10th September 2014
(Monday 11 August 2014 – Monday 18 August 2014)
Our excitement grew as we (Steve, Ross,Danny and me Helen) finished planning our week trip to Orkney in Fergus, Claire’s newly refurbished 1974 VW Camper (It was not lost on us that Fergus was the same age as Steve!). The idea to go to Orkney came from a friend, who had spent time in Orkney over the folk festival held in May in her campervan. Orkney came highly recommended with plenty of good campsites and the possibility for ‘wild camping’ too. This, combined with the World Heritage Site of Neolithic Orkney headlining the August 2014 copy of National Geographic, meant that everything was shaping up to be a special trip away.
Claire welcomed us and gave us a tour of Fergus. I’d purposefully packed light knowing that space would be tight: clothes for Scottish Summer (all seasons), some basic camping food, and a giant frisbee (an essential for kids wanting to get to know everyone on the campsite!) (Did not need the tea towel, washing up cloth and liquid as Claire provided all this and more!) I’d ordered the hamper, which was well worth it as it contained lots of yummy food that tasted even better when eaten outdoors. Once everything was stowed we set off for our first destination Dornoch.
Steve took the wheel first, struggling to transition from his state of the art automatic BMW to this “vintage” vehicle. As the light was now beginning to fade we decided to stay at Granton-on-Spey. We found the campsite easily and got a late arrivals pitch allocated from the warden. We got the ‘pop up roof’ up and the boys climbed into their new bed all very excited. We managed to get the rock and roll bed out too, but promised to move more of our luggage the next night so at to have a bit more space! The rain came down and I was rather worried whether they boys would be able the sleep: of course, they were fine!
We got up early the next morning conscious that we had a ferry to catch. I felt refreshed after a shower in the heated facilities block. When I returned Steve had packed away our bed and sliced the loaf we had got as part of our hamper we had ordered. While the boys were away in the shower I climbed into the pop up bed to fold the mattress and stow the boys sleeping bags. We made the evening ferry from Gills Bay with a lunch break and beach visit at Dornoch to keep the troops happy.
Our first night on Orkney was spent at Wheems Organic Farm Campsite on South Ronaldsay; a beautiful spot overlooking the beach just a short drive from the ferry port: but then everything is a short drive in Orkney, ideal for a ‘peedie’ (Orcadian for small)1970’s camper. Mike Roberts who owns the campsite could not have been more helpful; and again Danny got his beach fix. The Orkney landscape is neat green fields, partitioned with equally neat stone dykes; grazing cows contained in these fields; and water everywhere whether it be sea or lochs. This scenery lends itself to the the Neolithic sites that are clustered together. At the heart of Neolithic Orkney look left and you see the Ring of Brodgar, right the excavation of the temple complex ‘Ness of Brodgar’ and beyond that the Standing Stones of Stenness, and finally beyond that the burial mound of Maes Howe. We all found these historic monuments fascinating, especially when brought to life by the Historic Scotland Rangers, whose enthusiasm was infectious! With stories of the Winter Solstice lighting the inner stone chambers, and Viking Runes (i.e.‘graffiti’) ringing in our ears the magic of the Islands started seeping into our souls.
For us the other magic were the beaches. Steve dropped me and the boys at Waulkmill Bay, while he visited the Highland Park shop for much needed essentials! With the tide out, the sand stretched for a good four football pitches and we were the only ones there. We could have easily stayed there for the night .
However, Fergus the ‘Ferry Louper’ (Orcadian for ferry passenger) fancied another trip across the water. We chose the nearest island of Shapinsay.
That night we ‘wild camped’ on the beach. The boys loved waving at the ferries as they came within spitting distance of us; and were delighted when two of them tooted their horns and waved back. The evening was rounded off by a walk along the beach to the deserted WWII gun emplacements. For our other nights on Orkney we chose the campsites in Kirkwall and Stromness. Both were interesting places to explore and had the added bonuses that we could eat out: the tail end of hurricane Bertha meant the instant BBQs I had brought were going home un-used! I would thoroughly recommend Orkney. I’m now toying with the idea of going back to do a wreck dive in Scapa Flow for my fortieth!?
By Helen Noble – Fergus Camper Orkney 11 – 18 August 2014