Monday, 5 October 2015

Orkney by bike...

As a last blast before the autumn gales strike I was lucky to get the OK from Clare for a quick weekender to Orkney to do a bit of cycling.

It seemed pointless touring for the two days so instead of my bike packing gear I managed to pack a 35l rucksack with everything, helmet in there too, and headed south straight from work...


The plan was to camp at Pickaquoy campsite, a central location with a ride out west on Saturday and one out East and South on Sunday. It's a great camp site for those times when you want a camp site and at only £6.35 a night for my tent not bad in deed!


My first ride took me on a loop out west and ended up being 112.5km; it was supposed to be more.  Here's a strava link if you want the details. I was just taking it steady wanting to enjoy the views and sites along the way, but the weather was much breezier than expected and a bit drizzly at times, nothing too bad though.


The view at Finstown...


My first real port of call was The Rendall Doocot, and full of pigeons it was too.


And not too far away is the Broch of Gurness. Luckily for me it was all closed up for the season (or maybe I was too early),  so I just wandered in and had a little look around the site. Very impressive and better than sites like Jarlshof in Shetland.



A little walk along the Sands of Evie and I was on the road again...

 
Next stop was the Brough of Birsay, but the tide was in so I couldn't get across the causeway...


And when I got to the most excellent Birsay Bay Tearooms I was too early for them! Still I only had to wait 20 minutes; a wait worth it for the fresh cheese scone and toastie I demolished for second breakfasts!


 Next followed the Bay of Skaill and I had thought to pop into Skara Brae, but at £7.50 I wasn't going pay out for that; I only wanted to have a quick look around and then get on my way. So the next stop was the Ring of Brodgar...



The plan was now to go to Stromness for dinner in a pub before taking the long way back to Kirkwall via Orphir. I had a nice pub lunch in The Ferry Inn and then set off, but before I go out of town my seat rail snapped leaving one half of my bum 2" lower than the other. Not good!



Some kids told me there was a cycle hire place and eventually I found it. Sadly no one was home, it was all shut up. I set off for Kirwall again thinking it'd be just a slow uncomfortable ride and then spotted a likely looking chap and asked if he knew of anywhere near by to get a new seat; he didn't other than the cycle hire place. But he did shout after me as I cycled off and offered to try to fix it in his shed! Some bodging later it was fixed with a bent nail, hot glue and gaffa tape! 

Now this fix seemed pretty good, but I didn't want to risk it going again at an inconvenient moment so I cut my ride short and took the direct route to Kirkwall and got to Orkney Cycles  before closing time where I became the proud owner of a second hand Selle Italia SL saddle. Phew!


Sunday dawned a fantastic day; less wind and t-shirt weather. I set off out west with a plan for a proper Sunday dinner in St Margaret's Hope. I did 94.8km that day; here's the strava link again if you want details.


I followed a few dead ends to nice looking beaches around Tankerness and Deerness and then came across Mine Howe and it's 29 steps. I knew nothing of it but it looks like a very interesting site. Again being early and out of season no one was about so I had a little wander and found these steps steeply descending into a man made mound. I went down, but didn't have a torch so came back up! I did realise I could get the headlight off my bike, but by then I was wanting to be off again. You soon get a chill when you stop cycling and cool down. One to go back to...


On Deerness I also headed out to Mull Head and The Gloup a large collapsed cave...


I was then off to the Churchill Barriers which lead you over a few small isles to South Ronaldsay...


And The Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm...



The final stop on the tour south was St Margaret's Hope...


The plan was my long awaited and well earned Sunday dinner, probably in The Murray Arms, but both that and the other pub/hotel were closed! Thankfully the cafe close by was open so I was able to have a nice big breakfast, still not a Sunday dinner though. A tail wind saw me head directly back to Kirkwall and after packing, a tea of fish and chips and a film at The Pickaquoy Centre I was back on the ferry at 11pm and sleeping my way back to Shetland.

Quite a whirl wind of a weekend and a good one at that! Thanks for reading :)

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