Returning North

Saturday morning started with sunshine, but it had fled before the haar by the time that we were on the move.

One of yesterday’s mushrooms made an early appearance in our bacon sarnies – a real treat, eaten al fresco with freshly filtered coffee.

Al fresco brekkie
Al fresco brekkie

We had looked up local geocaches and decided to set off for Herston, across the bay from our overnight location. Herston was beautiful and reminded me a great deal of one of my favourite places, Plockton. Unfortunately, Herston was not built for Brunhilde’s ample German beam and we ended up just driving through without stopping. We turned towards the barriers and the road back to Kirkwall.

The haar was thickening all the time and by the time we had reached Barrier 4 at Burray,

Brunhilde at Barrier 4
Brunhilde at Barrier 4

it was pretty thick indeed, making this cache find rather hazardous. The twit of a setter had elected to make seekers cross the road. There are no footpaths on the barriers, the road is narrow and traffic moves quickly… even in thick mist.

No pencil to sign the log with
No pencil to sign the log with

This is one of my favourite places and has a special place in my heart because we chose to sleep overnight here when we moved up to Orkney. There are good toilets,

No 2 in a short series on The Things You Find When You Go to The Lav
No 2 in a short series on The Things You Find When You Go to The Lav

a level parking space and lots of developing dune system to wander through. It’s a peaceful place with a good atmosphere.

Burray Carving
Burray Carving

The last time that I photographed this Viking chap, he had a brilliantly blue Spring sky behind him (April 2006) – no such luck this time. The haar was so thick it was a miracle that I could see his face (he’s tall).

We checked local caches again and set off for one that promised views of three barriers all at once – no such luck, we couldn’t even spot one in the fog. Again, greatly irritated by the irrational and unnecessarily dangerous placement of the cache across the road.

The third cache of the day was by the Italian Chapel, a place we have visited before but the combined prospect of a proper cache box with proper swaps and also an opportunity to taste some Orkney Wine… well, you would, wouldn’t you?

The view from the cache, with added haar
The view from the cache, with added haar

We did the cache, took some chapel photos, tasted several wines and ate a double scoop Orkney Ice Cream before setting off for the day’s final destination. I had Chocolate and Raspberry, should you care, and Mr L also had chocolate but added a scoop of Honeycomb rather than the raspberry.

Our pitch  for the night was at the Geo Slipway on Newark Bay.

Brunhilde lurking in the fog at the Geo - early afternoon, believe it or not!
Brunhilde lurking in the fog at the Geo – early afternoon, believe it or not!

It was yet early afternoon but the thickening fog made everything seem a little dismal. The rumoured views were not to be seen but we did the local microcache and we admired the boat hut and the dogs had a walk or two and a ball playtime. The mist never cleared but it didn’t spoil our fun. I really enjoyed this location – apart from throwing a wobbly in the night and being scared that the van would roll off the cliff. There are picnic tables and grass, no toilets yet, but there are grass tracks and beach to walk on and the slipways are fun for playing with the dogs. Loads of rock  pools too at low tide. Somehow the spot has a lovely atmosphere.

I made a pasta supper, which we washed down with a nice Chianti, and then we crossworded with the aid of our new bottle of Orkney Wine. There had been lots of activity at the Geo with dogwalkers etc. earlier on but we had the place to ourselves overnight. We were woken early by the tractor towing a boat around 6am.

Sunday dawned without mist! There in front of us lay Copinsay

The view from the car park
The view from the car park

The sun was out and so was the tide – we made the most of it, playing on the beach with the dogs. After packing up we set off to visit The Gloup and did a trio of Geocaches at the Mull Head Visitor Centre,  The Gloup, and the Brough of Deerness. The Gloup and Mull Head Reserve provided us with some good walking and a little too much sun. It would make a good overnight stop some other trip.

Inside the Visitor Centre was an exhibition of prize-winning photographs, though we could not work out what the competition had been. The first photo that we saw was awful familiar – it was a photo taken of Dominique Cameron by Rod the Ranger on a photowalk that we did years ago. In fact I was cropped out of the frame and have a very similar image in my own files. This is Rod’s. by me.

Dom, by Rod, by Me
Dom, by Rod, by Me

Some mist had been hanging around again but it cleared just as we reached The Gloup (a collapsed sea cave), which turned out to be very difficult to photograph well. The sun asserted itself sufficiently to make some great shadows on the steps to the viewpoint. We found the cache and were going back to the van when I asked if we might just go up to the top of the rise “to see the view”. As is always the case, beyond the rise was another, and another and before we knew it we had walked to the Brough. I had neither boots nor stick and my Achilles began to complain so we then called it a day and time for lunch.

We lunched in the van before driving off in the direction of home. We stopped at Dingieshowe for an hour on the beach with the dogs. The mist was back, though not so thick.

It’s a nice beach at Dingieshowe but wandering the dunes is now banned, due to erosion. A single boardwalk route is provided and visitors requested to keep to that. There are some wonderful sandstone boulders, beautifully rounded by the sea and forming wonderful organic shapes. I found one that looked like a body – head and torso. I mentioned it to Mr L and on our way back he poked a rock and said “Is this your body?” It was and I was genuinely surprised that his eye had worked as mine does.

It was time to head for Kirkwall, where we spent some time in the usual play spot with the dogs before picking up some groceries at Tesco. After that task was due we rewarded ourselves with the long awaited curry and went to order our takeaway from the Dil Se. Whilst they were cooking our order I went along Albert Street to take a photograph for the rephotograph project on Scotland’s Landscape on the BBC website.

Kirkwall's main shopping street on a Sunday afternnon
Kirkwall’s main shopping street on a Sunday afternoon

I spent some time on it, attempting to match the viewpoint of the original

As it was in 1890, when the Big Tree was… bigger

Had I but known that despite all the exhortations across the site to rephotograph locations and submit the images, they are actually no longer accepting submissions, I’d have saved my sore feet.

Meanwhile, back at the Dil Se…

This restaurant really puffs itself up. It has recommendations in the window from Billy Connolly and Gordon Ramsay and has apparently won awards. We were up for something really special, especially as we have not had a curry from a restaurant in many long years. What we got was exceptionally mediocre. No heat, no flavour, no wonderful layering of aromatic spices. It was simply incredibly dull and the meat component was overcooked and dry. The whole meal was lukewarm even though we were parked just around the corner and did not have to carry it far at all. There were oddities too – such as the yoghurt/mint for the pakora – it was sweetened!

It’s mystifying – TripAdvisor has an array of good and excellent reviews and Which has seen fit to give several awards in the past – though I note not since 2012. New management maybe? or Chef’s Night Off?

We’ll try again one day, just in case we were really unlucky this time. There are too many good reviews to believe that the standard is always this low. All I can say for now is that we were pretty devastated, having worked up our tastebuds for a spicy treat.

Perhaps Brunhilde can get us to Bratfud, where the Karachi never fails to delight. In the meantime I’ll cook up something tasty myself. I fancy Chicken Makhani this weekend.

On the way home we travelled outside. I had my camera with me in the hope of some good skies but the haar came up again and I failed to get any good shots. Despite going via Eday we docked early and were home before 9pm.

I am still unpacking the van and doing laundry. The fanbelt has at last arrived this very day. Mr L is already engaged in planning our next trip!

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