Orkney, Scotland. Outside, the cold rain is driven sideways by a relentless
wind. The ferries have been canceled, and I am stranded. My traveling companion,
who must be back to work in a day, has abandoned me, catching a flight out at
the tiny airport at Kirkwall. There is nothing to do in this weather but what
I am doing—having a pint and a dram at the Stromness Hotel, watching the
raindrops pelt the windows. I couldn’t be happier.
It pays to be flexible, and traveling in Scotland in October gives you a flexibility impossible in midsummer. I started visiting late-season because I had no choice, but quickly found it an ideal time to wander the country in a rental car. Most tourist sites are open through the month, but the summer crowds are gone, and, with a little care, finding lodging daily is not a problem. Yes, the weather is iffy, but if that bothers you, well, you’re in the wrong place, anyway.
The place…I’ve been to most every corner of Scotland, from Edinburgh to Lewis to Shetland to Islay. There is no place as magical as Orkney. I visited these mysterious isles on my first trip to Scotland, dashing around the main island for a day and a half, trying to see the astonishing array of archeological sites as quickly as possible. I realized that I was giving the place short shrift, and vowed to return. This year I planned a week, but when my good friend Win decided to come along, we reduced it to five nights to suit his schedule. Three more nights were dedicated to the loop around the northern mainland.
October in Orkney was written as a travel article, although I never sold it.
Revised January 2015.
Some photos are from 1998 and 2003.