Straigona Bed & Breakfast, Orkney

Note: This is an out-of-sequence post about our recent trip to Scotland. More to come.

A little more than half-way through our trip, it was time to trade in our car for an airplane. The 45-minute flight from Inverness to Kirkwall would be a nice change after spending many days driving. Plus, this flight was between two little airports, minimizing the usual big-airport hassles. No long lines, no bus rides to distant terminals, no long treks to far away gates…everything in one place. And, you get to walk right out onto the tarmac to board the airplane–what fun!
Arriving in Kirkwall, we checked in with the car rental office (again, it was right there–no shuttle ride needed!), obtained the keys, and went off to find the car. After throwing the luggage in the back and ourselves in the front, we looked at each other and wondered (not for the first time) how we would find our way to our new “home.” It was getting on towards evening, we’d been traveling all day, we were a bit stressed out, and Google Maps was no longer being helpful. It was time for extreme measures. I took a deep breath, and I proceeded to use the phone as a phone. Brilliant.

And, by golly, it worked. In just a few seconds I was talking with Julie at Straigona B & B who assured me that we were only minutes away… a left, another left, and a quick right at the chicken coop. She’d even be waiting outside the front door looking for us and waving us in. Well, she wasn’t kidding… in 2 minutes we were there, and Julie was on the front porch waiting. I had no idea that I’d picked a B&B so conveniently located.

Straigona is a lovely 2-story modern house (but be careful… what we in the States would call the 2nd floor is called the 1st floor in the UK. I had forgotten that and was expecting to be on the ground level–not a preference, I just remembered reading on the website about the rooms being on the 1st floor. All the guest rooms are up one level, which is actually BETTER for reasons I’ll explain later. But I digress…) complete with chickens in the front yard, cats in the house (but not allowed in the guest areas), and sheep across the street. Perfect! We hauled our bags out of the car and into the foyer.

As we gazed around, Julie gave us a warm welcome and pointed out a few items of interest. The stairs behind us led up to the guest rooms–there are three… ours was named Inganess.  Shelves along the wall and staircase held brochures, guidebooks, maps, binoculars, and games. A short hallway led to the back of the house and the dining room where there was always homemade baked items available 😊 and a refrigerator for our use. We put in a request for a picnic lunch the next day and headed up to the room.

Standing just inside the door, we noticed the usual wonderful B&B amenities–charming double bed plus a single, two reading chairs, dresser with tea service, and attached bathroom. But the best thing about Inganess was the window! I didn’t measure it, but it was big. And, here is where being on the 2nd floor (in US-speak) paid off–the view. The window opened outward with no screen so you could stick your head (or your camera) out and take in the view–sheep, airport, sea, and sky. Fabulous! And at night–stars, Moon, even aurora, if you’re lucky. I highly recommend Inganess, if you can get it.

The next morning, we came downstairs to a lovely breakfast and this was waiting for us: img_3937
Truly, the best picnic lunch ever… ham and cheese (local!) sandwiches, chips, thermos of hot water for tea, thermos of milk, and more baked items. 😊 What made it even better is that we ate it here: img_3931…the ancient settlement of Skara Brae. Well, okay, so we ate it in the car while parked outside the visitor center at Skara Brae because it was cold and windy, but still…

After the restorative lunch, we headed down to the beach at Skara Brae. Wild and beautiful.img_3932

After spending a happy hour or so dodging waves and scouting around for interesting beach stuff, we headed back to Straigona.img_3934

Sitting in cozy Inganess, sipping tea and watching the sky, we realized–once again–that there was no way we’d be able to experience even 1/4 of what this area of Scotland has to offer. Although we did get to see a stone circle, a beautiful cathedral, and some amazing countryside, there was so much more. Two days were not enough.

So, way too soon, we were packing up and heading back to the little airport. img_4001

As we walked out to the plane, I turned to look across the fields at Straigona, giving it one last wave farewell and making a promise to return.straigona-rainbow

First Frost

This morning we awoke to frost, the first real sign that we have left summer behind and wandered into the realm of fall. Yes, the leaves have been changing colors and dropping; yet many still cling to their branches, refusing to accept the reality of the situation. Many leaves are still green. Many flowers are still blooming. The temperature has fallen, then rebounded. It has been easy to look around and say, “Well, it’s not really here yet.”

But this morning, the National Weather Service says it’s clear and 27 F. Gazing out the back windows, I have to agree. The yard seems to have aged overnight: the vegetation is droopy and touched with a fuzzy whiteness. The sun rises bright in a pale blue sky. I grab my camera, slip into my yard shoes, and head out.

Our painted wood deck is slippery; careful stepping is required. In the herb garden, the sage and parsley leaves are outlined in white, highlighting every edge and vein.img_4200Across the yard in the raised beds, the remaining Thai pepper plants are similarly transformed. I crunch my way across the frosty grass to take a closer look. The red and green peppers, and even a small pale yellow flower, hang among the newly variegated foliage. 

The Weather Service says that this frost is two weeks later than last year. I wonder what the yearly variation typically is… if there is anything “typical” about the weather and climate anymore. 🍂