We set off for Orkney in the old battle bus that we’d thankfully packed the night before. 0730hrs, in the pelting rain and freezing cold, with 5hrs sleep and 2 mugs of coffee inside me. We lifted the kids out of bed and put them straight in the car, with teddies and fleecy blankets to snuggle under.
We’re lucky we got past Nairn – some eejit objected to me driving at 50mph through a flooded road and overtook. Just as I came across a deeeeeeep puddle on a slight bend. I couldn’t brake, because another Immortal was badly tail-gating me, I couldn’t swerve because the original Immortal was on my outside. So I straightened up, inwardly braced and hoped for the best. The water made quite some wave and we were lucky not to skid. I think my heart-rate hit normal round about Inverness…
So we stopped in Inverness for breakfast and get changed into normal clothes (kids – me and The Boss never wear normal clothes). We were some sight in the Tesco cafe: 5 knackered-looking porridge-munchers, 3 still in pyjamas.
As the rain died down to just ‘torrential’, we saw more and more of our beautiful coastline. Maxi and Midi Minx counted oil rigs along the Cromarty Firth, Mini Minx cried and wailed at not being cuddled for a *whole 20 mins* (the deprivation), while I nagged The Boss to slow down and chill out.
We stopped in Wick around midday to buy some ferry provisions (yeah ok – biscuits), just as the rain stopped. It was only a short wee drive on to Gill’s Bay, just past John O’Groats, to get the Pentland Ferry. I don’t know why, but I was really surprised to see quite a few of the Orkney islands right there, almost close enough to touch. I knew they were next to the coast, but I’d never noticed on a map how close. And once upon a time, I was a navigator. The shame…
The little ferry docked and on we drove. I think its capacity is 75 cars, but only 40 or so boarded. So exciting, because none of the minxes have ever been on a ferry before! We went up to the sun deck as the sun split the heavens and me, Mini and Maxi spent most of the hour trip there, away from all the car alarms. Midi got a bit nervous with the rocking of the boat as we lumped through the maelstroms of the firth. Crikey, they really were! Whirlpools and surf in the middle of nowhere! I looked back to see the Scottish coast under a heavy rain shower, while the Orkneys were bathed in uninterrupted sun. Hooray!
About 10 mins after docking in St Margaret’s Hope, we were on our way, over rolling green hills and over the 4 causeways of the Churchill barriers.
The girls liked the rusting wreck next to one, and didn’t recognise the reality from the rain-lashed, misty images on Google Maps that I’d shown them. We screeched past the Italian Chapel (photo is a drive-by pic), on past the Highland Park distillery (oooooh, I’ll be back one day!) and on to Kirkwall.