St Magnus Cathedral sits slap bang in the middle of Kirkwall so is useful for using as a landmark to help navigate around the narrow streets. It was founded in 1138 by the Viking Earl Rognvald in honour of his uncle St Magnus. It is a regal structure built of red and yellow sandstone and a perfect setting for a folk concert. I booked the tickets late for Lau (Orkney word meaning natural light) so we were in the restricted view area – inside the high ceiling is supported by many stone pillars so the of restricted view is quite large. We joined the queue early and were lucky enough to find seats near the front.
|St Magnus Cathedral|
|The Old Library|
Next day was rainy. We had a lazy start and made our way back to The Old Library for brunch with Helene and Sandy, two friends from Glasgow who were also visiting for the festival. While we chatted I enjoyed a delicious smashed avocado and poached egg and lots of fresh brewed coffee. Helene and Sandy had tickets for an afternoon event in Stromness while we had tickets for an event in St Andrews.
When I booked the tickets I didn’t realise that the venue was outside of Kirkwall, then when we arrived in Orkney we discovered there were no buses to there on a Sunday. We had no choice but to hire a taxi.
St Andrews is a little community twelve miles east of Kirkwall and the home to Sheila Fleet Jewellery who sponsored the concert. The village hall was a great venue with plenty of seats and not too noisy with the rain battering down on the roof.
First on stage was Benedict Morris (fiddle) with PabloLafuente (guitar) and Conal McDonagh (pipes and whistle). These three young men produced a sound that was quick, slick and very polished. Benedict appeared to be a reluctant singer but his voice is excellent and I hope they keep the song in their set. Next up was Heisk an all-female sparkly six piece and although I enjoyed them they weren’t as slick as the previous act. Next on the bill was Irish singer Cara Dillon who appeared with husband Sam Lakeman and a mandolin player. Again we have seen them perform before and I had forgotten what an engaging performer Cara Dillon is. I particularly loved her own composition, The Leaving Song.
Things were running a bit late and our return taxi had arrived early but we hung on and watched most of Kinnaris Quintet before heading back.
The rain was torrential when we left St Andrews so we had the driver drop us off at the Bothy Bar. We grabbed a quick drink before running round to our dinner reservation at Helgi’s, the must visit restaurant in Kirkwall. We both had burgers and chips and it was good but not outstanding so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I topped off my Orkeny gastronomy with one scoop of Orkney vanilla ice cream, a fitting end to the trip.
We had an early rise and pack up to catch the 7.00am bus to St Margaret’s Hope. I’m glad we planned to do this round trip because the bus ride allowed us to see the southern part of the islands; to cross the Churchill barriers and pass the Italian Chapel.
The Pentland Ferries boat to Gills Bay is small but efficient – even before we left port we were munching sausage on a roll and coffee. Most of the travellers seemed to be workers heading for a week’s work on the mainland. The crossing was fair with good views back to Orkney. Number 77 bus picked us up shortly after disembarking and dropped us at Wick were we had a short wait for the X99 to Inverness. Unlike the trip up from Inverness, the weather was good so the journey was pleasant. Unfortunately we couldn’t get on two fully booked Megabuses so had two hours to hang about in Inverness. We reached Perth at 6.00pm and had another hour wait for the M8 to Stirling, but that gave Colin the chance to nip down to the nearby Spar and buy a tin of beans.
As we approached Stirling the rain started again but we weren’t too worried, we were almost home. We assumed there would be a Unilink waiting but didn’t know that at that time of night the University buses cut the service back so we had a further delay in Stirling.
We arrived home at 8.30pm fourteen hours after leaving the campsite in Kirkwall. The pile of waiting mail and discarded rucksacks were ignored until we’d eaten our beans on toast and congratulated ourselves on a successful mini adventure.