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.