We have reached the northern shores of Scotland and will travel by ferry to the Orkney Islands today . . . that is if the ferry is running. Weather forecasts are predicting winds so severe that all fishing vessels have returned to port. Our tour guide explains that our first choice of ferry has cancelled trips for the day, but he has a Plan B, C, and D. (Plan D usually involves a “cultural experience” or as it is know in the states, a bar.) He updates us as we drive saying Plan B ferry isn’t going either, so we are going to get on Plan C ferry. I want to call for a vote. Do we really want to get on a ferry in the straight between the North Sea and the Atlantic if all the locals aren’t going out?
We all board the ferry with a bit of trepidation and look to see if the locals look worried. We’re torn between seeing a remote island and self preservation. As the ferry casts off, I say a quick prayer that Scotland isn’t the last place I visit. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad on the ferry, but the waves were impressive. We land 45 minutes later and start our tour.
Our day on the island includes a visit to the Italian chapel built by prisoners of World War II, Skara Brae, Standing Stones (both predate Stonehenge by at least 1,000 years), and of course . . . a pub. The history and remoteness of these islands is impressive. Equally impressive was the wind.
I had never heard of Standing Stones (The Ring of Brodgar) prior to this trip and to learn that is a Neolithic henge and stone circle older than Stonehenge surprised me. As Gene said, “Anyone can go to Stonehenge, but only a few people ever get to visit the Ring of Brodgar.” We both felt humbled by history and what man can achieve. (of course we don’t know for sure that man created them, it could have been aliens!)
We stopped at a local pub that offered the usual meal entertainment of attempting to translate what the menu said verses what the menu meant. A cheese and tomato sandwich was a slice of bread covered with mayo and topped with fresh sliced tomato and grated cheddar cheese (not toasted), and ham salad was a ham sandwich with a salad on the side. Tomato soup was tomato soup, go figure. Gene ordered the “known meal” of fish and chips. I continue to take chances at meal time and ordered the Fried langostinos. I haven’t starved or gone without food yet on this trip, so I’m not worried. They were “okay.”
As we exited the bus at Skara Brae (a 5000 year old preserved village with a reconstructed house), our tour guide warned us that the winds were quite strong and to be careful if we walked out to the ruins. He wasn’t kidding. With 50 mph winds, you had to struggle to make forward progress. As we were walking, Gene shouted from behind me, “Your feet are moving, but you aren’t going anywhere.” I yelled back, “What?” It never gets old. It was quite chilly out with the strong winds. We had on coats, sweaters, gloves and hats and could have used a few more layers. We don’t have any photos of us there because we feared dropping our phones in the ruins or worse yet, we would fall into them while taking a selfie and be on BBC, but Gene did get some photos of the ruins themselves.
By the time we boarded the ferry home, we were seasoned travelers and most of the people immediately fell asleep or chatted with the locals. Dinner was at the hotel and we were treated with wine (probably to numb us up so we forgot about the shower situation and stairway to heaven).
Gene and I hit the bar and discussed what it would take to get some ice so we could open the bottle of scotch we had purchased DAYS ago. We came up with the plan to order scotch on the rocks and then take our drinks up to our room. It seems that Scotland has rules against that. You must drink your beverage at the bar. And “on the rocks” was met with a blank stare. “I mean ice.” I check out the menu and comment on how inexpensive whisky/scotch is in Scotland. When our drinks were served, I realized why they were so inexpensive. A shot in Scotland is a dram (1/8th of an ounce). Gene’s face was priceless as he looked at the ice cube and the sniff of whisky on it. There is no way this minute amount is going to make us forget the shower!
We finally resolved the ice issue by just asking the bartender for a cup of ice and tipping him a couple of pounds.