The deed is done. I've booked the ferry that will take Fiona and myself over to Orkney from mainland Scotland on the morning of Wednesday 14th September, and bring me back later the same day. So I'm now committed to my day on Orkney - well 5+ hours actually! - and I'm eager to go.
It will be one of the highlights of a 36 night caravan tour that will take me to the north-eastern tip of Scotland. Orkney lies more northerly still. And way beyond, even further north, is Shetland. I can't take the caravan to Shetland yet - there are no suitable sites. But it's possible right now with Orkney. So I'm spying out the land, so to speak; and I may follow it up with a proper full week there in the future.
Those 36 nights will be expensive, bearing in mind the distance my diesel car Fiona will have to tow the caravan from Sussex, and the likely cost of fuel later this year. But it will all be a significant experience, the fruit of personal effort (and personal self-confidence, since I'll be travelling alone as usual). It won't be the first caravan holiday that follows my 70th birthday in July, but it will involve by far the most road distance. But I'll wear all my lucky rings and necklaces!
And now I'm adding some nautical distance too, plus a few hours of focused, well-planned driving on on Orkney itself. I can only do the main island; I certainly can't look at everything; but I am determined to visit several places that I've longed to see since my teens.
As a minimum: the two (not very big) towns, Stromness and Kirkwall; the Pier Arts Centre at Stromness; the Cathedral at Kirkwall; several archaeological sites, such as the Standing Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae prehistoric village; and various sites connected with the wartime use of Scapa Flow as a a naval base, including the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm. I hope I will have time to pause and contemplate the sea, and some of the smaller islands offshore, such as Hoy, Eynhallow, and Rousay. The ship will pass very close the the famous Old Man of Hoy (a towering sandstone rock stack) - I'm crossing my fingers that it's still standing on 14th September, so that I can get some nice shots of it.
This 'minimum' schedule, now that I list it, seems a lot to cram into the time available, especially as I'll need to get some lunch somewhere. On the other hand, the main island of Orkney is a compact place, roughly the size of the Isle of Wight, and I expect to whizz around pretty well. I don't know about parking; but my guess is that only Stromness will present any difficulties. So I'll leave Stromness to last.
It'll be a longish day. I'll be pitched at the Club site at Dunnet Bay, which I stayed at in 2019. I'll aim to get away at 7.00am. It's the A836 into Thurso, and then on to the nearby harbour at Scrabster. I had a butcher's at the set-up at Scrabster in April 2019. Here's a shot of Fiona there. The ferry terminal is in the distance.