October 8, 2010

0 Scotland Trip; Orkney Islands, October 8-9

We took the 9:30 AM ferry to the Orkney Islands.   The view over the North Sea was spectacular, although the wind was FREEZING!  We passed by Stroma and Swona, two uninhabited islands (other than sheep and cattle, respectively), and landed on South Ronaldsay, Orkney. 

This is the Italian Chapel, built to allow the Italian POW during WWII a place to worship as they built Churchill's Causeways.   It's a beautiful building, especially given the limited funds and supplies, but unfortunately is only open to visitors in the summer.

Alongside the causeway between South Ronaldsay and the Mainland (the biggest and central island is known as the Mainland) there were several partially submerged shipwrecks. Some of the diving agencies in the islands offer tours of the wreckage, and we saw people in scuba gear, despite the freezing water!!

 Once on the Mainland we headed for Kirkwall, where the Earl's Palace, Bishop's Palace, and St. Magnus Cathedral all sit.   The Earl's Palace (above) is a magnificent ruin, with ornate Renaissance features.  It was built by the tyrannical and cruel Second Earl of Orkney, Patrick Stewart (funny!!).

 A fireplace.  You'd need one this big if you lived in a drafty old castle on an island this far north!

Window bay.

Rear view of the palace.

 Across the street is the Bishop's Palace, originally used as the home for the Bishop in residence at St. Magnus Cathedral, but after falling into disrepair it was taken over and passed to the First Earl of Orkney.  Earl Patrick intended to link his palace to it, but he was forced to stop building due to overwhelming debts.  We were able to climb the tower shown in the picture and got fantastic views of Kirkwall and the ocean.  You can see the spire of the cathedral in the background.

View into the palace from the tower.

This was the original Earl's Palace, on the opposite side of the Mainland in Birsay.  It was built by the First Earl of Orkney, Robert Stewart, illegitimate son of James V and half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots.  Also fantastic ruins, although much less remains than the Kirkwall Palaces.

St. Magnus Cathedral is also in Kirkwall.  It is an amazing building, constructed between the 12th and 15th centuries.  Along with being a beautiful historical site it is still used as a parish church, and there was actually a funeral taking place the first day of our Orkney stay.

View of the Cathedral from the top of the tower of Bishop's Palace.

Fancy door.

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