Last night we got stuck in Kirkwall. While I love Orkney (I’ve been here twice before), I had hoped to avoid its capital city, which I remembered didn’t have a whole lot to recommend it. But we arrived too late in the day to get to any of the smaller islands that make up Orkney, or even to get across Mainland to Stromness.


This is how I remembered Kirkwall – a bit bleak.

It turns out there was plenty here to keep us interested. There is the red sandstone St. Magnus cathedral, founded in 1137 by the Viking Earl Rognvald:

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as well as a number of other attractive features:

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We had a pleasant dinner at a new cafe called Helgi’s. It’s named after a figure who appears in some of the old Norse sagas (but not – correct me if I’m wrong, Norse scholars – in the Orkneyinga saga that tells the history of the earls of Orkney from the 800s to the 1200s ).


Black pudding and scallop appetizer at Helgi’s.

We spent the rest of the evening at The Reel, a pub owned by twin sisters who are traditional Orkney musicians.

IMG_7431The Wrigley sisters weren’t performing themselves that night, but here they are at the Smithsonian Folkways Festival in Washington DC a few years ago.

We had a fine time drinking Orkney beer and listening to the Orkney accordion and fiddle club. Kirkwall’s not such a bad place after all.

IMG_7427But today we are off to another, smaller and more remote island (my favorite kind!)– that’s where we can explore some the natural wonders of this place.


About lornaofarabia

I am a teacher from Medford, Oregon. I currently live and work in Bangkok, Thailand.
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