Back to earth

It took a couple of days to recover from the Old Man hike. It wasn’t the distance or the time that did us in, but the long stretch of uneven rocky trail that stressed Jack’s deteriorating knee and my previously broken and frequently sprained ankle. We were glad to get back down without mishap, but we took full advantage of our beautiful parkup to rest before turning Escape Velocity towards the ferry.

We navigated toward Lyrawa Hill, missed the turnoff and had to double back, finally reaching the summit on a potholed track to the most expansive view over Scapa Flow to the Orkney mainland.

As we explored the hilltop we discovered we were back in the part of Hoy that still bears the scars of the infrastructure of war.

Lyrawa Hill was the site of a heavy anti-aircraft battery. There were four guns here of the 120 total installed by 1940 to protect the Royal Fleet anchorage.

When we came to Orkney we had no idea we would see so many remnants of war. The bunkers and batteries are everywhere and a reminder to us Americans, who haven’t fought a war on our own soil in 150 years, of the effort, the cost, the toll in lives and land, of war. Standing on this hill now with only the sea and the wind as soundtrack, I wish all peoples everywhere could know peace.

Much as we’d like to stay on that hill a little longer we have a ferry booked. On our way back down we passed a sheering operation. “Stop!” I yelled, and I jumped out of the van and ran back to the men, who may have been father and son. I asked if they minded if I took some photos.

“Most people don’t ask,” the older man said. “They just shoot and drive away.”

This was just a small number of the sheep getting a summer haircut today, he told me. They had already done dozens more and he pointed to nearby barns and enclosures. I marveled at the speed of the younger man with the clippers.

“He’s very fast,” agreed the older man.

I asked if the wool was processed here on Hoy, but no, they send it to a distributor on the mainland where it’s sold to various processors.

Our last stop in Hoy was the Scapa Flow Museum on the site of the original pump house that supplied fuel to the ships at anchor. The museum just opened in July and kept us occupied for hours. We learned so much about the history of Scapa Flow. We were too occupied with the interpretive galleries to take photos but the episode that most intrigued us was the scuttling of the German fleet at the end of World War I and the subsequent salvage operation. It’s an amazing story; you can read it here.

The pump house has been restored and we had to pull out the cameras for it since we both worked in industrial video and appreciate big machinery and greasy tools.

The museum doesn’t have an interpretive website yet, but you can watch a short video here of how the pump house and collection have been reenvisioned. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

And then it was time to board the ferry and say goodbye to Hoy. We considered staying longer but we only have about six weeks left on our UK visas. It’s time to move on.

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