Last night we left Aberdeen and this morning FRAM reached the port of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands at 7.30. The outside temperature was already 9°C and the weather improved during the day.
With a population of 8500, Kirkwall is the main town and capital of the Orkneys. St Magnus cathedral –owned by the people- and the Bishop Palace, rise over a town surrounded by rolling hills.
Nature and the elements dictate the place of life here. Spring and summer bring a flush of green and agriculture is still the main activity, while the fishing industry comes second.
First mentioned in the Saga in 1046, Kirkwall and the Orkneys are a place of history. Here you will find some of the most famous archaeological sites in Europe like the Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Stennes or the newly discovered Neolithic Temple at Ness of Brodgar. Many of us enjoyed a guided visit to some of those historical sites.
Others went for bird watching to a place called Marwik Head, a nature reserve managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds), Europe’s biggest society dedicated to the protection of seabirds. This is the place where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet: here thousands of guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins raise their chicks on the cliffs.
On their way they all enjoyed a stop at the “Loons”, a wetland with a very good viewing platform: swans, geese, ducks, curlew and other waders were spotted. Before returning back to town a stop allowed them to see the peat bogs, peat being still a mean of heating the homes on the island.
While visiting Kirkwall, we all agreed on the special atmosphere that comes with this place, a mix of history and modern life, with good shopping opportunities. FRAM left the port of Kirkwall at 21.00, heading for the Shetlands, some 100 nautical miles north of here, and were we will spend another day of discovery.