This past summer, I travelled to Scotland for my sister’s wedding, then spent some time exploring the countryside. One of my stops was the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located off the northeastern tip of mainland Scotland that is often referred to as the Edge of the World. One way to reach Orkney is to take the passenger ferry from John O’Groats, which crosses the choppy waters of the Pentland Firth, landing at the small village of Burwick on the island of South Ronaldsay.
Orkney is magical. The wind is a constant presence, while sunshine alternates with rain, creating rainbows that arc across the horizon. Its coastlines have sandy beaches and the skies are thick with sea birds. I took lots of photos, which were just published online in Montecristo magazine.
Curiously, the Orkneys have a connection with 19th-century English literature. The islands were the setting for one of author Mary Shelley’s most chilling scenes in Frankenstein – A Modern Prometheus. The scientist Frankenstein secretly goes to the Orkneys to set up a laboratory to create a mate for his first creation The Creature. (It all ends rather badly, for those of you who remember your English Lit studies.)
Back in the realm of non-fiction, the history of the Orkneys dates back to the Neolithic era — the last period of the Stone Age — as evidenced by ancient villages and mysterious standing stones dating back more than 3100 BCE. In the 9th century, the Vikings ruled the Orkneys. By the 15th century, they were a part of Scotland. Today you can see the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, the Neolithic chambered cairn of Maes Howe, and the megaliths of a henge, such as the Ring of Brodgar. There is also a vibrant arts and crafts scene, lots of great local produce, and superb whiskey.