About Us

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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Saturday 13 July 2024

The only way out and the road was closed.

 Thursday 11th July

 Oh dear, the night was long and very noisy. As exposed as we were, all the roof furniture (satellite, solar panel, TV aerial) rattled and banged and the skylight above the cooker kept trying to take off. Sleep was intermittent, although I think Ian slept better than me. My plan was to wake early and do another hunt for those shells. I was too grumpy through lack of sleep to even drum up enough enthusiasm for such a task. Anyway we had a late breakfast, Ian phoned a Peugeot dealer in Kirkwall because we have a horrible rattle from the engine and even my man that can has no idea what it is. It is getting worse, so the last thing we want is to be recovered on an Island if we break down to go back to the UK mainland!

 I'm glad we didn't leave early today. We were watching as the tide started coming in, high tide was at 1 pm. A car turned up, 4 people got out and walked across the causeway. Looking at the clock, it was 10.10 am. This was the causeway then. 

At 10.20 am, water had already started lapping over the top. Where were those people? 10.29 am, suddenly they could be seen running down the hill from the lighthouse. Gosh, they left it late. The only way back across was to remove shoes and socks and wade. It states very plainly on a notice board to check the tide times before crossing. They obviously hadn't!

Following the lane back to the main road, we came across this. 

OMG, now what! This was the only way out, would we have to turn around and spend another day at the Brough of Birsay? Ian parked and walked up to see the chap. He was gone ages, and left me waiting on tenterhooks to what was happening. 

It was a good 20 minutes before he returned to say the road would be open again shortly. Resurfacing was why it had been closed.

Few, at least we would be able to continue to Skara Brae.

Advised to book, we chose Thursday as the best day to go. Cruise ships usually dock at Kirkwall every day, but not today. Our booking was for midday, we were early but were waved on and told to park. Skara Brae is unique as one of the most perfectly preserved Stone Age villages in Europe. It lay covered for hundreds of years by a sand dune, and in 1850 a storm uncovered part of the 5000-year-old village. Before entering the main site, a replica house had been built. It gave a good opportunity to enter and get a feel for what it must have been like to live in one.

A 5-minute walk took us to the village. Amazing and the £11 pp was well worth it. In fact, this price also got us into Skaill House.

From the village a short walk took us to Skaill House The house was originally built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham (Bishop of Orkney 1615-1638) and has been added to by successive generations over the centuries. Skaill comes from the Norse word for Hall and indicates that there would have been a feasting hall here in the Bay of Skaill during the Viking period. This is a fine example of a 17th-century mansion and in 1850 William Graham Watt, 7th Laird of Breckness, was the one to unearth the World famous neolithic village of Skara Brae. 

 We did a self-guided tour and for once we could take as many photos as we wanted.

On display in the drawing room was a visitor book signed by our late Queen.

We took our time looking around, and before we knew it, 2 hours had passed. Ian decided to head back to Kirkwall to find the Peugeot dealer. All we wanted was for one of the mechanics to have a listen to the engine and give an opinion. Well, forget ever going to this garage. The man was rude, said he had no time and wouldn't have any for the next few weeks! So Ian tried two more garages. They all said the same thing but without the rudeness. Ian was beginning to wonder if no one wanted to look at a motor home. Maybe the islanders object to these big beasts being on their narrow, lanes. So we are none the wiser as to what is wrong. If things start to go pear shaped, we may have to consider forgoing the Hebrides and head back to the main land instead.  

A proper camp site was found not far from Kirkwall. I needed a shower. Stand up washes are okay for a short while, but it's been a good 5 days since I have felt running water all over me. (discount the rain!) 

At this site, sheep shearing was taking place. Fascinating watching the men doing it. We arrived at the site by 3.30 pm. The last sheep was shorn at 7.45 pm, that's a lot of bending over and strain on the back. Hats off to these men for the strenuous job they do.

Friday 12 July 2024

Slightly more treacherous than I had anticipated

 Wed 10th July

The causeway started to appear much earlier than was thought. The low tide was 6.08 pm, and the receding tide showed the walkway at 3 pm. Rain still beat down but come hell or high water we were going to walk across.

3.30 pm on went the waterproofs. Just reached the steps when Ian mentioned the sticks. The causeway itself wasn't slippery, but those rocks were another matter. Seaweed also clung to the boulders, and those sticks came into their own. Thank goodness Ian remembered them.

On the island were ruins.  Between the AD 600s and 1200s, the area was settled by the Picts and the Norse The Picts were a group of Scottish people from the Middle Ages. They resided North of the Firth of Forth. The Norse, generally referred to as Norsemen, came from the north of Scandinavia.  They were full-time traders and seafarers and settled in the islands north and northwest of Britain, Ireland, and western Britain.  I struggled to take photos, the camera was enclosed in a sandwich bag and difficult to extract. The rain in the wind was almost horizontal, something the photos do not show. Still I managed a few, and for once, Ian with his waterproof phone took more than me. He sent me this!

On the way back, we looked for a certain shell. If one was found and put in a purse, it is said that the purse will never be empty. Ian in his usual droll way said, 'Of course it won't be empty, it will have the shell in it'!

Well, my purse will often be empty because we never found one!

What I did see was these weird creatures

It looked like a wood louse but larger and it could jump.

The night was to be spent here. It was very exposed, the wind howled outside and rain continued to fall. I wonder what sort of night we will have?

Thursday 11 July 2024

Strange place to put a wall!

10th July

 Sunset over Marwick Head last night.


  Last night, the car park started to fill again with camper vans and motor homes. Next to us came a converted van with a sliddy door. We hate sliddy doors, although we did have one in NZ with the Toy (my name for the Toyota Hiace.) Why do some people have no regard for their fellow campers because slamming the door every time they left or went back in seemed to be the norm. In NZ, we tried our hardest to close the door quietly, ever mindful of folk still sleeping. That one next to us didn't care a toss! 5.15 am the person got out, slammed the door and then slammed it again. We think he must have gone for a P because he returned very quickly, slamming the door twice again!

The rain started around 6 am. Just a steady drizzle, but soon turned into a deluge. This was set to be in for the day. So what to do? The rain continued up until 10 30 when it slowed to a drizzle again. We made a break for the bird hide at The Loons. At least it would be dry inside. But it appeared as if the birds were not at all interested, the weather must have put them off because, apart from a few ducks, they failed to put in an appearance. We stuck it out for an hour. On the blackboard inside the hide, sightings of an Otter had been seen not many days ago. We lived in hope, but it was not to be.

Ducks, Curlew, Hooded crow and Oyster catchers, that was all we saw.

The only other place on our agenda for today was the Brough of Birsay. We rather fancied the walk across to the island at low tide, which wasn't until 18.08pm. 

Strange as we travelled along one of the lanes that beside the road was a semicircular wall. Anchors went on as Ian suddenly exclaimed it was the Listening Wall. A convenient lay-by in which to stop meant we could go and see what it was all about. 

 We stood silently waiting to be amazed by the bird sounds, but all we got were cars going past, wind whistling around the wall, and a tractor in a distant field!

Our destination car park with its picnic tables was lovely, and would be idyllic in calm warm weather conditions. Today, with the wind coming from the North, it was cold and blustery. We were still determined to walk across the causeway to the island later, even though the wet, cold and windy conditions will remain for the rest of the day, thank goodness I remembered to bring my thermal underwear!

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Yea at last. T-Shirt weather!

My goodness coaches started arriving very early. Well before 8 am, we assumed a cruise ship must be in and one of the attractions for those on the cruise was the Ring of Brodgar.  We thought it might be a good idea to get up because where we had parked was in a grassy area. It did appear to have once been a coach parking bay so in case more coaches arrived, it would be better if we left. But before setting off Ian happened to glance at the back of MB. OMG, what did I say about flies always being around? Not just on the back but sides too and on the windows there looked to be white bugs of some sort. The broom came in handy to sweep quite a few off.

  Before 9 we set off, not toward the RSPB Marwick Head as planned, but back to Kirkwall to shop and empty the loo. Nowhere is very far on Orkney, we only had 7 km to do to get back to civilization.

All jobs done, the road we took to get to Marwick Head took us past Corrigall Farm Museum. It was mentioned in one of the brochures that it commemorated a bygone age of farming and we both wanted to see that. But down this narrow track for a mile, we reached, what looked like, a car park. So very quiet we wondered if not many tourists made it this far. But no, the place was closed and would be for the whole of 2024!!!! Typical!

On the way to Marwick lots of cars parked in a layby. A quick look at the map showed a bird hide to be nearby. Blast, not a space to be seen so we had to leave that for another day.

Finally at our destination and once again we wondered where to park. Cars had followed us down so Ian had to move MB forward. This proved in our favour because while those other cars sorted themselves out,  a car right by us left. It was long enough for MB to back into. By the parking spot was another of those cake cupboards. That would do and maybe we could get a cake too.


Unfortunately, there was nothing inside, we must have been too late for the goodies. It must be very popular because cars pulled up to check the contents only to turn away disappointed. A very lucrative business for Ann.

What we did was go for a walk. A memorial to Kitchener & HMS Hampshire  was seen high on a hill. The day was glorious, one of the warmest and driest days we have had. Off came the jeans and woolly jumper and on went T-Shirt and shorts. Ian took a photo of me as we set off for the memorial.

The walk started easy although the track was uneven and stony. Once on the grass, the ascent began, it didn't seem too bad but the nearer the top we got the more difficult the terrain. and by the time we reached the top, I was knackered! We did stop several times to admire the views, well that was my excuse to take a breather.

Hard bit

A bit too near to the edge!

The easy bit

We were away from MB for three hours, got chatting to several bird enthusiasts, and sat by the cliff edge watching the birds. This was also an RSPB reserve, the cliffs were full of Kittiwakes, Fulmer's, Razer Bills, Guillemots, but hardly any Puffins. I was surprised to see three, they must have found some nooks and crannies to nest in.

When we reached the memorial,  a board explained all about the sinking of HMS Hampshire and about Lord Kitchener himself. It makes interesting reading. Also The Orkney Heritage Society raised funds and erected a new memorial wall next to the Kitchener  memorial. All those names, over 700 and a Jamieson too. Wrong spelling though so not one of our ancestors.

The walk back was hard on us both and at one challenging, uneven bit, Ian felt a shooting pain in his knee. He had to hobble back but it was very slow going!

Because the afternoon was getting on, we decided to stay at this car park. It was shown as a Park4Night and staying to rest Ian's knee was the best option. Rain has been forecast for tomorrow and we had hoped to go to Brough of Birsay. It is an island at high tide but joined to the mainland at low tide via a sand bar. That will be a decision for tomorrow, then.

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