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Postby Rowana » Sun May 25, 2008 7:58 pm

I have a half-formed plan to sail up to Orkney this year. I'm thinking Peterhead - Banff - Wick - Orkney.

Anyone done it?

Any advice, tips, what not to miss, what definately to avoid, Etc., Etc.

All tips and advice gratefully recieved.


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Postby DaveS » Sun May 25, 2008 10:01 pm

I took my boat to Orkney in 2006 (full story in Yotblog). I went the other way, however, up the west coast and back by the Caley Canal. I was very impressed and definitely want to go back.

Good things:
The marina system (Kirkwall, Stromness and Westray) is very good and pretty cheap - particularly if you buy multi day tickets (valid for all marinas and also allow you to use the piers).

If you want archaeology Orkney's the place. There is a reasonable bus service, but a day's car hire on Mainland would be worthwhile to visit a number of the main sites in a sensible time. Many of the other islands have lots to see too. The Dwarfy Stane on Hoy is amazing: just how do you go about carving a big hole out of solid rock if metal tools have yet to be invented? Papa Westray has the oldest (mostly) surviving house in Europe... Rousay has endless chambered cairns, and Egilsay has the landmark round towered church built in memory of St. Magnus' marterdom. And of course the military remains around Scapa Flow remind you that this was very much a strategically vital fortress during both wars.

If conditions are such that you'd prefer to leave the boat tied up, but still want to get about, the inter island ferry service is pretty good. Leaving the boat at Kirkwall, Stromness, or (a bit less convenient) Pierrowall, Westray for crew change / a trip down south is a reasonable option. I left mine at Kirkwall for a week while I took bus / ferry / train to a conference in Newcastle.

Not so good:
I had bother with the monks on Papa Stronsay, who didn't seem to understand the Scottish Access Legislation.

Most of the tidal streams are quite serious and it's well worth trying to get them right. Entering Stromness after the tide had gone foul was an interesting experience, but not one I would willingly repeat.

The NE corner of mainland Scotland seems to attract a lot of haar. I crossed from Stronsay to Wick in poor visability, staying well E of the Pentland Skerries to avoid complications, but despite deploying 2 radar reflectors, without either active radar or AIS felt I felt quite vulnerable.

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