Thursday, 7 November 2013

Travels with Li Dongni - Natural and Historic Orkney (July 2012)

This is the second post looking at our long road trip to the beautiful Orkney Islands.  The first post looked at the islands' unique Neolithic heritage.  This post will look at some of the more recent historic sites we visited, and some of the natural beauty on offer.

One of the most unusual sites on Orkney is the 'Italian Chapel' near the Churchill Barriers.  Built by Italian POWs in 1943 from Nissen Huts to serve their nearby POW camp, the chapel is both an amazing survival and the interior a wonderful piece of artwork in its own right - particularly the painted 'stonework'.

The capital of Orkney, Kirkwall, contains a number of interesting historical sights, as well as being a very nice place to explore and do a bit of shopping in.  The cathedral is the star attraction, with its solid red sandstone Romanesque architecture.

A particularly unusual feature of the cathedral was the sheer number of 17th Century tombstones lined up inside featuring variations on a skull and crossbones motif.  While no doubt intended to carry a form of 'as I am, so you shall be' message, it was striking to see so many in one building and so many with such wonderful quality carvings.  Here are just a small selection.

Kirkwall also boasts two historic palaces - the Bishop's Palace and the Earl's Palace.  We actually arrived quite late in the day and just got inside before last entry so didn't have as long to explore as we might have liked.

Essentially, the Bishop's Palace is the older of the two, and dates to the 12th Century.  The adjacent Earl's Palace was begun in the early 17th Century and was the replacement for the Bishop's Palace, by then seen to be too small and old fashioned.  The Earl's Palace was built in French Renaissance style and the grandeur it once had is still clear to see.

Of course, one of the great joys of Orkney is simply enjoying its natural beauty, be it on the endless coastline at Yesnaby or at the top of a viewing point like Wideford Hill.  To finish, here are some of my favourite images taken while travelling around.

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