“Every day has the potential to be the best day of your life”

Nr 27. Visiting Orkney Islands and Wick

After the Shetland islands we sailed south to the Orkney islands. These are the last group of islands above the northeast part of Scotland, before you reach the mainland of Scotland. The Orcadians, as they are called, are a proud clan and cherish their independence, so they have their own flag and talk about Orkney instead of Orkney islands.

We were surprised by the rich history of Orkney when we stayed in the harbor of capital city Kirkwall for 5 days. The islands have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years, originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts. Orkney was colonized and later annexed by Norway in 875 for a long period of time. It was only in the year 1200 that the Earl and Bishop of Great-Britain recovered Orkney for Scotland.

We cycled in the old center of Kirkwall and the Christmas season is already starting here! We saw a nice barbershop, so we made an appointment for the next day. It’s always a bit exciting to go to a hairdresser in another country, but our hairdresser Hazel was a lovely lady who understood our wishes. Since her son was a marine in the Netherlands (Den Helder), we quickly had a nice conversation about his observations of Holland (‘There are hardly any pubs in Holland, right?’).

After Orkney we sailed to the mainland of Scotland, the city of Wick. During autumn time, you really have to plan your sailing trip and choose a day with calm winds. Because even with calm weather, you still can be surprised by sudden gusts of wind up to 7 Beaufort and that brings a lot of pressure on the mast and sails. Luckily we had a beautiful day with sunshine and stable winds, so we enjoyed the 9 hour sailing trip a lot and loved the view on the cliffs of the mainland of Scotland.

The harbour of Wick is now a charming small harbor with mainly fisherboats, but during the glory days of hering fishing in the  19th century, up to 1500 fishing boats would be in this harbor! And where there is hering, there are Dutch fishermen :). Close to Wick is a city called John O’ Groats:  that sounds very Scotish, but it is named after Dutchman John de Groot, who was an iconic figure in this area!

Wick is surrounded by old castles: many are built in the year 800 or 900, and you see a great mixture of the Norwegian and Scottish styles. Nowadays the castles are mostly ruins, but the history is still visible with the walking paths towards the castles and the chambers in the buildings that remained visible. We visited Old Wick Castle, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe en Keiss Castle.

In the city of Wick, a Guinness book World record has been set! Wick has the shortest street in the world: 2.05 meters long. The street is called Ebenezer Place and has single postal address which is the entrance of a bistro called “No 1”. So very funny to see this short street, it was even hard to find, because you drove by it so quickly 😊.

In Wick we had a breakfast in the famous cafe Wickers World, a lot of locals have their breakfast there and a lot of sailors too, because it is close to the harbor. We saw white beans in tomato sauce on toast being served, haggis, black pudding. We sticked to the fairly safe croissant with warm brie and cranberries 😉. You really know that you are in Great-Britain when the waitress asks: ‘You want milk in your earl grey tea, love?’. And we always have to remind each other when we leave a restaurant or a sightseeing place, to drive our e-bikes on the lefthand side of the road! Especially when you have visited a monument or museum and you get back on the road and see no vehicles, you easily start driving on the ‘wrong’ righthand side of the road!