26 May 2016

Welcome to Orkney

The beginning of April saw me embark upon a very exciting adventure; I was off to a place I had wanted to visit for years {and I was going not just for a few days, but for nearly 4 weeks!} It had previously been described to me as remote, peaceful, rugged and beautiful, with some of the best scenery and wildlife in the world.

Where was I going?

The Orkney Islands!

Made up of over 70 islands, with around 20 of those inhabited, the archipelago of Orkney is found just off the northern coast of Scotland. With its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, there is plenty of history to soak up; I was to spend my time visiting several of the islands, and couldn't wait to start exploring, walking and snapping away on my camera.

I landed in Kirkwall on a beautiful sunny day, with the most stunning views greeting me as our small plane swooped over the isles. With a comfortable seat and complimentary tea and Scottish shortbread on board, it was the perfect flight. {Thank you Flybe!}

Kirkwall is one of the mainland's larger towns, along with Stromness. With one main street running past the cathedral, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a rather dull, bleak looking town as you arrive at the outskirts; but once you start exploring the multitude of independent shops and cafes within the centre, you'll find some real gems.

One of these is Orkney Soap - the smell as you walk by is simply incredible, and as you step inside, you are surrounded by beautiful toiletries in all shapes and colours. You can also watch the soaps being made at the back of the shop as you peruse their wonderful range of treats. Picking up a few peedie soaps for friends, and a couple of bars of Sea Pink and Sunset Orkney for Mum and I, I left with a heavy and yet sweet smelling bag of delights.

Image credit - www.cope.ltd.uk

You could easily while away a few hours shopping in Kirkwall - Sheila Fleet Jewellery is based here {remember my post about Daisies for Emily?} and a particular favourite of mine was Starlings; filled to the brim with items from Joules, Seasalt, Radley and Brakeburn, I was in heaven!

Perhaps the highlight of our time in Kirkwall though was seeing the spectacular Poppies: Weeping Window installation.

Presented to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, St Magnus Cathedral is the first venue in Scotland to host the breath-taking sculpture. With several thousand ceramic poppies cascading down the front of the cathedral, it is an incredibly moving, poignant and dramatic display.

As we didn't get to see the installation whilst it was at the Tower of London, this was a real treat for us. The sculpture remains there until 12th June, so if you're in Orkney, be sure to come and see it - it's well worth the trip.

Kirkwall also has a lot to offer on the coffee shop front. While the cakes at Cafe Lolz were fantastic, my favourite place to go for coffee had to be Trenabies. Many times during my trip did I pop in for a cinnamon latte and one of their delicious brownies, and their paninis were excellent too.

The Strynd is another lovely place to visit.

Cutesy and twee, it is simply the perfect tea room, with bunting lining the walls, scones the size of small houses, and an impressive Teapigs selection. One thing's for sure - Orcadians know how to do cake!

If you find yourself in Kirkwall of an evening, Helgi's restaurant is a must. Book a table upstairs, order one of their incredible burgers with sweet potato fries, and finish off with either the chocolate banana brownie, or the beer sticky toffee pudding. Trust me, your stomach {and friends} will thank you!

Due to its strategic location, Kirkwall remained an important base throughout our travels around the islands {more on those travels soon!} It is a place with hidden charm, and on my next trip to Orkney, I'll be sure to spend more time here.


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