01 November 2010

Orkney is an archipelago in northern Scotland, north of the mainland and south of Shetland. Steve and I took the train and ferry up on Friday and spent the weekend with Tom, a colleague of Steve's who's from there. Tom very kindly put us up, drove us around, and filled us full of local history.

The ferry crossing did not agree with me.

There are virtually no trees on Orkney.

One of the many excellent gravestones in the St. Magnus Cathedral.

This is the interior of the Italian Chapel, a structure built from Nissen huts by Italian prisoners of war who were kept on the island during WWII.

Carved turnips for Halloween. Tom's sister called them "neepie lanterns" (neeps are the colloquial term for turnips).

Across the water, if you squint, you can see the remains of a Norse village and church.

Skara Brae is a community from 3100 BC. Around 1850 a storm kicked up on Orkney and uncovered the collection of Neolithic homes complete with stone furniture.

There's an area of Orkney that's been designated as a World Heritage Site because it's full of Neolithic history, including standing stones like these at the Ring of Brodgar. The Ring of Brodgar is 600 years older than Stonehenge and Tom asserts that it's a far superior site because you can walk right up to the stones and, as he demonstrated, jig on the fallen ones.
We attended Harvest Home, a community celebration of the harvest season, on Saturday night. I thought it was FANtastic, because everyone in the family is invited and participates. It starts with the children parading through with their pumpkins and turnips, then there is a dinner followed by speeches (in verse) about the community and a ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) dance, something like Scottish square dancing. I was so in love with the dancing. There was something so lovely about little children and parents and grandparents all dancing with one another. And I was AMAZED that everyone knew the dances. The accordian player in the band would call out, "Take your partner for Strip the Willow" and the children would go running to the center of the room to do it. Loved it.


Lady Susan said...

My envy knows no bounds now. Seriously. How lucky are you?!! Carving turnips! Scottish dancing! You are living a dream.

eliana23 said...

This is my favorite Scotland adventure so far. Lady Susan is genius.

Anonymous said...

What are you going to do if you have to return to North America by boat?



Anonymous said...

Looks like a lot of fun. We need to come visit!

MBC said...

Lady Susan--I am lucky, but if it makes you feel any better my life is also full of border agency hassles and annoying neighbors.

Eliana--It is a super cool place.

Dad--Steve would like to return by boat. We would have to stock up on the motion sickness medication.

Meg--You should visit!

Anonymous said...

I crossed the Atlantic three times by boat. The first crossing was in 1948 - I think it took two weeks or 15 days to go to Italy - very rough trip. In 1950 we came back. In 1961 took a boat from Germany to New York.

I did not get sick once!



Brooke said...

Oh! I'm so glad you went to the Orkney Islands! It looks beautiful.

Breanne said...

OH my gosh. I certainly wouldn't mind a little more dancing video if you have any. Is that strictly a Scottish thing or does everyone in GB know dances?

MBC said...

I do have more dancing video which I'll have to post sometime that's not now. I'm not sure if it's a GB thing or just Scottish, although ceilidhs are traditionally Scottish, not English.

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