SUP Safari Scotland – Mainland Orkney

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Balancing rocks in the Loch of Harray

A quick look about Mainland Orkney

Our SUP Safari continues back on Orkney’s Mainland where we have a chilled out couple of days checking out the island while the 43km/hr winds subsided.  Even in the most sheltered of places it seems like Orkney is a pretty windy place!! We revisit Evie Beach where we had paddled on a previous trip to Orkney which is also a great place for an overnight stop. Evie Beach is a big sandy bay which has a gently sloping gradient into the beautiful clear water. At one end of the bay is an immaculately clean toilet block and at the other is the Iron Age Broch of Gurness – a Historic Scotland property which is worth a visit if you are in the area.

The ruins of the Viking Orphir Round Church

The Orphir Round Church is another place worth visiting which is rich in Viking history. It was built in the early 1100’s and is just next to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre.  The Orkneyinga Saga was written about 1200 and talks about the early Norse conquest of Orkney. The saga fuses and the history, myth and legend of the Vikings who became the Earls of Orkney. Anyone who is keen to can read this saga today.

With the weather being less favourable for paddleboarding and more conducive to exploring Kirkwall – Mainland Orkney’s largest town we get a recommendation for great coffee at Archive Coffee. If you love your coffee and are in the Kirkwall area definitely check them out. They serve Glasgows “Dear Green” roast and it is one of the best coffees I have had in a long time. While in Kirkwall we revisit the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral which is one of Scotlands most interesting cathedrals and dates back to the early 1100’s.  It was built by Earl Rognvald Brusason to honour his martyred uncle Magnus Erlendsson who’s remains are interred within.

The magnificent and majestic St Magnus Cathedral Kirkwall

The Earls Palace ruins are just over the road from St Magnus and although the Earl in question wasn’t the nicest of people the ruins have a peaceful vibe to them. I love the trees around the palace which are something you don’t always see around ruins. The Palace was built in the 1600’s by Earl Patrick Stewart but was never finished as the earl ran out of money.  The ruin itself is really beautiful with it’s huge windows along one wall of the great hall. You can almost imagine what it was intended to look like as you wander through it.

The tranquility of the grounds of Earls Palace in Kirkwall

Stand Up Paddleboarding the Churchill Barriers

Finally the wind dropped a wee bit and we were back on the water again, this time at the Churchill Barriers.  
At first glance water with rusty metal probably doesn’t look like the smartest place to take an inflatable paddleboard but the water is really clear and you will notice us paddling VERY cautiously.

Built in the 1940’s the Churchill Barriers were constructed to protect the Naval Base at Scapa Flow. This is a sheltered area which lies between many of the larger islands of Orkney. The barriers not only stopped unknown vessels stealthily entering the waters but also had roads constructed on top of them linking South Ronaldsay and the islands in between with Mainland Orkney. Prior to this old and disused ships were sunk to block the waterways agains the u boats during the first and second world wars.

Paddleboarding at one of the ships that were wrecked before the Churchill Barriers were built

Orkneys Sacred Valley

One of the things we were really excited to see was the Ness of Brodgar dig which is open to the public.  Things were a little quieter than usual on the dig due to funding but about 30 or so archaeologists were actively excavating the site during our visit. This site is understood to be of huge importance in the neolithic era with it’s large wall, a main building and possibly another 100 structures, some of these are actually painted too. 
The Ness of Brodgar is on a narrow piece of land between the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar and what is truly amazing to me is that years ago on my first visit to Orkney I walked right by this site and like the rest of the world at that time had absolutely no idea what lay beneath my feet. It just makes you wonder what else is hidden below the earths surface.

Archeologists at work on the dig at Ness Of Brodgar

The Standing Stones of Stenness are thought to have been erected about 3300 years BCE, only 4 of the original 12 remain with the tallest one measuring 5.7m. they have a real presence about them each one looks like a piece of art work in an outdoor gallery.

The Standing Stones of Stenness

The Ring of Brodgar is the UK’s third largest stone circle and has a sense of magical mystery about it.  Nestled in on a hillside amongst a thick crop of heather it is surrounded by a henge or ditch and inaccessible to visitors.  What I find truly amazing is that if you look at the site from a satelite image you can see just how perfectly round the circle is.  The Ring of Brodgar was built around 2500-2000 BCE and only 21 of the original 60 stones are still standing.

The Ring of Brodgar is the largest Stone Circle in Scotland

Stand Up Paddleboarding the Ring of Brodgar

Just at the bottom of the Ring of Brodgar is the Loch of Harray and we were fortunate enough to be there when there was a break in the weather. As the waters edge is so close to accessible parking we couldn’t resist the chance to experience the stones from the water. Standing Stones and Stone Circles absolutely captivate me. We may never know exactly why they were built or what drove people to move these seemingly unmoveable huge stones sometimes across huge distances but there is certainly something very magnetic and enigmatic about their presence.

SUP Bloke paddleboarding at the Ring of Brodgar

Join us next week as we visit some of Orkneys Islands exploring some of the places less frequented by tourists.

If you missed part one of our SUP Safari Scotland to the Isle of Arran you can read about it here.

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