Thursday, 1 May 2014

Island hopping and an adventurous coat!

So, as I think I mentioned recently, we spent Easter in Orkney with my brilliant pal Fay, her lovely daughter, and of course Peedie & Haggis the Cairn Terriers. Amazing really - we spent best part of a week up there at the same time last year and STILL got invited back - I reckon it's because while Haggis is jumping on OUR heads he's giving Fay a break!

Small furry lunatic...
As last time, our adventure started with the sleeper from Euston up to Aberdeen - not quite so bargainous as last year but it got us where we wanted to be, when we wanted to be there, and worked out a LOT cheaper than flying up, so all good. From there it was a train to Inverness, then another train to Thurso - we love Inverness but sadly the 6 minutes we had to change trains didn't allow for anything more than hoping anxiously that train 1) wouldn't be late (it wasn't) and that if it was train 2) would wait for it (it would have done). We stepped out at Thurso into much better weather than last year's blizzard, thankfully, and got ready to meet another chum for tea & cake...always good, tea & cake! First though a minor panic to deal with as we discovered that MrEH's brand new all-singing-all-dancing waterproof coat had fallen off his bag as we got off the train - aargh! Of course by the time we realised this the train had pulled back out again - heading round to Wick, it's final destination - I shot up to the ticket office praying for it to be manned so we could get them to ring the station at Wick to ask them to look for it, and thankfully it made a return trip on the very same train (which comes back to Thurso again before heading back "Sooth" as Fay would say) and MrEH was able to collect it from the lady with the refreshment trolley who'd kept it safe for him. Phew! So - tea & cake then....Caz had recommended the Surf cafe (or cafe Tempest, to give it its proper name), and what a great recommendation it was. A seemingly endless pot of tea between myself and MrEH, and a brownie of just perfect crunchiness/squidginess balance each, and Caz had a veritable bucket of hot chocolate and what she said herself appeared to be half a chocolate defeated her in the end in fact, yes, it was THAT big, I think MrEH would have struggled with it!

MV Hamnnavoe at Stromness - seen from Graemsay
After cake-overload we wandered round to the it was getting a bit choppy by this time, Fay & I had already agreed that we "weren't mentioning the weather" (you need to think of that in sort of Fawlty Towers-esq tones) as MrEH gets a bit green around the gills in anything more than a light breeze when on water. Tricky when you're walking into rather a still head-wind and still trying to make cheery conversation about how nice it is!  We boarded the ferry, and before long were ready for the off - somewhat reassured by the Captains assurances that there was a bit of wind forecast so we were going through the flow rather than round the edge (he worded it more technically than that) so he was expecting a fairly smooth crossing. Can I just say, here and now - he's a big fat liar! He might have been EXPECTING that, but it sure as heck wasn't what we got - and we were very glad to just close our eyes and go to sleep as by the time we'd been sailing for 25 minutes or so even I was beginning to feel slightly....unsettled, shall we say? Thankfully we both slept through the worst, and awoke just a short while out of Stromness.

Relief Graemsay ferry Golden Marianna
Our first day involved spending time with yet another friend - this time Sian whose Life on a Small Island blog you might know. Great fun getting over to her particular small Island or Graemsay too - the sort of small ferry which not only carries passengers, but also shopping, and newspapers, and car fact although we didn't know it, our crossing was being shared by Sian's own shopping, including food for the lovely Button, who we've now been privileged to meet! A lovely cheery half-hour or so crossing (nice and smooth this time, to both Fays & MrEH's relief!) and we stepped off onto the pier at an entirely new Island to us! After a very tasty lunch, we set off to do some exploring. Graemsay was home to a Battery in WW2 - at near the lighthouse at the north-eastern tip of the Island there's some fascinating remains showing where the troops were housed... admit it, you'd not expect to find a fireplace in the middle of a field, would you? The lighthouse itself is attractive as well - the attached building are now privately owned and apparently came up for sale recently - can you imagine living in such a fantastic building?

(Apparently the views from the house itself are nothing like as good as you'd expect though thanks to the high wall surrounding it).

On the way back the ferry went via Hoy - calling at the pier at Moaness, situated directly in between the two highest points on the island - it wakes for quite an impressive arrival! The wind had got up a bit again by this time too - and the second stretch of the trip back to Stromnness was.....let's say I'd call it fun, Fay & MrEH most definitely wouldn't! They were both rather pleased when we got through the rough patch and back to calmer waters!

The following day we headed off to Kirkwall - a nice little town with plenty to see. We started off spotting these rather cute Long Tailed ducks...

Funny looking things, aren't they! After a bit of wandering we decided to take a proper look at St Magnus Cathedral - we walked right around the outside of the building last year but weren't able to go in. TYhe cathedral was founded in the 12th Century, and is the property of the People of Orkney. As well as religious events it also plays host to community events, including classical concerts.

The cathedral also houses the memorial to those lost in the sinking of HMS Royal Oak  in October 1939. The wreck still lies on the seabed in Scapa Flow, and is now a designated war grave. Each year a boat takes survivors out over the wreck so wreaths can be laid on the water in remembrance of the 834 men lost.

The 7D was proving its worth in the dimly lit interior of the building. I'd always prefer not to use flash where at all possible as it tends to suck the life out of these sorts of scenes, rendering stonework flat and washing out colours. I'd set the ISO to Auto before going in, and mostly left it to do its thing, with me just setting the aperture I wanted. the shots above and below were at ISO 1000 - a level where you'd have seen significant noise from the 40D.

I was keeping a close eye on it, not wanting it to creep TOO high and risk ruined shots (for the non-photographers, what we refer to as "noise" is the faint speckling effect you sometimes see on photographs taken in low light conditions) - however I must have got distracted while taking the shot below, as the file info tells me this was at ISO 3200 - a really impressive result, and great to know that I can ramp it up to that level if i really need to.

Lots more photos to come - I've barely scratched the surface of them yet, so expect to see another post on the trip probably in the course of next week sometime. There may even be more pictures of the two furry fiends - who knows?!



Marksgran said...

Fabulous photos as usual. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

Marksgran said...

Ps. Glad mreh got his coat back, yr trip would have become more expensive if he'd had to replace it!