimed he performed miraculous cures from the grave.

St. Magnus tower can be seen over the front wall

However, in desperation the bishop himself sought out Magnus’s grave in Birsay due to a spot of blindness, which miraculously disappeared after I would imagine some sincere prayer. The Bishop decided to bring some of the relics to Kirkwall to be interred in the cathedral, lending official recognition to St. Magnus’ Sainthood. You just can’t have too many magical miracle relics. I can’t vouch for any of this. You be the judge, but all I know is there is a well-used pilgrimage called the St. Magnus trail that traces the route they used to bring the relics from Birsay to Kirkwall.

They’re Baaack!

Our old friends Black Earl Robert Stewart and his fiesty son Patrick are at again, honing their skills at fraud, tyrannical oppression, carnal overindulgence, debauchery, and fathering some 19 children, some of whom were actually legitimate, and finally, magnificent architecture.

The Earl’s Palace is another kettle of fish. It was finished in 1607, built by forced labor and displaying all of his stylistic flourishes but done on an even more grand scale.

In a touch of irony, Patrick stole the property next to the Bishop’s residence by having the poor owner beheaded for theft. That being said, this is truly a magnificent ruin.

Openings for weapons, as usual, were everywhere


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No photos

After a remarkable run of fine weather I saw a nasty storm on the way. Bad weather is definitely easier to deal with in a campervan than on a boat at anchor but we still have considerations. There’s always the option of rolling into a campground and forking over a fee to plug into shore power, crank up the heat, take long hot showers and settle in for the duration.

Our preference, as you can imagine, is to find a parkup that’s sheltered or at the very least, where we can orient ourselves facing directly into the tempest to be reasonably comfortable even in high winds.

We weren’t ready to leave the Stromness area so we opted for a tiny car park that’s only accessible by driving through a golf course and along very narrow lanes squeezed around stone buildings. Google maps directed us to turn into a lane marked “Private” but we scofflaws went anyway, only to find the road lined with cars and crowded with people. We hadn’t seen this many people in one place for months. It was raining, not that it bothered anyone. Jack maneuvered Escape Velocity around the bend past the jumble of oddly parked vehicles without making contact, and onto an impossibly narrow lane past what looked like the back nine of a golf course. Aha! That was the golf club, and a very busy Saturday morning it was.

We followed the road to the end and as the wind picked up we did our usual animated parkup dance and got situated behind the ruin of an old guardhouse with a magnificent view of the channel and Hoy in the distance. That is, if we could see anything in the bluster.

Within minutes the full brunt of the storm moved in and we expected two days of reading, writing, eating, sleeping. The Scots, we learn again and again, are made of stronger stuff. They are undaunted. Foul weather only affects their clothing choices and often not even that. A car pulled in beside us and out popped a man fully kitted with a hi-viz vest, a spotting scope, camera, and binoculars. He positioned himself directly in front of our van.

Curiosity got the best of me and I suited up and went outside to talk to him. He’s a volunteer with an organization that monitors the populations of whales and dolphins along Scotland’s Coast.

“This is my spot,” he told me, and he pointed to the impression in the ground right in front of our bumper, where he planted the monopod supporting his spotting scope. I didn’t ask if he wanted us to move. I’m sure he did, but when you get a motorhome level and it’s pissing down rain, all bets are off. Besides, we really weren’t interfering with his work, which was to spend an hour every day scanning the water for marine life. He didn’t see any that day but told me he’d seen a few harbor porpoises yesterday.

I wished him well and retreated to the shelter of the van.

“Did you see this?” Jack asked incredulously, and he pointed out the back. In winds of 25-30 kts and driving rain, the golf course was full of intrepid players. You’re kidding, I thought. How can you even predict where the ball will go in these gusts? Who are these people?!

This required a little googling and it only took a minute or two to learn this is an annual open tournament, men today, women and kids tomorrow. I guess having spent the money to enter, no one was going to miss it. Or, more likely, it didn’t bother the players. From our dry and cozy shelter it sure looked like they were playing at a normal pace. There was no sheltering under umbrellas, no shoulders hunched against the downpour. I couldn’t imagine enjoying hitting a wet ball over soggy terrain with chapped hands, but I guess the Scottish part of my DNA doesn’t included the “impervious to fierce weather” gene.

There are no further photos of the day, or most of the next day because neither one of us wanted to get chilled to the bone for the sake of the blog. Sorry, folks.

By dusk on Sunday the storm had pretty much blown itself out and we could once again see the silhouette of the beautiful island of Hoy across the channel, looming like Bali Hai. The sight made us question our decision to pass on a trip over. Should we? Yes? No? When we feel energetic the answer is yes. Other times, no way. The discussion continues.

With dry weather predicted again we drove back toward Kirkwall to reprovision and plan our exploration of Orkney’s East Mainland. On the way we stopped at Maeshowe, the final element of the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney Site. We’d already visited the other sites, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, and the Stones of Stenness.

We breezed into the visitors center unticketed and lucked into the next guided tour, starting in five minutes. This involved a small bus to the actual site, a magnificent chambered cairn and tomb. Even with the bus ride, there was still a bit of a walk out to the site, which looks on the approach like a great big mound.

To enter you have to crouch very low and duckwalk through a long tunnel.

Once inside, the main chamber is about 12 feet high. There are no photos allowed in the cairn, and very few that I could find on the internet. Here’s the Wikipedia entry.

It’s an amazing structure, estimated to be about 5000 years old, the same as the other significant Neolithic sites in Orkney. Our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic and our fellow tourists interested and inquisitive. We stayed inside for quite a while as the guide recounted the history and significance of the structure and answered all our questions. He also translated the more recent Viking graffiti, carved in Old Norse, most of which was the Nordic equivalent of “Kilroy was here.”

Then it was back to Kirkwall and our favorite harborfront parkup for some city time.

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Don’t call it a cop-out

Feeling like farmers from Idaho we rolled into a concrete jungle called Stromness where we found ourselves on a concrete multi-lane road. We’d been starting and then stopping and waiting on Scotland’s beloved single-lane roads for so long that we were a little apprehensive about big city life and the demands of suicide traffic circles, not to mention tiny parking lots. I’ll admit that mistakes were made but after a few wrong turns we eventually found Escape Velocity in a large concrete car park featuring grossly optimistic white lines but close to a Co-op that’s a kind of largish convenience store.

We’d heard that there might be a cafe or two, maybe even an open restaurant in town. It was time for a nosey where we found the town a little nervous about a Covid resurgence that left most of it still closed down.

It’s funny but I’ve always felt that sidewalks were more accommodating at the side of the road.

Turns out the charming little town was captivating with orderly, just so, tidy stone buildings with quirky chamfered corners. After all, I think it’s on the whiskey trail and taking the sharp corners off a building for safety’s sake makes sound Scottish sense. I’ve sampled the product and couldn’t agree more.

All well and good but nobody expected to find a beautiful well appointed African Art emporium where we found a perfect table-clearing, gadget stash for EV to guard against the unlikely event that Yours Truly finds himself at an imprudent speed part way through a poorly designed corner, scattering everything on the table throughout the van.

Treasures in hand we headed out of town toward another of Marce’s special park-ups on the Stromness harbor channel, adjacent to a cemetery. We slowly crept down an impossibly narrow lane and after a modest amount of polite discussion, we were semi level and switched off.

We were left with nothing but ocean waves lazily rolling up the shore, the cry of gulls, and the always persistent wind. To the right a sign post pointed to Black Craig, whatever that is, and just across the channel was our first sight of the hulking, malevolent, mysterious presence of Hoy.

With binoculars we could only see evidence of one road on Hoy matching our map which showed maybe two roads total, and one wonders why you would take the ferry over to only drive on two roads. I mean do you have to walk everywhere on Hoy? Not my kind of island.

We’d heard of a seriously long hike over rough terrain to see the Old Man of Hoy but we had just seen two amazing sea stacks and well, you know, Rule #2 with a suspicion of a Rule #3 infraction. Hype is hype. Will we or won’t we?

Marce came up with an alternative solution. Two ferries service Hoy and another one plies the waters from Orkney to mainland Scotland and if the weather gods smile, when she sails close aboard Hoy you can see the monster from sea. What a relief. We’ll get to see the Old Man without putting paid to what’s left of my right knee. No, not a cop-out, but I still took a celebratory walk around the cemetery.

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Bus stop

We climbed a sunny but circuitous single lane up to a cliff side concrete pad that sported one inch thick bolts hacked off just above the surface. Our park ups are usually isolated lonely outposts where it would be rare to see another campervan let alone a tourist bus. But here there are several fine examples parked alongside what turned out to be a WWII gun emplacement, sans weaponry. The tourists were a small price to pay for ocean views as magnificent as this and we get to watch our own sunset.

People started arriving early, hopping around on one foot while trying to change into hiking boots around back at the trunk or as they would say, the boot.

Many headed off up a gentle rise towards the Broch of Borwick which was rumored to be more ruin than broch.

We’d just seen a shiny pants broch or two and in a clear violation of Rule #2 (don’t get jaded) we gave it a pass. However what was not to be missed was a coastal romp with a Rule #3 grand payoff of twin sea stacks. The boots and hiking poles came out and in a flash, we Escapees were off. Soon we had those iPhones rearranging pixels in a most pleasing manor. Can’t lose, this is a handsome place.

By this point there weren’t many tourists left and the path was not at all clear but finally the tops of the amazing sea stacks hove into view.

These sea stacks defy logic as they precariously cling, off balance, like a high wire act milking applause from an appreciative audience while the sea continuously pounds, gnawing at their base.

Throughly engrossed, trying to capture this titanic improbable balancing act, we hadn’t noticed Scotland’s favorite trick: a sudden unexpected turn of weather. It began to rain. Not a mischievous mist but a fairly serious pelting. What would a proper Scotsman do at this turn of events? Probably turn his face up to the heavens and I suspect, ask for more. I’m German. Head down, muttering, I booked for Escape Velocity with a few soggy miles of wet grass to go.

An hour later, after drying off, the sun came out just to mock us for running home, but as if to apologize, we got another golden sunset.

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