Posted by: brendaintheboro | July 17, 2017

Cycling in the Orkney Isles – part 1

We first cycled on the large island , Orkney Mainland , in 2006.  This was part of our almost 3000 mile trip around the  North Sea Cycle Route (NSCR) and took us 9 weeks. At that time, there were ferries running from Bergen in Norway to Shetland in the far north of Scotland and from there to Orkney.

We have often thought about a return visit to the Orkneys and spurred on by all the archaeological developments in the intervening years , we decided to head north. At first we considered taking the train, but due to  the wildly changing weather conditions combined with the high cost of an open rail ticket, we decided to drive north. DH does not like driving with our Kogas  on the back of the car so we decided, as the cycle distances we would cover would not be great, we would use our folders. We can get both of these and all our camping gear in the back of our medium sized car.

As I didn’t want to arrive worn out, we, well me, decided to split the journey and stay overnight at an affiliate hostel . We chose Slochd Mhor near Carrbridge and it was a lovely quiet stay. The couple who own it, also have cycle hire and cross country ski hire  but said that the snow was very poor last winter. They have a car with its own attached snow plough.

Next morning, after a comfortable  night in a twin bedded room, we were on our way to catch the ferry from Scrabster, near Thurso , over to Stromness. While waiting for the ferry we had a walk around Thurso and saw some people having  instruction in dry stone building.

The crossing takes about 1 1/2 hours but can be longer depending on weather conditions. No problem that day, as it was  very smooth sailing and we arrived at about 3.30 pm.


The ferry passes by the island of Hoy and near to the sea stack  called the Old Man of Hoy.

I first heard of this sea stack when I was a school girl and we had a visit from climber Chris Bonnington. He talked about climbing it and also about his then unsuccessful attempts on K2 in the Himalayas. I think even back then as a 15 year old, I had adventure in my soul. However, I have no head for heights, so climbing was not for me.


We still had no real idea where we were going to camp and after having a bite to eat half way up the hill out of the town, we decided to return to the Ness campsite. Its very exposed on the headland but has good facilities for cycle tourers with a lounge and kitchen but we were lucky with the weather.

Then in the evening, we had a walk around the headland which also has a golf course.


There were cotton grass and other wild flowers  as well as a number  oyster catchers on the course.


We also saw evidence of these islands involvement in WW2 and how they helped the Brtitsh Navy.


Then out to sea , there was a lighthouse and we could see seals closer in.

Did  you know that there is a society dedicated to lighthouses? I didn’t but we met some people who were on a tour to look at the lighthouses and they were on a very tight schedule to fit them all in.



  1. What an adventure. I look forward to the next instalment.

  2. I am interested in your folding bikes – you probably talk about them earlier in your blog – where should I look to read about them. I am in Canada but interested in biking in the uk using folding bikes and rail.

    • Hi Jean, this is our first tour together on our folders and went very well. You can see initial posts on 24th Sept 2012 for my Dahon speed TR and 5th March2017 for the Bickerton 1808. Both cycles were customised to have 28 gears from a 9 speed cassette and a 3 speed internal hub. DH has a bigger front chain ring than my Dahon. Both these bikes have an internal fold , so the handlebars go between the wheels and are fairly compact. The gearing means we can ride most places. The fold means we can get on both trains and some buses without booking, when they are in their bags. DH resisted a folder for years but came round to the idea after we met an American couple touring on Bike Fridays. They didn’t fold as well as ours though. Bus travel sometimes depends on the driver. Hope this helps.

      • Thank you very much for the helpful reply, I will have a read of your 24 sept post and have a look at them on line.

      • Hope this is of use Jean. Let me know if you are coming to the north of the UK

  3. thanks TP

  4. Very interesting and very adventurous! Look forward to reading more.

    • thanks Lizzie- getting other parts up as soon as I can. need to remember it while I can.

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