… plus ça change.
The main event planned for my 2 night visit last week was a day out to visit the northern island of Westray.
The 09:30 flight from Kirkwall (with Loganair on a wee Islander 8 seater) takes 15 minutes (cost £37 one way). The inter island ferry back to the (Orkney) mainland leaves at 14:35. That would give me a few hours to see a bit of Westray.
(The photo shows a Hebridean Air Islander, but you will get the idea. No frills.)
I could walk from the airfield to the main village – Pierowall – have a good lunch in the hotel there (renowned for its local fish) and then take the connecting bus to the ferry.
It was all booked – even the lunch.
You cannot book the weather, sadly. As predicted it was wet and windy. This often means low cloud. The consequence was a cancelled flight. Neither the small island airfields nor the Islander have the navigational aids we take for granted at typical airports. The pilot has to be able to see where he/she is going.
June is probably the month with the best chance of benign weather, but it was not to be. I had tried to do a similar trip – same idea, but different island – on my July 2019 visit. I had the same outcome.
Maybe next time… if there is one. The years are marching on. Mind you, foreign travel is still too problematic, so return visits to domestic destinations are starting to loom large.
My plan B this time turned out to be going back to Skara Brae. I went there on my first trip to the islands – 2010 I think. It is truly a special place.
Pandemic measures meant pre-booking an arrival slot, and I was lucky to get one at the last minute. The horizontal rain had made me think twice about going there but I had all my wet weather hiking gear with me, so why not. As it happens, the rain stopped the very moment I put my waterproof trousers on in the car park.
For those who do not know Scottish summer weather, do not expect much and be ready to come up with an alternative plan at short notice.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021
The weather in island groups in the North Atlantic doesn’t facilitate inter-island hopping. My flight to an outer Faroe island was cancelled because of the weather. Plan B was a little ferry that bobbed across the waves to a nearer island. There are photos showing – when the weather gets really bad – waves breaking across the width of the island.
Did you visit the Highland Park distillery in Orkney?