Day 55 – At the Bottom of Scapa Flow

Orphir to Kirkwall, 16Km

This morning the rain was lashing against the window when I woke up. AccuWeather said it was dry and sunny, even after I pressed refresh. Soon afterwards, the weather obeyed and became dry and sunny. I set off on my final day of walking.

It was a coastal walk for most of the way, along Scapa Flow, the second biggest natural harbour in the world. After WW1 the German fleet was held here and ultimately scuttled by the Germans. It became the main British naval base in WW2 and in October 1939 a U-boat sneaked in and torpedoed HMS Royal Oak in the harbour with the loss of 833 lives. After that, Churchill deployed some Italian POWs to build causeways across the harbour.

However, today’s theme on the pilgrimage was hospitality. I struggled to develop any meaningful thoughts on that, while the ghosts of all those men lay at the bottom of Scapa Flow. Perhaps Remembrance would have been more appropriate. My app’s audio guide had nothing to say today. Not a word about the war so I played some highlights from the previous days, just to hear her beautiful voice again.

I reached Kirkwall and followed the pilgrim route to the cathedral. Rather than taking the direct route, I was directed to the harbour for a northerly approach which might have been more impressive. In the event, when I arrived, I was greeted by a wall of scaffolding. Inside, workmen were banging and drilling. It was noisy. It reminded me of a Humble Pie concert I attended at The Rainbow in 1970, since when my hearing has never been the same.

I found the pillar containing the bones of St Magnus and the memorial to the victims of the Royal Oak then fled outside into the bright sunshine. The St Magnus cafe, just opposite, provided the much sought after hospitality.

A state of the art bicycle store, miles from anywhere. Did they put it in the wrong place?
One last rocky beach
Almost there
Autumn touches
Scapa Flow
After my pilgrimage around Orkney
The church was built to house the bones of St Magnus which seem to have found their way into this pillar
Memorial to the victims of HMS Royal Oak

18 comments on “Day 55 – At the Bottom of Scapa Flow

  1. Peter Mastenko

    Some interesting facts about Scapa Flow! I will have to cycle there to use the bicycle store. Is it really the last day’s walking?

    • Yes it’s the end of my walk across Scotland but I will probably need to walk to wherever I’m going tomorrow. On Orkney you need your own transport. I could rent a car or God forbid, a bicycle. I doubt I’d get very far before seizing up. There’s so much to see and no guided tours, buses to speak about or trains. Just expensive taxis. The distillery offers a pickup from the cathedral but I’m not sure about sampling 3 whiskies.

  2. Vicky Williamson

    Kia Ora, Tim. A rather somber end to what has been a marvellous journey from my armchair. Your prose and photos have been most enjoyable. I hope that you have celebrated reaching your goal with a fine Highland Park Scotch. I’m looking forward to your next challenging walk. Kia kaha, Vicky

    • But I’ll probably manage a more cheerful blog tomorrow unless I really sample 3 whiskies at the distillery

  3. You deserve a tot or three Tim as a reward after such a long, zig zagging walk through the lowlands and highlands. A fab record of events as always, penned in your inimitable style. Congratulations!!

  4. Well done Tim – at times you have made it sound like a stroll in the park – which I am sure it is not. You have been exceedingly lucky with the weather! – Have a save journey home – David

    • Hi Dave, I know you’re sure because you walked to Jerusalem the long way. This was a stroll in the park by comparison. I really hope we can do your Exmoor walk one day

  5. Well done on completing the walk. What an amazing journey. The daily updates and photos have been fascinating. Look forward to your next expedition.

    • Thanks. My next expedition will be East Finchley, looming on the horizon

  6. Tassie Kaz

    Congratulations Tim! 🎉 It’s been a treat to wake up to your installments every morning; I’ll miss them, as will the rest of ‘Tim’s Groupies’ (in recognition of the multiple references to your rock’n’roll attendance history…. 🤭)!
    Another epic journey successfully navigated; longer time-wise (although not necessarily distance) than the W88T but shorter than the VF…time well spent in all cases.
    I’m guessing I don’t need to mention which nation holds the honour of bearing the Largest Natural Harbour in the World?!?
    Safe trip home. 🤗

    • Hi Karen, I’ll also miss your regular contributions. Sometimes these over short days were frustrating compared to the distances we covered on the VF and the western part of Shikoku. And on that subject, I admit that I struggled to capture the very essence of my pilgrimage in the blog. Sometimes I think I must walk Shikoku again for another attempt at writing about it. I hope you are soon liberated and able to initiate your next trip

  7. Well done Tim.
    I have really enjoyed following your travels.
    Go enjoy that drink ( or 3)!

  8. Martin

    Well done. Another major success. The Surrey Hills will take some getting used to again.

    • Thanks. You’re right. We better not delay our weekly training session, but probably not this week

  9. Annette

    Tim I have enjoyed your daily communication of your walks, pictures and a bit of history. I will miss them until again. God Bless you! Stay Well! Annette

    • Hi Annette, thank you and I hope I got the little bits of history correct. Don’t depend on me in an exam! Stay well too

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