DAY ONE: The flight into Orkney has to go down as one of the world’s most dramatic descents. The planes had been getting smaller all day. The flight equivalent of a Russian doll, we’d departed from Cardiff in a propeller-driven, four-seats across affair, then at Edinburgh ducked into a dinky wee thing where almost every seat was a window seat. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, descending through a series of doors that get smaller and smaller.
We took off, rather sharply in the small aircraft, and it wasn’t long before we were skirting the east coast of the far north of Scotland - a great slab of flat, green land cut off neatly by sheer cliffs. We left the mainland above Duncansby Head and immediately the sea frothed up beneath us. The Pentland Firth has some of the fastest tides in the world. It’s at this point the wild Atlantic runs into the North Sea and the tidal races that form here are so fearsome they’ve been named: The Merry Men of May, the Duncansby Race and, my favourite, the Swelkie (or Swallower in Old Norse), which can create a whirlpool that Viking legend had it was caused by a sea-witch turning the mill wheels that ground the salt to keep the seas salty.
Leaving the swirling seas behind us, the hulking shape of Hoy loomed to our left as we descended over South Ronaldsay. Silence reigned in the cabin as all 20 passengers gazed down at bright white beaches and patches of shockingly turquoise sea. As if on cue the sun came out and I leaned my head against the porthole window and watched the shadow of our tiny plane grow larger across fields and beaches. It was a genuinely peaceful moment, which lasted all of 30 seconds until we came within 100m of the ground and felt, for the first time, but by no means the last time, Orkney’s legendary winds. The little plane tumbled clumsily onto the runway, bounced a little and skidded to a halt. I had finally arrived on Orkney, where I would spend the next week researching a feature on visiting the islands for the August issue. I was going to enjoy this...
A selection of dining tables from Dunelm Mill, a home furniture and accessories retailer.
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