Welcome to the A to Z challenge, a blog post everyday of April apart from Sundays, covering every letter of the alphabet. My theme is travel, that thing that we haven’t been able to do over the last 12 months, so it seemed appropriate to reminisce about past travels we’ve taken, looking forward to when we can travel freely again.
Today we’re visiting a group of islands with very strong links to the Vikings, and a resort that is perfect for romance.
The Orkney Islands are just 10 miles to the north of Scotland and consist of 70 islands but only 20 of them are inhabited. We boarded the ferry at Scrabster for the 90 minute journey to Stromness on the Mainland which is the largest island in the archipelago.
If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that my beloved gets seasick, and as we waited to drive our car onto the ferry the weather was looking very ominous, so I did what any sensible wife would do, and I drugged him with travel sickness tablets.
Anyway, as you can see from the picture, my beloved fell into blissful sleep whilst things were sliding off tables and I was taking pictures of the waves. When we made it to our bed and breakfast I heard him telling our hostess that the crossing was surprisingly smooth!!
The bed and breakfast we stayed at was on a farm overlooking Stromness and when we arrived we discovered that our hostess was a fellow antipodean, but from New Zealand – just like me she had married a Scotsman and ended up at the top of the world.
The first thing that is very noticeable about Orkney is that there are very few trees because the islands are very windswept, and the few trees that have survived are leaning to the side. There are quite a few Neolithic sites to see, including standing stones and chambered cairns. The two we most wanted to see were Maeshowe and Skara Brae pictured below.
Maeshow is a chambered cairn that is over 5000 years old which is older than the pyramids. To get into the tomb you have to go through a passageway that is very low, this website says that the passage is 70cm tall, which I believe as I felt a bit like a pretzel trying to get into it – my beloved walked behind me holding my hips so that I didn’t collapse in a heap or get stuck. I also couldn’t take too long as you can only go in as a guided group so I didn’t want to hold anyone up. Once you’re inside you can stand up and the guide talks you through the history of the mysterious chamber. My favourite thing about the inside is that the Vikings had broken into the chamber during the 1100’s and had carved graffiti on the walls. It’s written in runes, and my absolute favourite was; “Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes high up”, which really made me smile.
Skara Brae is a Neolithic village dated to 3200 BC and was hidden by a sand dune until a huge storm in 1850 which revealed what had been hidden for a very, very long time. As you walk from the visitor centre to the ancient dwellings, the path is inlaid with stones leading you back through time which gives a real sense of how old this site is – examples of some of the dates are; Fall of Rome AD 476, Birth of Christ AD/BC, and Stonehenge 2100 BC.
In 2014 there was an art installation at the Tower of London (below) to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, see previous post Poppies at the Tower. When finished, some of the 888,246 ceramic poppies toured the UK to enable more people to see them. Whilst we were in Orkney these were at the cathedral in Kirkwall (right).
Lets get my staples of any holiday out of the way – scrummy cakes and gorgeous kitty cats we chatted to. There were lots of poppy themed things around due to the above display, just like the lovely looking cupcake below.
Another must see if you visit Orkney is the Italian Chapel which is on the island of Lamb Holm, but connected to Mainland by a causeway. During the second world war Italian Prisoners were housed on Lamb Holm to help build barriers to protect the islands, and after they put a request in they were allowed to build themselves a chapel out of two nissen huts. Amongst the prisoners was an artist, Domenico Chiocchetti, who transformed the inside of the huts to look as beautiful as any chapel in his home country of Italy.
The inside of the chapel is painted to look like stonework, wood panelling, tiles, and the ceiling is absolutely stunning. The chapel was completed using things that the prisoners could find such as wood from a ship wreck, scrap metal, and conrete.
I love this picture of lambs in a field on Orkney, as this was the moment I decided that I would no longer eat meat. We’d had a lovely cooked breakfast at the B&B, but watching these babies just hit me and I haven’t eaten meat since.
Set within the stunning beauty of Queensland’s Lamington National Park is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, and it was perfect for celebrating our second wedding anniversary. The suite we stayed in was gorgeous with a four poster bed, lounge area, balcony, and spa bath with a huge picture window so as to enjoy the view whilst relaxing.
When we got to our suite we discovered a complementary bottle of champagne which was really lovely.
We enjoyed the champagne sitting on our balcony in the provided dressing gowns.
There were lots of tropical birds which would often come and sit on our balcony for a chat. You could also put birdfeed in your hands and be covered with them, as demonstrated by my beloved, but just as in D for Dubrovnik, I don’t have a picture of the moment the bird on his head decided to use him as a toilet.
There are loads of walking tracks through the rainforest and on one of our days we arranged a picnic and then headed to one of the lookouts to enjoy it. Here’s two wonderful views, my beloved showing his legs, and the land spread out before us.
If you’re ever in Queensland and want to spoil yourself, then book into this fabulous resort as you will have a wonderful time.
Thanks for stopping by and make sure you visit other bloggers who are crazy enough to be doing the challenge with me – Click Here to visit the master list of participants.
Stay safe and have a great day.
Previous A to Z posts:
2018 – O is for the One
2017 – O is for Orkney
2016 – O is for Obsession
6 thoughts on “O is for Orkney & O’Reillys”
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat seems like an amazing anniversary destination. Love the view out the window. Weekends In Maine
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It was everything we’d hoped for and more.
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Orkney is another place I would love to visit! Thanks for the recommendations 🙂
Also, Poppies at the Tower is probably the most stunning and heartbreaking art installation I have ever seen.
The Multicolored Diary
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The poppies were amazing, and when it finished they sold a lot of the poppies off to raise money for veterans, and we’re very lucky to have got one – it sits on our window ledge in a blue vase.
Pam, sometimes it’s tough to visit your blog. When I leave I’ve got itchy feet. Yes, I want to go to Queensland, please!
I have never heard of Skara Brae, which is a shame, because it’s been around 3200 + 2021 years!! That’s – holy cow – way over 5000 years old.
And can I just mention how yummy that red cupcake looks!
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Queensland has so many lovely places to visit, but especially the rainforest. I can confirm that the red cupcake was delicious.