Although I missed the summer, and hit a windy weekend, I made it to Orkney in time to see it at its best, in sunshine. The ferry from Scrabster, at the very top of Scotland, takes under two hours, and leaves you in Stromness, where I had decided to stay.
As a result, I had to hop on a bus to get to Kirkwall, but the 8:10 got me there for 8:40, leaving plenty of time to stroll around the town and have a look over the course. It’s easier to do than to describe, with nearly three laps going back and forth past the Peedie sea (Peedie is an Orcadian word, for ‘small’ – it used to form a natural harbour). There are plenty of places to stay in Kirkwall if you’d rather, with the Peedie hostel overlooking the route.
There’s plenty to see from the bus, with views of the sea on both sides at one point. The fields are full of sheep (sheep) and cows (coos), for extra highlights.
In the sun, the place looked gorgeous, but the wind blowing towards the sea at our backs was enough to slow us all down as we ran across the middle of the course. Turnout, at 34, was a nice size for a course that has two out-and-back sections on narrow paths, though they’ve had over 100, which must have been a little more chaotic.
It’s all on paths, so unless the sea floods in you’ll have no difficulty with grip. And although the course description sounds complex, it’s very easy to follow. It’s also very easy to find – I hopped off the bus beside Tesco, knowing that was on the route, but if you stay on till the travel centre in Kirkwall, you’ll still be in sight of the course.
After a lovely run, as the weather brightened and the wind seemed less significant (more because I wasn’t trying to run into it, I suspect, than because it had disappeared – it only got stronger towards Sunday), I had a wander round Kirkwall itself, which is a charming town with a small centre.
The parkrun is also near the harbour, where they play the Ba game. I chose purely to imagine how it would feel to score the winning goal, fully immersing the ball in the sea – the sign nearby points out that players often immerse themselves, too, and it’s hard to imagine being given the time to score while pursued by a scrum of players without hurling yourself into the cold-looking water. I sat overlooking it in the sun, instead.