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Saturday 14thJune 2008
Bettyhill to Stromness

I was hoping to make an early start in order to be sure of catching the midday ferry to the Orkneys.  As it turned out the earliest the hotel would serve breakfast was 8am – the same time that we had been eating all along.  We did our best to have all the luggage ready to load on the bike and to get away as early as possible as we had been told that we had to be in Scrabster by 12.45.  All was not lost if we missed this ferry as there was another much later in the day.

The first part of the ride to Reay was very up and down.  We seemed to be forever going down to sea level and then climbing out over the headland and over to the next dip at sea level.  It was raining on and off and quite windy though fortunately more with us than against us.  At Reay it came over very black and the heavens started to open.  Also at about this time, Christine’s cycle cape, which already had a slight rip, suddenly slit up the middle in the force of the wind.  The grocers shop in the village seemed like a good refuge on the pretext of buying lunch – but once inside we found that they also served hot drinks which was very welcome.  A customer told us that it was only another 10 miles to the ferry which raised our hopes of getting to the ferry on time, but at the same time my calculations indicated it was at least two miles further.  Nevertheless we seemed to be on schedule.  The rained had eased by the time we left.

Five miles from the ferry our spirits dropped.  Just 200 yards ahead of us, a farmer was letting his herd of sheep out of the field onto the main road – and they were going our way!  Half a mile further down the road he turned them off onto a farm track – what a relief.  With one mile to go the heavens opened again but it was pointless stopping.  We arrived at the ferry at 12.40 with officially five minutes to spare.  But guess what – the ferry was 15mins late due to bad weather so we had plenty of time.  The bike was duly loaded and we settled ourselves down to a bumpy crossing.  It wasn’t that bad in fact – just difficult to walk across the deck with cups of tea balanced on a tray and the sea sickness pills we had taken certainly prevented us from feeling ill.  We docked in Stromness soon after 3.30 having passed the Old Man of Hoy on the way.

Stromness is quite unusual with its paved streets – we were to see this elsewhere in the Orkneys – but it did make riding the tandem difficult.  Also, being perched on the side of a hill, we soon found ourselves pushing the bike up to the B&B which was at the top of the highest hill in the town – but with great views across the harbour and into Scapa Flow!  We had done enough cycling for the day – in the evening we walked down to town to look around and to find an evening meal.

Mileage 32.0 miles Total 458.2 miles

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