Second of two Adventure Show specials in which Cameron McNeish undertakes a 150-mile journey through some of the least visited parts of Scotland.
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Welcome back to this year's journey through Scotland.
I've travelled to many exotic and far-flung corners of the world,
but let me tell you this right now -
nothing can beat what can be found right here on our doorstep.
And here's a second thought.
It's not simply the obvious that makes our country
a world-class landscape.
For me, it's the many hidden places
I'm still discovering as I again explore
more of our Roads Less Travelled.
And the second part of my journey has got a lot to live up to.
Since leaving Dornoch, at the southern tip of Sutherland,
I've experienced the grandeur and majesty of the north-east coastline,
together with those huge expanses
that make up the Flow Country of Caithness.
This is a landscape I'll return to again and again,
but for now it's time to leave the mainland behind
and travel even further north.
In this second part of the programme,
I'm crossing a rather sombre-looking Pentland Firth on my way to Orkney,
where I'm told the sun always shines.
And that's what I'm hoping for.
My journey by bike,
on foot and with my trusted camper van is a journey of exploration.
It's one where I'll be meeting people whose lives
have been shaped by these landscapes.
Some have chosen to make these Orkney Islands their home,
others were born and bred here.
This is where we used to go when we were young bairns.
My father would take us here for a walk
and he would point to all the wildlife.
It sticks in my mind as being a very significant place.
We have fantastic big skies,
we have beautiful sunrises,
we have the northern lights.
It's got a very, very special feel about it.
There's always something happening.
What more do you want?
'And if there's one word you always associate with Orkney,
'This is a rich treasure-trove that gives a fascinating insight
'into our past.'
There's remains going back to the Neolithic,
so back to 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.
And there's maybe earlier stuff that we've just not found yet.
There's literally archaeology everywhere.
And I'm excited about finishing my trip with a personal first -
a visit to the most northern tip of these islands.
I can promise you an amazing journey,
so why don't you stay with me every step of the way?
I've landed in South Ronaldsay
and the sun is trying to come out,
it's trying very hard.
South Ronaldsay is the fourth-largest of the 70 islands
and skerries that make up the Orkney archipelago.
16 of these islands are inhabited.
And at this point, I have to remind myself
that it is Orkney I'm referring to,
and not the Orkneys.
I mean, I wouldn't talk about the Irelands, or the New Zealands,
or the Hawaiis. So Orkney is plural.
It actually comes from the old Norse word Orkneyjar,
which means Seal Islands.
This is St Margaret's Hope.
The population is only 550, so it's really quite a wee village.
And yet it's the third largest settlement in Orkney,
after Kirkwall and Stromness.
I'm interested in the origin of the place name here -
"St Margaret's Ope."
"Ope" is hope.
And it simply means a sheltered bay.
But it's the St Margaret's part that I'm really interested in,
and there are two schools of thought as to the origin.
In 1290, a ship set sail from Bergen in Norway, bound for Leith.
On board was a seven-year-old child called Margaret,
the anointed Queen of Scots.
And she was on her way south,
where she had been betrothed to marriage with the king of England.
Sadly, on that voyage, she died.
She died apparently of acute seasickness.
And the boat came into this bay and landed here.
Now, the other school of thought says that the St Margaret involved
was Queen Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III of Scotland.
Now, my heart goes with the Maid of Norway story,
but my head tells me that it's more likely that St Margaret
was Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm III.
That's where this village gets its name from.
I'm tempted to linger here, but there's so much more to explore.
And in the true spirit of my roads less travelled,
I'm focusing on five very contrasting places.
From here on South Ronaldsay,
I'll be making a short stop on mainland Orkney
before travelling over to the hilly landscape of Rousay.
Then there's the flat, open spaces of Sanday,
before journey's end on the remote,
rugged island of North Ronaldsay.
Since arriving in Orkney,
I've become very aware that this isn't a landscape
that shouts out at you.
It's much more subtle than that.
It kind of whispers its message to you.
So, because of that, I'm going to go off and do some exploring on my own,
and just create some time to let those whispers reach me.
You know, I've only come a couple of miles from St Margaret's
and I've found this little bay.
It's so peaceful and so quiet.
I bet you nobody comes here, other than a few locals.
Today it's just me. Me and a few waders and of course the seals.
They're lying there, just hoping the sun will come out now and again.
You know, one of the lovely things about taking roads less travelled
is I'm not slavishly following guidebooks.
Simply look at the map in the morning and think,
"Oh, that looks interesting. I think I'll go there."
And when I looked at this map this morning,
I found this little place, not very far from St Margaret's,
and it's called Grimness.
And I thought, "I've got to go there. Grimness."
And here I am.
And it's anything but grim.
But I am fascinated in the Orkney place names.
Gaelic was never, ever spoken in Orkney.
The Pictish people may have used a form of Gaelic,
but that was wiped out when the Vikings came, speaking Norse.
And when the Vikings settled here,
that Norse language derived into a language known as Norn,
and that lasted until the middle of the 18th century,
when English became the predominant language.
Here we are at the summit of Grimness.
And of course, I do realise that Grimness doesn't necessarily
have a negative connotation.
It probably means grim ness -
ness the headland,
Grim could well have been someone's name.
The headland of Mr Grim.
South Ronaldsay is connected to mainland Orkney by four causeways,
known as the Churchill Barriers.
Now, as you might have guessed, these were built
during the Second World War to block access to Scapa Flow,
where the British naval fleet was stationed.
But even prior to the building of the Churchill Barriers,
60 block ships were sunk in the various channels
around these southern islands to stop submarine access.
And you can see the remains of one of them just behind me here.
While the Churchill barriers were built predominately for defensive reasons,
the people of Orkney must have been absolutely delighted
to have them as causeways.
Can you imagine how long it would take to drive
from St Margaret's Hope to Kirkwall if you had to catch four ferries?
It would take all day.
It would be all too easy to be seduced
by Orkney's real tourist attractions,
but I'm determined to stick to my policy of roads less travelled
and look out some of the lesser-known highlights.
And that brought me here, to Orkney's fifth causeway,
if you like, the secret causeway.
And I'm going to walk along here onto the island of Hunda
and I'm going to have a wee explore across there,
unless the wind has other thoughts and blows me off this causeway.
Hunda island is actually quite small,
it's probably less than half a square mile.
The name means Dog Island,
and it comes from the ancient Norse language,
the language that was spoken in Scandinavia
between the ninth and 13th centuries,
which really just shows the Scandinavian influence
that was spread right through these islands.
That was a nice leg stretch,
and it's good to get out of the vehicle for a wee while.
It's brought me up to the high point on Hunda island,
a massive 42 metres above sea level.
It's not high, but it feels high.
It's a great view all round.
I can see the houses of St Margaret's Hope behind me here.
And in front of me this great stretch of water that's Scapa Flow.
My various journeys tend to be in the mountains,
or on wild coastal landscapes like this one.
And if I have one rule of thumb,
it's to avoid large centres of population.
But I'm going to break that rule today,
because I'm heading for Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney.
There's a couple of people there that I want to go and visit.
People who in many ways embody the very character,
the very soul of these northern islands.
This is the High Street, Kirkwall, mainland Orkney.
And the place I'm about to visit now is not only a focal centre for
the local community,
but attracts people from every corner of the UK
And here's an admission.
For all of my adult life, I've been a bit of a folkie.
I just love our traditional music,
so I'm not going to pass by an opportunity
to meet two of our finest instrumentalists.
The Wrigley Sisters are twins,
but they could equally be ambassadors for Orcadian music.
They've toured all over the world,
but now devote their energies to the place they were born.
Jennifer and Hazel are the driving force behind a music school
that is a focal point for these islands.
Music that has been the backbone of life here for centuries.
We grew up in Deerness in the east mainland of Orkney.
There was music everywhere.
I mean, there would be something wrong with you
if you came from a place like Orkney
and didn't know a bit about the traditional music.
Locally to us there were dozens of folk that we would go and
visit regularly and play tunes with.
You were immersed in the tradition.
We were given musical instruments on our eighth birthday.
Jennifer got a fiddle and I got a guitar.
I seem to remember attempting the cello
because the group really needed a cello,
so I had the guitar and the cello.
The cello, it never really took off because it got caught in the wind!
We had to transport it.
It was really hard work to carry.
I've got one arm longer than the other!
The guitar is extremely portable,
and in theory it can do the job of three musicians all at once.
For the bass patterns in the left hand
would be where the guitar comes into its fore, I suppose.
So you should be able to hear...
You can hear the bass.
Then you can add the harmony.
-Something like that, maybe.
How much of your music is inspired by Orkney,
by the landscapes in Orkney?
I think everybody that lives in a place like Orkney can't help
being inspired by everything around them.
It's such an amazing place.
You know, all the different seasons and...
And it makes a special kind of person,
I think, to live here as well.
People tend to be quite tough but quite soft-spoken
and quite kind and understated.
And that's because they know their place against the elements
Everyone has respect for one another
and for the place that they live in.
I liken traditional music to being like your dialect.
When you sit next to someone,
your father or your grandfather,
and you learn how to speak when you're peedie.
They've got a certain mannerism or a rhythm in their voice,
and when you sit and learn a tune from them,
you pick that same mannerism up.
I wonder if you could play me something that was,
in your mind, typically Orcadian?
Something I can go away with that will always
for me say, "That's Orkney".
In Orkney we have an awful lot of polkas.
They're all in the key of D, aren't they?
So which one will we pick?
There's a really well-known one called Jimmy o' the Bu's.
You should be able to hear the distinctive kind of
tapping your feet in twos when you're dancing,
cos you've got two feet.
So you kind of have this...
SHE SINGS RHYTHM
Wonderful. Thank you very much indeed. That was beautiful.
I could listen to the Wrigley Sisters all day.
But it's time to move on...
This time, a short ferry journey of less than 30 minutes,
to nearby Rousay.
Until today, I've always thought of Hoy as Orkney's hilly island.
But Rousay isn't far behind.
Yet it's not just the high land that attracts me.
This place has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years,
and today is still home to over 200 people.
One of these is Bruce Mainland,
whose family has lived here for generations.
He's a man whose DNA is Rousay through and through.
We had a great upbringing here.
You know, you spent half your life at the shore,
jumping around on the rocks and turning over stones
and finding crabs and things.
It's just absolutely idyllic.
Every day was like, well, memory of course enhances it likely,
but every day was like today.
You got up in the morning,
you had lots of friends around you.
You're almost related to everybody, so lots of cousins and everything,
and everybody played at the shore
and wandered through the fields and came out here and just...
Freedom, that's the word.
When I was young, which is a while ago now,
there was only primary education here.
You could go to the school here until you are 12
and then there was the famous 11-plus.
And, you know, you had to sit this really
life-changing exam, really, when you think about it.
-Because if you didn't pass it you stayed in the primary school
in Rousay here. And if you passed it you had the opportunity to go
to the grammar school in Kirkwall.
And I think our parents wanted us to have a better education
than what they had had.
So I left to go to Kirkwall School at 12 years old, and then on to...
Well, I joined the Merchant Navy and went to college after that.
I certainly didn't want to leave, and
I think it probably affected me for the rest of my life.
Are any of your contemporaries from your primary school times
still actually living on the island?
There's very few what I would call local Orcadians
left on the island anyway.
There's maybe three folk left
that would be my age, or roughly my age.
Three or four folk. The island's been heavily depopulated
as far as Rousay-bred folk.
Most of them have left.
What do you feel about the future of the island?
I think I'm slightly worried about the future
because the island's changing pretty dramatically,
this last ten years especially.
Property prices have changed,
they're more on a par with what they are on the mainland.
So it's quite difficult for younger folk to buy property here.
So that tends to...
I mean, there's older folk,
folk my age and older retired folk who are buying the property and...
And of course, anybody's very welcome because you need folk in
the community to make a community,
and everybody contributes towards it,
but you need younger folk as well
to keep the community going in the future.
We have had a few folk come in recently,
younger folk that have got bairns.
So I'm optimistic, but we need more young folk to come here.
How frustrated do you become,
looking out here and seeing all the natural resources you have -
the wind, the tides -
and yet it seems to be not an awful lot has been done about it.
I think it's probably the biggest frustration at the moment.
I mean, we're standing here and you see the tide rushing past.
Yeah, desperately frustrated.
The wind, you know, this is as calm as we ever get it here,
in the winter they're producing a lot of energy.
So I think the peripheral islands,
Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles...
you know, there's not that much opportunity in these places.
There's fishing and there's agriculture and what have you,
but the one natural resource that we have here
is wind and water and tide.
Renewable energy has a tremendous potential in terms of jobs.
But the most important thing about renewable energy is that it's energy.
You know, we can't live without it. We just cannot live without energy.
We know that coal is going to run out,
maybe not in our generation, but in the future.
So to not exploit that is a ridiculous situation.
But some young people are managing to stay on Rousay.
And I've met up with two of them in the island's cafe.
Grant Mainland is one of Bruce's cousins,
and he and Kirsty Tunbridge have been friends since childhood.
Both are convinced there are many advantages to island life.
As a teenager, Kirsty moved to the Orkney mainland,
but it wasn't long before she was back.
I moved to Stromness when I was 16 and came back when I was 19.
I think I just wanted that bit of independence.
And obviously being out here, we're just, you know, island life.
I just wanted to experience something else.
I think I lasted like three years and I was back.
And do you see yourself staying here permanently?
I would like to think I would, yeah.
I would like to buy a house here or build a house here,
But I think that it's good to go away when you're younger,
to go and experience some other stuff and then you appreciate
the island more as well then.
I found when I went away and then came back,
I appreciate it a lot more now than what I did when I was younger.
You're both fortunate that you've got regular work.
I mean, how much work like that is available for people your age?
It's women's jobs that's more harder...
There's a lack, yeah.
There's a lack of women's jobs.
Because, you know, men can come out and they can do building, farming,
there's the fish farms.
But women, it's just kind of either bar work or home care,
where it's not regular enough to be secure for them.
Honestly, I would say the way it's going,
more people are moving away and less people are coming in, I suppose, as well.
So it's hard to say what's going to happen eventually.
And it would be a real pity if the population of a place like Rousay
dropped even further.
This is a fantastic island,
and there's no better way to explore it than on two wheels.
When I was a young lad in Glasgow,
every year we used to go to Millport, in the Firth of Clyde,
and we would hire a bike and cycle round the island.
Everybody did it, it was great fun.
But it opened up a whole new world to me.
It made me realise that you could almost feel the island from a bike.
Once you'd cycled round the island,
you got the impression that you really knew the place.
So when I came over here to Rousay,
I saw on the map a lovely circular route of 13 or 14 miles.
The only problem is,
nobody told me that there was a category one hill climb
near the start of it!
But the good thing about climbing up the hill on the bike
is you have to go down again.
What goes up must go down.
Rousay was originally known as Rolf's Island.
And in the middle of the 13th century,
that was kind of changed to Rolfsey.
And in the intermediate years it's became known as Rousay.
But in the middle of the 19th century,
there were almost 1,000 people living here,
and there must have been a real buzz about the place.
They were employed in agriculture and fishing
and all the associated trades.
Since then, it's become a bit quieter
but there's still lots of scattered ruins about the island.
It gives you a sense that people have lived here
for a long, long time.
What a super bike ride!
I've really been enjoying this.
But there's something I want to see before I finish this ride.
And it's the kind of thing that everybody comes to Orkney to see.
This is the Midhowe Broch,
and I'm fascinated by brochs.
I'm fascinated largely because
nobody can really tell me explicitly what they were for.
Some people say that they were the 45 homes of rich families.
Other people say they were defensive structures, part of a community,
and when the enemy approached,
everybody roundabout would gather themselves
and move inside the broch and slam the door shut
and they were protected.
Current thinking is that possibly they were both -
they were fortified homes and they were also defensive structures,
which would make a lot of sense, I think.
There are the two walls,
an inner wall and an outer wall, which support each other,
and you could move round the building inside the walls.
This one date back to roundabout the 1st century AD
and it's one of five brochs that actually ring this island of Rousay.
What a fantastic structure!
And it's really got my imagination going,
but I'm just about to head to another island now
where my imagination is going to be put into overdrive.
So far, I've wandered through South Ronaldsay
and I've walked over the causeway to Hunda.
I've visited mainland Orkney
and taken that short ferry journey to Rousay.
Now it's time to travel even further afield
and head for my final two islands -
Sanday and North Ronaldsay.
I've landed on the island of Sanday
and already I can see that it's quite different
from the other islands I've been on.
Lots of people have said to me, "You must visit Sanday."
It's the largest the northern Orkney Islands.
It's got quite a good population.
As several people said,
there's lots of nice nooks and crannies,
well worth exploring, so that's what I'm going to do.
I'm going to find somewhere to dump the camper van
and then set off on foot.
I'm taking a little stroll along a lovely narrow peninsula
that leads to a place called Tres Ness,
where I'm told I might well find the remains
of a Neolithic chambered cairn.
I'm pretty excited about that.
Sanday is flat and low lying.
It almost feels as if I'm in the Netherlands.
And, to be honest, I'm not sure if this is my kind of place,
but I'm not going to jump to hasty conclusions.
What I do know is that this is turning out to be a perfect day,
and I'm intrigued by the sand dunes towering above me.
There's beauty here, but there's also drama.
It's said as you get older that you sometimes repeat yourself,
often quite endlessly.
And I don't know how many times I've said that Scotland
has some of the finest landscapes in the world,
and here's further proof of that.
I'm definitely warming to this place.
Isn't this great?
On the way across here on the ferry, somebody said to me,
"If you're going to Sanday, be prepared for the unexpected."
I think this is exactly what he meant.
Look at this lovely line of marram grass sand dunes,
the lovely white strand below here,
and this translucent, green-blue of the sea.
Who needs Hawaii Five-0?
And I'm about to meet someone who is absolutely passionate
about this place, and makes no apology for it.
Geologist and oceanographer Emma Neave-Webb
has spent many years working offshore
as a wildlife officer and surveyor.
She's now decided to make her home on Sanday
and is the island's ranger.
We have fantastic big skies,
there's fantastic sunsets.
We have beautiful sunrises, we have the Northern Lights.
It's so in-your-face here.
You can't walk anywhere without seeing something amazing.
What more do you want?
In terms of wildlife, what's special about Sanday?
It's really, really important for birds.
At the moment, we're right in the middle of migration,
so every time we're out for a walk,
you never know what you're going to see.
In spring this year, we had a red-backed shrike on the peninsula.
There have been things like sooty shearwaters,
which are ocean-going birds.
They undertake massive migrations,
and we're really fortunate that we can see them
as they take part in that journey.
So there's always something to see here.
It doesn't feel like a job, it's more a way of life.
So I'm doing things for work that I would be doing as a hobby.
Now, you're an oceanographer living on an island
looking out at the sea every day.
What are your thoughts on the future of our oceans,
particularly the oceans around these islands?
I have to admit, I'm not overly optimistic.
I do think that we have reached the point of no return
and if we don't do something incredibly quickly,
then our oceans really aren't going to recover.
So what are we likely to lose?
If we lose our oceans, absolutely everything.
The oceans really are key to the whole ecosystem on our planet
and we're already seeing problems with plankton levels.
That impacts up the food web, so fish numbers reducing,
things are having to move further to feed.
A lot of the time, it's out of sight, out of mind with the ocean,
so people don't really realise what's happening out there.
We also know so little about the oceans that I think
we don't understand enough of the ecosystem
to actually be able to look after it properly.
Emma, you suggested that we meet here today
in this wonderful peninsula.
Why is it a special place for you?
It's really remote, quite a difficult part of Sanday to get to.
You have to go on a journey to get here.
There's no quick way,
so it feels like you're in a really special place, and of course,
the history of the area as well.
And what a history it is.
At the very end of the peninsula is a Neolithic burial site,
known as a chambered cairn.
It's an archaeological gem.
We're right here by a Neolithic chambered cairn.
Here on Sanday we have several
and this is one of the better examples that we have.
We know many of the well-publicised sites on mainland Orkney,
but it seems to me here on Sanday
that the sites are not so well publicised.
Does that make them more interesting for you?
It does for me because there's the feel to them that nobody else
has been here.
This one is an example, it is right out on the edge of the island.
It's really at risk of being lost to the sea
in the not too distant future,
and that makes it all the more special,
that I am able to come here and see it.
It's just a really fantastic part of the island.
And I'm happy to admit that I was totally wrong
with my first impression of Sanday.
There's a wild elemental beauty here that touches my very soul.
OK, I know that's a bit poetic,
but I do want some time just to soak up the atmosphere here.
In recent years, I've certainly become something of a committed camper van man.
But, you know, despite that,
you can't take the lightweight backpacker out of my psyche completely,
and every so often I like to leave the camper van
at the end of the tarmac and take a bit of a stroll with my tent
and my sleeping bag and bits and pieces,
and camp for the night.
And tonight I've chosen, I think it's an idyllic spot, actually,
on the very north edge of Sanday.
And although it's a bit windy,
it's no more than the locals here would call a mere draft.
So I'm kind of looking forward to getting into my sleeping bag,
get cooried up,
listen to the sound of the breeze,
the sound of the surf,
and maybe the nice call of a curlew or an oystercatcher
from the wetlands over there.
But before I do that,
the most important thing in backpacking is getting a brew on.
I can't believe it.
I've woken up to another glorious morning.
These huge, clear blue skies and the sun glinting off the ocean.
Yesterday I began my exploration of Sanday's archaeological riches.
It was impressive but - and it's a huge but -
it's just one of hundreds.
I know the previous county archaeologist used to say that
Sanday has the best preserved archaeological landscape in Orkney,
which is saying quite a lot,
given how fantastic the archaeology is in Orkney.
Cath Parker heads up Sanday's archaeology group,
and she's brought me to this site at Poole,
on the west side of the island.
To be honest, I might just have walked past this cliff,
enjoying the view,
but these are important sites,
where the action of the sea has exposed layers of history.
Unassuming sites like this are an archaeologist's treasure trove.
What we have here is a multi-period occupation site
that was inhabited from the Neolithic
through to the Norse periods.
Not constantly, but on and off.
There's remains known back to the Neolithic,
so back to 4,000 to 6,000 years ago,
and there's maybe earlier stuff that we've just not found yet.
This is my favourite part of this erosion profile.
Because, as far as I can see,
this is the first thing that happened here,
it's the earliest event.
-So, we had...
This is all natural.
This is bedrock, this is glacial till.
This is like an uninhabited island, possibly, who knows?
And then people have come along and the first thing they've done here
is start to dump out material, maybe from a hearth,
it looks like it's been burnt,
and what we have is a little hill inside this massive profile,
so you have all these horizontal layers above, and down here
you have this little hill going up there and down there.
And I just love that this is the first thing that we know about
that happens here.
And then after that, it became this great big settlement.
So, we've got the original mound here,
and then it looks like maybe a floor
-or something above it...
-..running right along there.
That's exactly what it looks to be.
It looks like a cobbled surface of, presumably,
a structure which has gone out of use.
And if you look just about a foot higher up at that end,
we've got another floor level of a building that's come after that.
You can start to unpick the sequence
of buildings that have happened one after the other.
Originally, when people were settled here,
I'm assuming this would have stretched right out towards the sea,
and over the years, this has been eroded away and so exposed to this.
Yeah, that's right.
Is there a danger that we'll lose a lot of old structures like this
because of erosion?
On Sanday, at last count, we've got 300 actively eroding sites,
which is pretty substantial,
and that's clearly beyond what we can do to record
all the sites before they go.
It's just impossible to achieve that.
So, yeah, the archaeology is actively disappearing.
You don't need to have an archaeologist's eye
to see Sanday's best known structure.
The chambered cairn of Quoyness has been excavated and preserved.
The outside is instantly impressive,
but inside is no less spectacular,
and, for me, it was a privilege to have an expert guide.
-This is incredible.
-Mind your head!
I'll need to hold my breath, I think...like Fat Man's Alley!
Wow, this is amazing.
So I know this is a chambered cairn, but what exactly was its purpose?
Chambered cairns are funerary monuments dating to Neolithic times,
which is 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.
So it's in monuments like this that people would inter their dead.
So it's a tomb?
It is exactly that. It's a tomb.
I know in ancient Egypt people were taken to the pyramids
and they were buried with some of their best possessions.
Was it the same in a place like this?
It's a very, very different thing from Egypt,
cos in Egypt everything was about the individual,
about the Pharaoh,
whereas in the Neolithic, these tombs were communal.
You'd get the remains of many people in one tomb and you wouldn't get,
like we have all these little side chambers,
you wouldn't get one person in each side chamber,
you'd get bits of people.
So exactly what they were doing, we don't quite know.
There were theories that normal funerary practice
would be to do something like exposing the body outside
and then bringing parts in after the body had rotted down.
It's just so different from what we have today now,
the burials or cremations.
It seems so far removed, yet these were our ancestors.
I know, it's quite amazing, isn't it?
But I was at presentation a couple of years ago and there was somebody
who'd been looking at old human bone assemblages
from chambered cairns
and they'd found all the little tiny bones that you get,
like knee bones and finger bones or whatever,
they were represented in the right proportions in the assemblages,
whereas you'd think, if the body was exposed first,
that some of the little bones would be disappearing
and you'd more just get the big ones.
So their theory was that a body would be brought in
and it would be moved about as it decomposed,
which is absolutely bizarre from our perspective.
That's not how we deal with dead people.
We don't keep on handling them as they decompose.
But it's a fascinating theory anyway.
I'm guessing you've been in here loads and loads and loads of times.
-But the first time you came in to a chambered cairn like this,
what was your feeling?
I thought it was absolutely amazing.
It's atmospheric and slightly chilling in a way.
You think of the horrendous sights and smells that there must have been
and grieving people, and...
Yeah, it must have been a not pleasant place to be at one time.
You know, it's an extraordinary thought that people have been living
on these northern islands for 6,000 years,
and yet this island of Sanday is so unspoiled.
You can see these beautiful beaches.
But it's not the most northern of the islands I've visited.
My final destination lies across the Sound.
Over there you can just see the low-lying shape of North Ronaldsay,
and that's where I'm heading for next.
I could get used to ferry hopping from one island to another,
but it's not easy.
You can see North Ronaldsay from Sanday,
but to get there you have to first return to the Orkney mainland,
then it's a journey of just over two and a half hours from Kirkwall.
So I've got plenty of time to put my feet up and relax
before arriving at my final destination.
But that's about to change.
I'm now on dry land, but my vehicle is still on board.
There's no slipway here in North Ronaldsay,
and when I asked the guy at the pier in Sanday
how they were going to get my camper van out the ferry,
he says, "They'll lift it out on old fishing nets."
So I'm worried, I'm seriously worried.
This camper van is my pride and joy.
It's just coming, I think.
I tell you, this is really nerve-racking. It really is.
If they drop this my wife will never forgive me and my heart is racing.
It's, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Oh, this looks like it.
Yeah, a bit of tension there.
Come on, lads, heave away.
Oh, here we go. Oh, no!
Everybody says, "Ach, it'll be fine."
But when it's your baby it's a different thing altogether.
Oh, don't bump it, guys.
Watch my bike.
That's it, swing it round.
OK, careful, fellows, careful, don't drop it.
Here we go.
Oh, thank goodness for that.
That was really scary.
Cheers, lads. Thank you very much.
I've been in many tricky situations before,
but that was something else!
I need to calm down, slow my heart rate,
relax and chill out.
Home is where my camper stops,
and how is that for a room with a view?
Now it's time to start my exploration of North Ronaldsay,
and, once more, I'm discovering somewhere new.
This promises to be an interesting experience.
I've found myself on an island that's bereft of all those things
that I hold dear in Scotland.
There are no hills or mountains here.
There are no vast pinewoods.
There are no tumultuous rivers or crashing waterfalls,
no glorious lochs.
And yet, as I look across this landscape of North Ronaldsay,
I'm filled with a peculiar emotion,
and it's an emotion I find very, very difficult to describe.
But I think the Gaelic has a word for it.
It's a word called cianalas,
and it's a word that means, a longing,
perhaps tinged with a certain amount of sadness.
And as I look on this landscape I'm reminded of an older world,
a world that's less materialistic,
a world that's less complex,
And I just wish I could take that emotion and put it in a bottle
and take it home,
and have a glug at it every time I feel the world
has become just a little bit darker.
This is the only A-listed wall I've ever come across.
It runs right round the island for 12 miles
and the idea is it'll prevent sheep
from coming in to the agricultural land
on that side of the wall,
so what we have is sheep that live on the coastal side of the wall,
predominantly eating seaweed as fodder.
And I'll tell you, the mutton from those sheep is absolutely A1.
Islanders in North Ronaldsay today
enjoy a fairly good standard of living.
The ferry calls twice a week,
and there are daily flights from Kirkwall.
But that wasn't always the case.
It was quite tough not that long ago.
In the middle of the 19th century there were 500 people living here.
Today, there are less than 60.
And for once we can't blame that depopulation
on the Highland Clearances.
Until the middle of last century housing was of very poor standard,
sanitation was almost non-existent
and there was very little running water.
The ferry only called once a fortnight.
So people must have felt they were kind of on the edge.
They must have felt it was a very remote existence.
Someone who embraces isolation
is naturalist and photographer Keith Allardyce.
Some 30 years ago his passion for our wild places
took him to many far-flung corners of Scotland,
including North Ronaldsay.
He earned a living as a lighthouse keeper,
which is a job that sounds romantic,
but what was it really like?
It was a great way of life.
I loved every minute of it.
I spent a year as a travelling keeper
right round the coast of Scotland,
sometimes remote islands.
Just the three of us,
three keepers on a rock station with a bit of land around you -
wonderful - seals and birds on your doorstep,
right round the coast of Scotland.
In 1998 our lighthouses became fully automated
and lighthouse keepers were basically no more.
Are we right in feeling nostalgic about a lost occupation?
Well, I think so.
It was a great way of life.
There are many keepers who say they would do it all over again.
Because it wasn't just about being stuck on a rock
and being isolated and lonely.
It wasn't at all like that.
Every time you went out to a lighthouse on the rock stations,
it was a great adventure.
I've always felt at home in Orkney, funnily enough.
I mean, I'm from Northumberland,
and in some way the Northumberland coast
is a bit similar to Orkney.
There's a sort of friendliness about the people that I've always found
very welcoming, and that's why I've come back so often.
One of the things that has drawn Keith back here again and again
is the passion he'd developed for beachcombing.
Years of research have produced two fascinating books of photographs,
illustrating the finds made by himself and the islanders.
Keith, explain to me something of the attractions of wandering along
a beach picking up bits and pieces.
Well, there's the attraction of going onto a beach,
perhaps for the first time,
and never knowing what to expect.
It's the anticipation of the whole thing.
And when it comes to beachcombing,
you might find something,
you might not, and whatever you find becomes a bit special.
Whether it is a shell, a piece of stone, even a piece of seaweed,
a piece of driftwood,
it doesn't have to be something of value at all.
You've made beachcombing sound like a very relaxed contemplative
thing to do, but in actual fact
you've turned it into a bit of an art form.
A lot of other people had found things of interest,
so I thought it would be an ideal combination
to have as a theme
and to photograph those people on the piece of shore
where the object was found, or in their homes.
So I felt this would make an ideal combination to express
something of the Orkney culture.
So, very often there is a fascinating story
about Orkney behind these objects.
I believe you've got some bits and pieces with you
that you've discovered.
-Something that you can find...
..quite commonly in Orkney -
It's probably from a pilot whale.
It's a beautiful object, beautifully worn.
I was given this, it's called a Molucca bean.
Now they come from the Caribbean.
And so they travel all the way up the Gulf stream,
some get deposited in the Outer Hebrides,
some on the Orkney shore,
some up to Shetland and further north.
-It's beautiful, actually.
-It's almost heart-shaped.
I've also got this thing, which I found on the west coast of Orkney,
on the Bay of Skaill.
Oh, that's amazing.
An extraordinary thing. Just lying like this on the ground,
kicked it over and there was this lovely engraving.
That's fantastic. Look how clear this boat is.
A beautifully done boat. Yes, yes.
And it looks a bit like a Scandinavian,
-maybe Faroese design.
-It does almost, doesn't it?
Like a purse hanging down, and a belt and ring on the finger.
It's an amazing thing.
Have you an idea where that might have come from?
No idea. Not a clue.
That's part of beachcombing - the mystery, you know?
No idea at all.
Looking at some of the items people have found can raise far more
questions than answers.
How they came to wash up on these Orcadian shores
is often a complete mystery.
And walking along North Ronaldsay's main road,
I was in for another surprise.
I literally bumped into someone who is spending a year travelling around
Britain on his bike, spotting rare birds.
And he's not the only one doing it.
This is a serious competition,
and Gary the bird man is on a mission
to become the European and then the world record-holder.
It's called green birding,
and the aim is to try and get a record,
to get the most number of bird species within a calendar year.
So you start on January the 1st,
you go until December 31st.
In every way you try not to use carbon.
But obviously the main one is transport,
and therefore I have the bike and I cycle.
So what sort of distance have you cycled?
Well, this year it's just over 5,000 miles.
And I've got maybe 2,000-3,000 miles to go
before I can get home at Christmas
and the 5,000 miles have taken me to
Cornwall, down along the south coast,
through London, into East Anglia,
and then up and down East Anglia, Kent, etc,
looking for birds,
up into the North of England,
across to Mull in Scotland,
to Aberdeen and finally to this incredible island, North Ronaldsay.
When did you start this particular journey?
This particular journey started January 1st, 2015.
It's been going ever since.
I bet you must have stayed in some strange places over the year.
Yes. In 2010, the first year that I ever did this,
to get the British record,
I ran out of money while I was on Shetland,
so from September to December 31st,
church porches, bus shelters,
and the most comfortable night was in some disabled toilets.
So you're a birding hobo.
I have been on occasions.
This year it's a bit more bourgeois.
When I get to Fair Isle it's going to be little different.
I'll probably be sleeping in a derelict croft.
I've got lots of friends who are birders.
Some are very, very passionate,
some are quite obsessed.
-Which are you?
I suppose, I think I would use the word driven.
I have an aim, I have a focus,
I will achieve my aims.
It will be this year.
I will become the European record-holder,
the green birding record-holder for Europe.
Once you achieve that, what's next?
My ambition is to try and achieve world record status.
At the moment there's an American named Dorian Anderson.
He is the world record-holder,
with a total of 618 birds in one year.
I want to beat that.
People don't think of themselves as eccentric,
but I imagine other people might think that my lifestyle
is a bit different.
And I don't think anyone would argue with that.
Much as I love my bike,
I couldn't spend a whole year using it and living a nomadic lifestyle.
In fact, my own journey for this year is almost over.
There's just one part of North Ronaldsay I've still got to visit.
I've wandered up to the north of the island,
to an area called Dennis Head.
And the building you can see with all the scaffolding behind me here
is the Old Beacon,
which was North Ronaldsay's original lighthouse.
It was built in 1789 by a man that went by the name of Thomas Smith,
and his son-in-law and his apprentice
was called Robert Stevenson.
Stevenson eventually inherited the lighthouse building business,
and it wasn't long before the name Stevenson became synonymous
with some of the most important lighthouses
that we have in Scotland.
The family also produced a young man
by the name of Robert Louis Stevenson,
who of course went on to become one of our greatest ever novelists.
Now, more recently, the Old Beacon came to prominence as part of
the BBC's Restoration Village programme,
and you can see the restoration work is still in progress.
I quite like to think that eventually
it might become some sort of tourist accommodation,
because I can think of few places in Scotland where you
could get a better get away from everything type holiday.
Along this part of the coast
there's this lovely series of circular dry stone walls,
and you might be forgiven on this archaeological Orkney
that these are perhaps old tombs
or something to do with Vikings.
The explanation is much more prosaic, I think.
These were round walls
and inside them people grew cabbages,
and that dates away back to the 1500s.
A place for growing cabbages.
The idea was the cabbages would be protected in here
from grazing sheep and, more importantly, from the wind.
And they were built close to the coast to really cut down on
the possibility of frost damage.
Today, they form quite an interesting
part of the skyline here.
And they kind of remind us again
that people have lived on these islands for a long, long time.
Well, that's it - journey's end,
at the top of the most northern island in Orkney,
and in the shadow of the highest land-based lighthouse
in the UK, and it's absolutely spectacular.
It's also a great place to reflect on what has been another fantastic
journey along Scotland's roads less travelled.
Starting at Dornoch Point,
just south of the lovely old cathedral town,
and making my way up through these beautiful villages of Scotland's
north-east coast, into the very heart of the Flow Country peatlands
and those wide-open skies and wide-open spaces of Caithness.
And then across the Pentland Firth
to Orkney, and what an eye-opener that has been.
You know, I've only visited six of the Orkney islands,
so that leaves me plenty of scope to come back and explore even more.
So I hope you'll maybe think of joining me next year,
as I explore some more of Scotland's Roads Less Travelled.
So it only remains for me to sign out by quoting my old grandmother.
"If I'm spared, I'll see you next time."
In the second part of his journey, Cameron celebrates what he triumphantly calls our 'world class landscape' as he explores lesser-known aspects of six Orkney islands. His guests include those whose families have lived here for generations to relative newcomers who have made the journey north to become part of a vibrant community.
No visit to Orkney would be complete without exploring the rich archaeological remains found here, but Cameron also meets two exceptionally talented traditional musicians; discovers why these islands are so environmentally important, and spends time with a former lighthouse keeper turned beachcomber and a visitor who is attempting an unusual world record.