Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Orkney 15 - and that's just the icecream!

Tightly parked kayaks
 I was really looking forward to our journey up to the Orkney symposium for various reasons. I've never been there before, I'd be meeting up with lots of friends again and I could hardly go all that way and not try their ice cream!
We arrived in plenty of time to catch the ferry from Gills Bay over to St Margaret's Hope, along with umpteen other cars with kayaks.

After setting up camp, Ben took us out for a quick tour round by the Stones of Stenness then up to the Ring of Brodgar. Really interesting places.
 It was now time for the first most important part of the symposium, our free pint of extremely tasty local beer!
Lots of caves

Lots of cuts
Lots of arches
 Next morning kayak laden cars were dispersed to various locations. Our choice was for a rock hopping session with Kim Bull. Off we set back down the road to Kirkhouse to start our session. Kim started us off nice and gently, gradually building things up. The coastline down on South Ronaldsay is wonderful with lots geos and cuts. Lots of bits for getting close to the rocks in swooshing swells! We didn't go far before lunch, but had lots of fun getting there.
On the way back was when Hubby Dear AKA Ken, found out not to mess with Alice! Having pinched her paddles, he was rewarded with a good strong shove - polo style. As he said when he came back up "I didn't expect a girl to shove so hard!"
It was then back to the rugby club for beer, showers, dinner, more beers - in that order!
Next morning was rough water handling with Roger from Anglesey. The venue this time was Hoy Sound. We did eventually find our way there after going up an down various wee tracks! The flow looked OK when we went in to practise rescues and towing, but that soon changed! It started to fair pick up. We went in to have a paddle through. We seemed to go up, up, up then up even further, before eventually coming down the other side at great speed. It was the biggest race I'd been in and was a bit relieved when we came off. On the other hand I couldn't wait to get back on again. It was exhilarating!

"Old man" the rock not Alice!

Group selfie!
 Next day the five of us, Ken, Ben, Ansgar, Alice and myself were moving on. Tents packed, kayaks loaded, we were heading over to Birsay, stopping off at Bay of Skaill to check the conditions. The wind had been blowing a hooley, but was due to die down. We got the tents sorted out, then made our way back to Bay of Skaill, just hoping that the tent would still be there when we got back and not blown away! Considering the wind, the conditions were lovely allowing the 5 of us to get into all sorts of nooks and crannies and giving us our only sighting of The Old Man. We eventually made our way into Birsay Bay at about 10pm,  not that we had paddled far, just we were having far too much fun to be bothered coming in.

Wee boats, big cliffs

Next day, the forecast was once again correct, it was blowing a really big hooley, so much so, we never got out paddling. Instead we had a day being tourists!
This was before the tastings!
Saying as we are all quite fond of a wee whiff of whisky( see Islay!) we couldn't exactly go all the way up to Orkney without checking out a distillery, we'd just missed a tour, so off we went in search of the source of Orkney Ice Cream! Helps that Ansgar knows Dennis who was kind enough to show us round, then let us into a huge freezer - full of icecream!! Yummy Toffee swirl!
In the icecream cold store!
Next, we made our way back to Scapa distillery for our tour there and a tasting afterwards. After that, it was off to Stromness where later in the afternoon we found a shop selling enormous scoops of Orkney icecream - rum and raisin AND fudge! Yum! You can never have too much!
Another bonus, got back to the tent and it was still standing!

Lovely clear water
 Next morning, the 5 of us headed down to Evie where we were hoping to have a play in the race in Eynhallow Sound, however they weren't really coming out to play much, so we paddled up and round the island of Eynhallow before heading over to Rousay where we had lunch and a look round the Broch and the burial chamber. It was still too early to call it a day, so rather than go back to the car, we carried on round the north coast, past masses of geos and into loads of huge caves. We eventually made our way back to Skipi geo, where we had a long walk in wet boots back to the tents to get changed before collecting the cars again.

OK, maybe I have had too much icecream!

On the Thursday, we were moving on again, leaving behind the luxury of hot showers! We had decided on Taracliff Bay in amongst the beautiful dunes.

Keek a boo

 Once set up, we were off paddling again. This time the five of us were meeting up with other paddlers to have a wee jaunt round the Churchill barriers and the block ships. After a wee break on Burray, we all headed back to Rose Ness, then back to Taracliff Bay. Another lovely paddle, another late tea!
Mmm! think I could manage a few more icecreams!


The Gloup

Friday had us leaving from Taracliff, round to Newark bay then crossing over to Horse of Copinsay, with everyone touching it quickly to "claim" another island. There were lots of young seals in the area. After that, we made our way over to, then round Copinsay stopping for lunch, then climbing the hill up to the lighthouse, where we watched the race between the 2 islands pick up, trying to decide which way it was running! We were about to find out! By the time we got back down to our boats, it was pretty much running right across Copinsay Pass, great fun! Having done all this paddling it was still fairly early, so as with most of our plans for the week, we altered our route again to take in Tankerness, but not before Ken had managed to catch a couple of Coley, at least we would be having tea.
I'll grow into it

 Ansgar headed back to get the van, leaving us with strict instructions of keeping well in coming round Mull Head! This was another fantastic coastline, the best part being The Gloup, it's huge and having got new head torches which could light up a football pitch, we carried on through to the back of the cave. There was another fantastic cave to explore before we came to Mull Head. The tide wasn't going fast, but definitely fast enough for us to have to put in a bit of effort to get round the corner!
I have to say, I was glad when we arrived back at Northquoy and Ansgar's van. It was quite a decent length of paddle and another late tea - with fish.

Now Saturday and our last full day on Orkney. This days paddle was starting off in Deer Sound, then round Tankerness, before a long hard paddle into a bit of a breeze and back to the shipwreck of the Juniata in Inganess Bay.
After a hot shower (sheer luxury!) in Kirkwall, we were meeting up with other paddlers for a farewell Indian meal. What a good night we had, even if we did have to be asked to leave! It was late!
Alice and Ansgar left that night to head over to Stromness for the ferry first thing in the morning.
Sunday morning was stunning, beautifully sunny and such a shame to be leaving! It was a bit strange packing up the tent instead of fighting into smelly paddling kit.
We left Ben sitting in the sunshine, while we made our way down to St Margaret's Hope for the ferry.
Do you know? They don't sell Orkney Ice cream down there!
What a fantastic weeks paddling we've had, a great coastline, with great company and scrummy icecream!
All done!