Roads Less Travelled - Sutherland, Caithness and Orkney: Special, Part 2 The Adventure Show


Roads Less Travelled - Sutherland, Caithness and Orkney: Special, Part 2

Second of two Adventure Show specials in which Cameron McNeish undertakes a 150-mile journey through some of the least visited parts of Scotland.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Roads Less Travelled - Sutherland, Caithness and Orkney: Special, Part 2. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Welcome back to this year's journey through Scotland.

0:00:020:00:06

I've travelled to many exotic and far-flung corners of the world,

0:00:070:00:11

but let me tell you this right now -

0:00:110:00:14

nothing can beat what can be found right here on our doorstep.

0:00:140:00:18

And here's a second thought.

0:00:190:00:21

It's not simply the obvious that makes our country

0:00:210:00:24

a world-class landscape.

0:00:240:00:26

For me, it's the many hidden places

0:00:260:00:28

I'm still discovering as I again explore

0:00:280:00:31

more of our Roads Less Travelled.

0:00:310:00:34

And the second part of my journey has got a lot to live up to.

0:00:440:00:49

Since leaving Dornoch, at the southern tip of Sutherland,

0:00:490:00:52

I've experienced the grandeur and majesty of the north-east coastline,

0:00:520:00:57

together with those huge expanses

0:00:570:00:59

that make up the Flow Country of Caithness.

0:00:590:01:02

This is a landscape I'll return to again and again,

0:01:040:01:07

but for now it's time to leave the mainland behind

0:01:070:01:10

and travel even further north.

0:01:100:01:12

In this second part of the programme,

0:01:150:01:17

I'm crossing a rather sombre-looking Pentland Firth on my way to Orkney,

0:01:170:01:22

where I'm told the sun always shines.

0:01:220:01:25

And that's what I'm hoping for.

0:01:270:01:29

My journey by bike,

0:01:290:01:31

on foot and with my trusted camper van is a journey of exploration.

0:01:310:01:36

It's one where I'll be meeting people whose lives

0:01:360:01:38

have been shaped by these landscapes.

0:01:380:01:41

Some have chosen to make these Orkney Islands their home,

0:01:410:01:44

others were born and bred here.

0:01:440:01:47

This is where we used to go when we were young bairns.

0:01:470:01:49

My father would take us here for a walk

0:01:490:01:51

and he would point to all the wildlife.

0:01:510:01:54

It sticks in my mind as being a very significant place.

0:01:540:01:57

We have fantastic big skies,

0:01:580:02:00

we have beautiful sunrises,

0:02:000:02:02

we have the northern lights.

0:02:020:02:03

It's got a very, very special feel about it.

0:02:030:02:07

There's always something happening.

0:02:070:02:08

What more do you want?

0:02:080:02:10

'And if there's one word you always associate with Orkney,

0:02:110:02:15

'it's archaeology.'

0:02:150:02:16

Wow.

0:02:160:02:17

'This is a rich treasure-trove that gives a fascinating insight

0:02:170:02:21

'into our past.'

0:02:210:02:23

There's remains going back to the Neolithic,

0:02:230:02:25

so back to 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

0:02:250:02:28

And there's maybe earlier stuff that we've just not found yet.

0:02:280:02:31

There's literally archaeology everywhere.

0:02:320:02:34

And I'm excited about finishing my trip with a personal first -

0:02:350:02:39

a visit to the most northern tip of these islands.

0:02:390:02:42

I can promise you an amazing journey,

0:02:420:02:45

so why don't you stay with me every step of the way?

0:02:450:02:48

I've landed in South Ronaldsay

0:02:550:02:58

and the sun is trying to come out,

0:02:580:03:01

it's trying very hard.

0:03:010:03:02

South Ronaldsay is the fourth-largest of the 70 islands

0:03:020:03:05

and skerries that make up the Orkney archipelago.

0:03:050:03:09

16 of these islands are inhabited.

0:03:090:03:12

And at this point, I have to remind myself

0:03:120:03:14

that it is Orkney I'm referring to,

0:03:140:03:17

and not the Orkneys.

0:03:170:03:18

I mean, I wouldn't talk about the Irelands, or the New Zealands,

0:03:180:03:22

or the Hawaiis. So Orkney is plural.

0:03:220:03:25

It actually comes from the old Norse word Orkneyjar,

0:03:250:03:28

which means Seal Islands.

0:03:280:03:30

This is St Margaret's Hope.

0:03:400:03:42

The population is only 550, so it's really quite a wee village.

0:03:420:03:47

And yet it's the third largest settlement in Orkney,

0:03:470:03:49

after Kirkwall and Stromness.

0:03:490:03:51

I'm interested in the origin of the place name here -

0:03:570:04:00

"St Margaret's Ope."

0:04:000:04:01

"Ope" is hope.

0:04:010:04:03

H-O-P-E.

0:04:030:04:05

And it simply means a sheltered bay.

0:04:050:04:07

But it's the St Margaret's part that I'm really interested in,

0:04:100:04:13

and there are two schools of thought as to the origin.

0:04:130:04:16

In 1290, a ship set sail from Bergen in Norway, bound for Leith.

0:04:170:04:22

On board was a seven-year-old child called Margaret,

0:04:220:04:25

the anointed Queen of Scots.

0:04:250:04:27

And she was on her way south,

0:04:270:04:30

where she had been betrothed to marriage with the king of England.

0:04:300:04:34

Sadly, on that voyage, she died.

0:04:340:04:37

She died apparently of acute seasickness.

0:04:370:04:40

And the boat came into this bay and landed here.

0:04:400:04:43

Now, the other school of thought says that the St Margaret involved

0:04:450:04:48

was Queen Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III of Scotland.

0:04:480:04:53

Now, my heart goes with the Maid of Norway story,

0:04:550:04:58

but my head tells me that it's more likely that St Margaret

0:04:580:05:02

was Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm III.

0:05:020:05:05

That's where this village gets its name from.

0:05:050:05:08

I'm tempted to linger here, but there's so much more to explore.

0:05:100:05:14

And in the true spirit of my roads less travelled,

0:05:140:05:17

I'm focusing on five very contrasting places.

0:05:170:05:21

From here on South Ronaldsay,

0:05:220:05:24

I'll be making a short stop on mainland Orkney

0:05:240:05:26

before travelling over to the hilly landscape of Rousay.

0:05:260:05:30

Then there's the flat, open spaces of Sanday,

0:05:310:05:34

before journey's end on the remote,

0:05:340:05:36

rugged island of North Ronaldsay.

0:05:360:05:38

Since arriving in Orkney,

0:05:420:05:44

I've become very aware that this isn't a landscape

0:05:440:05:48

that shouts out at you.

0:05:480:05:50

It's much more subtle than that.

0:05:500:05:52

It kind of whispers its message to you.

0:05:520:05:55

So, because of that, I'm going to go off and do some exploring on my own,

0:05:550:05:59

and just create some time to let those whispers reach me.

0:05:590:06:02

You know, I've only come a couple of miles from St Margaret's

0:06:190:06:21

and I've found this little bay.

0:06:210:06:24

It's so peaceful and so quiet.

0:06:240:06:26

I bet you nobody comes here, other than a few locals.

0:06:260:06:28

Today it's just me. Me and a few waders and of course the seals.

0:06:300:06:34

They're lying there, just hoping the sun will come out now and again.

0:06:340:06:37

It's magic.

0:06:370:06:39

You know, one of the lovely things about taking roads less travelled

0:06:450:06:48

is I'm not slavishly following guidebooks.

0:06:480:06:51

Simply look at the map in the morning and think,

0:06:510:06:53

"Oh, that looks interesting. I think I'll go there."

0:06:530:06:57

And when I looked at this map this morning,

0:06:570:06:59

I found this little place, not very far from St Margaret's,

0:06:590:07:01

and it's called Grimness.

0:07:010:07:04

And I thought, "I've got to go there. Grimness."

0:07:040:07:08

And here I am.

0:07:080:07:09

And it's anything but grim.

0:07:090:07:11

But I am fascinated in the Orkney place names.

0:07:140:07:17

Gaelic was never, ever spoken in Orkney.

0:07:180:07:22

The Pictish people may have used a form of Gaelic,

0:07:220:07:25

but that was wiped out when the Vikings came, speaking Norse.

0:07:250:07:29

And when the Vikings settled here,

0:07:290:07:31

that Norse language derived into a language known as Norn,

0:07:310:07:35

and that lasted until the middle of the 18th century,

0:07:350:07:39

when English became the predominant language.

0:07:390:07:41

Here we are at the summit of Grimness.

0:07:490:07:53

And of course, I do realise that Grimness doesn't necessarily

0:07:530:07:56

have a negative connotation.

0:07:560:07:58

It probably means grim ness -

0:07:580:08:00

ness the headland,

0:08:000:08:01

Grim could well have been someone's name.

0:08:010:08:03

The headland of Mr Grim.

0:08:030:08:06

South Ronaldsay is connected to mainland Orkney by four causeways,

0:08:170:08:21

known as the Churchill Barriers.

0:08:210:08:23

Now, as you might have guessed, these were built

0:08:230:08:26

during the Second World War to block access to Scapa Flow,

0:08:260:08:29

where the British naval fleet was stationed.

0:08:290:08:32

But even prior to the building of the Churchill Barriers,

0:08:360:08:40

60 block ships were sunk in the various channels

0:08:400:08:43

around these southern islands to stop submarine access.

0:08:430:08:47

And you can see the remains of one of them just behind me here.

0:08:470:08:50

While the Churchill barriers were built predominately for defensive reasons,

0:08:550:08:59

the people of Orkney must have been absolutely delighted

0:08:590:09:02

to have them as causeways.

0:09:020:09:04

Can you imagine how long it would take to drive

0:09:040:09:07

from St Margaret's Hope to Kirkwall if you had to catch four ferries?

0:09:070:09:11

It would take all day.

0:09:110:09:12

It would be all too easy to be seduced

0:09:200:09:22

by Orkney's real tourist attractions,

0:09:220:09:25

but I'm determined to stick to my policy of roads less travelled

0:09:250:09:29

and look out some of the lesser-known highlights.

0:09:290:09:32

And that brought me here, to Orkney's fifth causeway,

0:09:320:09:35

if you like, the secret causeway.

0:09:350:09:37

And I'm going to walk along here onto the island of Hunda

0:09:370:09:41

and I'm going to have a wee explore across there,

0:09:410:09:43

unless the wind has other thoughts and blows me off this causeway.

0:09:430:09:47

Hunda island is actually quite small,

0:09:510:09:53

it's probably less than half a square mile.

0:09:530:09:56

The name means Dog Island,

0:09:560:09:58

and it comes from the ancient Norse language,

0:09:580:10:01

the language that was spoken in Scandinavia

0:10:010:10:03

between the ninth and 13th centuries,

0:10:030:10:06

which really just shows the Scandinavian influence

0:10:060:10:09

that was spread right through these islands.

0:10:090:10:11

That was a nice leg stretch,

0:10:170:10:18

and it's good to get out of the vehicle for a wee while.

0:10:180:10:21

It's brought me up to the high point on Hunda island,

0:10:210:10:25

a massive 42 metres above sea level.

0:10:250:10:29

It's not high, but it feels high.

0:10:290:10:30

It's a great view all round.

0:10:300:10:32

I can see the houses of St Margaret's Hope behind me here.

0:10:320:10:35

And in front of me this great stretch of water that's Scapa Flow.

0:10:350:10:40

My various journeys tend to be in the mountains,

0:10:470:10:50

or on wild coastal landscapes like this one.

0:10:500:10:54

And if I have one rule of thumb,

0:10:540:10:55

it's to avoid large centres of population.

0:10:550:10:59

But I'm going to break that rule today,

0:10:590:11:01

because I'm heading for Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney.

0:11:010:11:05

There's a couple of people there that I want to go and visit.

0:11:050:11:07

People who in many ways embody the very character,

0:11:070:11:12

the very soul of these northern islands.

0:11:120:11:15

This is the High Street, Kirkwall, mainland Orkney.

0:11:270:11:31

And the place I'm about to visit now is not only a focal centre for

0:11:310:11:34

the local community,

0:11:340:11:36

but attracts people from every corner of the UK

0:11:360:11:39

and beyond.

0:11:390:11:40

And here's an admission.

0:11:440:11:46

For all of my adult life, I've been a bit of a folkie.

0:11:460:11:50

I just love our traditional music,

0:11:500:11:52

so I'm not going to pass by an opportunity

0:11:520:11:54

to meet two of our finest instrumentalists.

0:11:540:11:57

The Wrigley Sisters are twins,

0:11:580:12:00

but they could equally be ambassadors for Orcadian music.

0:12:000:12:05

They've toured all over the world,

0:12:050:12:06

but now devote their energies to the place they were born.

0:12:060:12:09

Jennifer and Hazel are the driving force behind a music school

0:12:110:12:14

that is a focal point for these islands.

0:12:140:12:17

Music that has been the backbone of life here for centuries.

0:12:170:12:21

We grew up in Deerness in the east mainland of Orkney.

0:12:220:12:25

There was music everywhere.

0:12:250:12:27

I mean, there would be something wrong with you

0:12:270:12:29

if you came from a place like Orkney

0:12:290:12:31

and didn't know a bit about the traditional music.

0:12:310:12:35

Locally to us there were dozens of folk that we would go and

0:12:360:12:39

visit regularly and play tunes with.

0:12:390:12:42

You were immersed in the tradition.

0:12:420:12:45

We were given musical instruments on our eighth birthday.

0:12:450:12:49

Jennifer got a fiddle and I got a guitar.

0:12:490:12:52

I seem to remember attempting the cello

0:12:520:12:54

because the group really needed a cello,

0:12:540:12:56

so I had the guitar and the cello.

0:12:560:12:59

The cello, it never really took off because it got caught in the wind!

0:12:590:13:03

We had to transport it.

0:13:030:13:05

It was really hard work to carry.

0:13:050:13:07

I've got one arm longer than the other!

0:13:070:13:09

The guitar is extremely portable,

0:13:140:13:17

and in theory it can do the job of three musicians all at once.

0:13:170:13:22

For the bass patterns in the left hand

0:13:220:13:24

would be where the guitar comes into its fore, I suppose.

0:13:240:13:28

So you should be able to hear...

0:13:280:13:29

You can hear the bass.

0:13:330:13:36

Then you can add the harmony.

0:13:390:13:41

-Brilliant.

-Something like that, maybe.

-That's great.

0:13:500:13:52

How much of your music is inspired by Orkney,

0:13:520:13:57

by the landscapes in Orkney?

0:13:570:13:59

I think everybody that lives in a place like Orkney can't help

0:13:590:14:02

being inspired by everything around them.

0:14:020:14:05

It's such an amazing place.

0:14:050:14:08

You know, all the different seasons and...

0:14:080:14:10

And it makes a special kind of person,

0:14:100:14:11

I think, to live here as well.

0:14:110:14:13

People tend to be quite tough but quite soft-spoken

0:14:130:14:17

and quite kind and understated.

0:14:170:14:20

And that's because they know their place against the elements

0:14:200:14:24

and suchlike.

0:14:240:14:26

Everyone has respect for one another

0:14:260:14:28

and for the place that they live in.

0:14:280:14:31

I liken traditional music to being like your dialect.

0:14:320:14:34

When you sit next to someone,

0:14:340:14:36

your father or your grandfather,

0:14:360:14:38

and you learn how to speak when you're peedie.

0:14:380:14:41

They've got a certain mannerism or a rhythm in their voice,

0:14:410:14:44

and when you sit and learn a tune from them,

0:14:440:14:47

you pick that same mannerism up.

0:14:470:14:50

I wonder if you could play me something that was,

0:14:500:14:53

in your mind, typically Orcadian?

0:14:530:14:55

Something I can go away with that will always

0:14:550:14:58

for me say, "That's Orkney".

0:14:580:15:01

In Orkney we have an awful lot of polkas.

0:15:010:15:03

They're all in the key of D, aren't they?

0:15:030:15:05

So which one will we pick?

0:15:050:15:07

There's a really well-known one called Jimmy o' the Bu's.

0:15:070:15:11

You should be able to hear the distinctive kind of

0:15:110:15:14

tapping your feet in twos when you're dancing,

0:15:140:15:17

cos you've got two feet.

0:15:170:15:19

Hopefully!

0:15:190:15:21

So you kind of have this...

0:15:210:15:22

SHE SINGS RHYTHM

0:15:220:15:25

Wonderful. Thank you very much indeed. That was beautiful.

0:16:390:16:42

I could listen to the Wrigley Sisters all day.

0:16:460:16:49

But it's time to move on...

0:16:490:16:51

This time, a short ferry journey of less than 30 minutes,

0:16:510:16:55

to nearby Rousay.

0:16:550:16:56

Until today, I've always thought of Hoy as Orkney's hilly island.

0:16:580:17:03

But Rousay isn't far behind.

0:17:030:17:05

Yet it's not just the high land that attracts me.

0:17:050:17:08

This place has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years,

0:17:080:17:13

and today is still home to over 200 people.

0:17:130:17:16

One of these is Bruce Mainland,

0:17:160:17:19

whose family has lived here for generations.

0:17:190:17:22

He's a man whose DNA is Rousay through and through.

0:17:220:17:26

We had a great upbringing here.

0:17:270:17:29

You know, you spent half your life at the shore,

0:17:290:17:31

jumping around on the rocks and turning over stones

0:17:310:17:33

and finding crabs and things.

0:17:330:17:36

It's just absolutely idyllic.

0:17:360:17:38

Every day was like, well, memory of course enhances it likely,

0:17:390:17:42

but every day was like today.

0:17:420:17:44

You got up in the morning,

0:17:440:17:46

you had lots of friends around you.

0:17:460:17:48

You're almost related to everybody, so lots of cousins and everything,

0:17:480:17:51

and everybody played at the shore

0:17:510:17:53

and wandered through the fields and came out here and just...

0:17:530:17:56

Freedom, that's the word.

0:17:560:17:58

When I was young, which is a while ago now,

0:18:000:18:02

there was only primary education here.

0:18:020:18:04

You could go to the school here until you are 12

0:18:040:18:06

and then there was the famous 11-plus.

0:18:060:18:08

And, you know, you had to sit this really

0:18:080:18:11

life-changing exam, really, when you think about it.

0:18:110:18:14

-It was.

-Because if you didn't pass it you stayed in the primary school

0:18:140:18:17

in Rousay here. And if you passed it you had the opportunity to go

0:18:170:18:20

to the grammar school in Kirkwall.

0:18:200:18:21

And I think our parents wanted us to have a better education

0:18:210:18:25

than what they had had.

0:18:250:18:26

So I left to go to Kirkwall School at 12 years old, and then on to...

0:18:270:18:31

Well, I joined the Merchant Navy and went to college after that.

0:18:310:18:35

I certainly didn't want to leave, and

0:18:370:18:40

I think it probably affected me for the rest of my life.

0:18:400:18:44

Are any of your contemporaries from your primary school times

0:18:440:18:47

still actually living on the island?

0:18:470:18:49

There's very few what I would call local Orcadians

0:18:490:18:52

left on the island anyway.

0:18:520:18:53

There's maybe three folk left

0:18:530:18:55

that would be my age, or roughly my age.

0:18:550:18:58

Three or four folk. The island's been heavily depopulated

0:18:580:19:02

as far as Rousay-bred folk.

0:19:020:19:03

Most of them have left.

0:19:030:19:05

What do you feel about the future of the island?

0:19:050:19:08

I think I'm slightly worried about the future

0:19:080:19:10

because the island's changing pretty dramatically,

0:19:100:19:13

this last ten years especially.

0:19:130:19:15

Property prices have changed,

0:19:150:19:17

they're more on a par with what they are on the mainland.

0:19:170:19:20

So it's quite difficult for younger folk to buy property here.

0:19:200:19:24

So that tends to...

0:19:240:19:26

I mean, there's older folk,

0:19:260:19:27

folk my age and older retired folk who are buying the property and...

0:19:270:19:31

And of course, anybody's very welcome because you need folk in

0:19:310:19:34

the community to make a community,

0:19:340:19:36

and everybody contributes towards it,

0:19:360:19:38

but you need younger folk as well

0:19:380:19:40

to keep the community going in the future.

0:19:400:19:42

We have had a few folk come in recently,

0:19:440:19:46

younger folk that have got bairns.

0:19:460:19:48

So I'm optimistic, but we need more young folk to come here.

0:19:480:19:52

How frustrated do you become,

0:19:530:19:55

looking out here and seeing all the natural resources you have -

0:19:550:19:59

the wind, the tides -

0:19:590:20:00

and yet it seems to be not an awful lot has been done about it.

0:20:000:20:04

I think it's probably the biggest frustration at the moment.

0:20:050:20:07

I mean, we're standing here and you see the tide rushing past.

0:20:070:20:10

Yeah, desperately frustrated.

0:20:100:20:12

The wind, you know, this is as calm as we ever get it here,

0:20:120:20:14

in the winter they're producing a lot of energy.

0:20:140:20:17

So I think the peripheral islands,

0:20:170:20:20

Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles...

0:20:200:20:24

you know, there's not that much opportunity in these places.

0:20:240:20:26

There's fishing and there's agriculture and what have you,

0:20:260:20:29

but the one natural resource that we have here

0:20:290:20:31

is wind and water and tide.

0:20:310:20:34

Renewable energy has a tremendous potential in terms of jobs.

0:20:340:20:38

But the most important thing about renewable energy is that it's energy.

0:20:390:20:42

You know, we can't live without it. We just cannot live without energy.

0:20:420:20:45

We know that coal is going to run out,

0:20:450:20:47

maybe not in our generation, but in the future.

0:20:470:20:50

So to not exploit that is a ridiculous situation.

0:20:500:20:54

But some young people are managing to stay on Rousay.

0:20:550:20:59

And I've met up with two of them in the island's cafe.

0:20:590:21:02

Grant Mainland is one of Bruce's cousins,

0:21:040:21:06

and he and Kirsty Tunbridge have been friends since childhood.

0:21:060:21:10

Both are convinced there are many advantages to island life.

0:21:110:21:16

As a teenager, Kirsty moved to the Orkney mainland,

0:21:160:21:18

but it wasn't long before she was back.

0:21:180:21:21

I moved to Stromness when I was 16 and came back when I was 19.

0:21:210:21:24

I think I just wanted that bit of independence.

0:21:240:21:27

And obviously being out here, we're just, you know, island life.

0:21:270:21:30

I just wanted to experience something else.

0:21:300:21:32

I think I lasted like three years and I was back.

0:21:320:21:35

And do you see yourself staying here permanently?

0:21:350:21:37

I would like to think I would, yeah.

0:21:370:21:39

I would like to buy a house here or build a house here,

0:21:390:21:41

probably eventually.

0:21:410:21:43

But I think that it's good to go away when you're younger,

0:21:430:21:45

to go and experience some other stuff and then you appreciate

0:21:450:21:48

the island more as well then.

0:21:480:21:50

I found when I went away and then came back,

0:21:500:21:52

I appreciate it a lot more now than what I did when I was younger.

0:21:520:21:56

You're both fortunate that you've got regular work.

0:21:570:22:01

I mean, how much work like that is available for people your age?

0:22:010:22:05

It's women's jobs that's more harder...

0:22:050:22:07

There's a lack, yeah.

0:22:070:22:08

There's a lack of women's jobs.

0:22:080:22:10

Because, you know, men can come out and they can do building, farming,

0:22:100:22:14

there's the fish farms.

0:22:140:22:16

But women, it's just kind of either bar work or home care,

0:22:160:22:19

where it's not regular enough to be secure for them.

0:22:190:22:23

Honestly, I would say the way it's going,

0:22:230:22:25

more people are moving away and less people are coming in, I suppose, as well.

0:22:250:22:30

So it's hard to say what's going to happen eventually.

0:22:300:22:33

And it would be a real pity if the population of a place like Rousay

0:22:340:22:38

dropped even further.

0:22:380:22:40

This is a fantastic island,

0:22:400:22:42

and there's no better way to explore it than on two wheels.

0:22:420:22:46

When I was a young lad in Glasgow,

0:22:550:22:57

every year we used to go to Millport, in the Firth of Clyde,

0:22:570:23:00

and we would hire a bike and cycle round the island.

0:23:000:23:04

Everybody did it, it was great fun.

0:23:040:23:07

But it opened up a whole new world to me.

0:23:070:23:09

It made me realise that you could almost feel the island from a bike.

0:23:090:23:14

Once you'd cycled round the island,

0:23:140:23:15

you got the impression that you really knew the place.

0:23:150:23:18

So when I came over here to Rousay,

0:23:180:23:20

I saw on the map a lovely circular route of 13 or 14 miles.

0:23:200:23:26

The only problem is,

0:23:260:23:28

nobody told me that there was a category one hill climb

0:23:280:23:31

near the start of it!

0:23:310:23:32

But the good thing about climbing up the hill on the bike

0:23:390:23:41

is you have to go down again.

0:23:410:23:43

What goes up must go down.

0:23:430:23:45

Rousay was originally known as Rolf's Island.

0:23:540:23:58

And in the middle of the 13th century,

0:23:580:24:00

that was kind of changed to Rolfsey.

0:24:000:24:03

And in the intermediate years it's became known as Rousay.

0:24:030:24:06

But in the middle of the 19th century,

0:24:070:24:09

there were almost 1,000 people living here,

0:24:090:24:11

and there must have been a real buzz about the place.

0:24:110:24:13

They were employed in agriculture and fishing

0:24:130:24:16

and all the associated trades.

0:24:160:24:17

Since then, it's become a bit quieter

0:24:190:24:21

but there's still lots of scattered ruins about the island.

0:24:210:24:25

It gives you a sense that people have lived here

0:24:250:24:28

for a long, long time.

0:24:280:24:30

What a super bike ride!

0:24:440:24:45

I've really been enjoying this.

0:24:450:24:47

But there's something I want to see before I finish this ride.

0:24:470:24:50

And it's the kind of thing that everybody comes to Orkney to see.

0:24:500:24:54

This is the Midhowe Broch,

0:25:020:25:04

and I'm fascinated by brochs.

0:25:040:25:06

I'm fascinated largely because

0:25:060:25:08

nobody can really tell me explicitly what they were for.

0:25:080:25:12

Some people say that they were the 45 homes of rich families.

0:25:140:25:18

Other people say they were defensive structures, part of a community,

0:25:180:25:21

and when the enemy approached,

0:25:210:25:23

everybody roundabout would gather themselves

0:25:230:25:26

and move inside the broch and slam the door shut

0:25:260:25:28

and they were protected.

0:25:280:25:31

Current thinking is that possibly they were both -

0:25:310:25:34

they were fortified homes and they were also defensive structures,

0:25:340:25:37

which would make a lot of sense, I think.

0:25:370:25:39

There are the two walls,

0:25:390:25:41

an inner wall and an outer wall, which support each other,

0:25:410:25:44

and you could move round the building inside the walls.

0:25:440:25:48

This one date back to roundabout the 1st century AD

0:25:490:25:53

and it's one of five brochs that actually ring this island of Rousay.

0:25:530:25:59

What a fantastic structure!

0:26:060:26:08

And it's really got my imagination going,

0:26:080:26:10

but I'm just about to head to another island now

0:26:100:26:13

where my imagination is going to be put into overdrive.

0:26:130:26:16

So far, I've wandered through South Ronaldsay

0:26:200:26:22

and I've walked over the causeway to Hunda.

0:26:220:26:25

I've visited mainland Orkney

0:26:250:26:27

and taken that short ferry journey to Rousay.

0:26:270:26:31

Now it's time to travel even further afield

0:26:310:26:34

and head for my final two islands -

0:26:340:26:36

Sanday and North Ronaldsay.

0:26:360:26:38

I've landed on the island of Sanday

0:26:420:26:44

and already I can see that it's quite different

0:26:440:26:47

from the other islands I've been on.

0:26:470:26:50

Lots of people have said to me, "You must visit Sanday."

0:26:500:26:53

It's the largest the northern Orkney Islands.

0:26:530:26:56

It's got quite a good population.

0:26:560:26:58

As several people said,

0:26:580:26:59

there's lots of nice nooks and crannies,

0:26:590:27:01

well worth exploring, so that's what I'm going to do.

0:27:010:27:04

I'm going to find somewhere to dump the camper van

0:27:040:27:06

and then set off on foot.

0:27:060:27:07

I'm taking a little stroll along a lovely narrow peninsula

0:27:220:27:25

that leads to a place called Tres Ness,

0:27:250:27:27

where I'm told I might well find the remains

0:27:270:27:30

of a Neolithic chambered cairn.

0:27:300:27:32

I'm pretty excited about that.

0:27:320:27:34

Sanday is flat and low lying.

0:27:400:27:43

It almost feels as if I'm in the Netherlands.

0:27:430:27:46

And, to be honest, I'm not sure if this is my kind of place,

0:27:460:27:50

but I'm not going to jump to hasty conclusions.

0:27:500:27:53

What I do know is that this is turning out to be a perfect day,

0:27:560:27:59

and I'm intrigued by the sand dunes towering above me.

0:27:590:28:04

There's beauty here, but there's also drama.

0:28:040:28:07

It's said as you get older that you sometimes repeat yourself,

0:28:110:28:14

often quite endlessly.

0:28:140:28:17

And I don't know how many times I've said that Scotland

0:28:170:28:19

has some of the finest landscapes in the world,

0:28:190:28:22

and here's further proof of that.

0:28:220:28:24

I'm definitely warming to this place.

0:28:260:28:28

Whey-hey-hey!

0:28:380:28:40

Isn't this great?

0:28:400:28:42

On the way across here on the ferry, somebody said to me,

0:28:420:28:45

"If you're going to Sanday, be prepared for the unexpected."

0:28:450:28:48

I think this is exactly what he meant.

0:28:480:28:50

Look at this lovely line of marram grass sand dunes,

0:28:500:28:54

the lovely white strand below here,

0:28:540:28:57

and this translucent, green-blue of the sea.

0:28:570:29:00

It's wonderful.

0:29:000:29:01

Who needs Hawaii Five-0?

0:29:010:29:03

And I'm about to meet someone who is absolutely passionate

0:29:050:29:09

about this place, and makes no apology for it.

0:29:090:29:12

Geologist and oceanographer Emma Neave-Webb

0:29:120:29:15

has spent many years working offshore

0:29:150:29:17

as a wildlife officer and surveyor.

0:29:170:29:20

She's now decided to make her home on Sanday

0:29:200:29:24

and is the island's ranger.

0:29:240:29:26

We have fantastic big skies,

0:29:260:29:28

there's fantastic sunsets.

0:29:280:29:31

We have beautiful sunrises, we have the Northern Lights.

0:29:310:29:34

It's so in-your-face here.

0:29:340:29:36

You can't walk anywhere without seeing something amazing.

0:29:360:29:40

What more do you want?

0:29:400:29:42

In terms of wildlife, what's special about Sanday?

0:29:420:29:45

It's really, really important for birds.

0:29:450:29:48

At the moment, we're right in the middle of migration,

0:29:480:29:51

so every time we're out for a walk,

0:29:510:29:53

you never know what you're going to see.

0:29:530:29:56

In spring this year, we had a red-backed shrike on the peninsula.

0:29:560:30:01

There have been things like sooty shearwaters,

0:30:010:30:03

which are ocean-going birds.

0:30:030:30:05

They undertake massive migrations,

0:30:050:30:07

and we're really fortunate that we can see them

0:30:070:30:10

as they take part in that journey.

0:30:100:30:12

So there's always something to see here.

0:30:120:30:15

It doesn't feel like a job, it's more a way of life.

0:30:150:30:18

So I'm doing things for work that I would be doing as a hobby.

0:30:180:30:23

Now, you're an oceanographer living on an island

0:30:230:30:27

looking out at the sea every day.

0:30:270:30:29

What are your thoughts on the future of our oceans,

0:30:290:30:32

particularly the oceans around these islands?

0:30:320:30:35

I have to admit, I'm not overly optimistic.

0:30:350:30:37

I do think that we have reached the point of no return

0:30:370:30:42

and if we don't do something incredibly quickly,

0:30:420:30:45

then our oceans really aren't going to recover.

0:30:450:30:47

So what are we likely to lose?

0:30:470:30:49

If we lose our oceans, absolutely everything.

0:30:500:30:53

The oceans really are key to the whole ecosystem on our planet

0:30:530:30:57

and we're already seeing problems with plankton levels.

0:30:570:31:03

That impacts up the food web, so fish numbers reducing,

0:31:030:31:07

things are having to move further to feed.

0:31:070:31:10

A lot of the time, it's out of sight, out of mind with the ocean,

0:31:100:31:15

so people don't really realise what's happening out there.

0:31:150:31:18

We also know so little about the oceans that I think

0:31:180:31:22

we don't understand enough of the ecosystem

0:31:220:31:25

to actually be able to look after it properly.

0:31:250:31:28

Emma, you suggested that we meet here today

0:31:310:31:34

in this wonderful peninsula.

0:31:340:31:36

Why is it a special place for you?

0:31:360:31:38

It's really remote, quite a difficult part of Sanday to get to.

0:31:380:31:43

You have to go on a journey to get here.

0:31:430:31:46

There's no quick way,

0:31:460:31:47

so it feels like you're in a really special place, and of course,

0:31:470:31:50

the history of the area as well.

0:31:500:31:52

And what a history it is.

0:31:540:31:56

At the very end of the peninsula is a Neolithic burial site,

0:31:560:31:59

known as a chambered cairn.

0:31:590:32:01

It's an archaeological gem.

0:32:010:32:04

We're right here by a Neolithic chambered cairn.

0:32:040:32:09

Here on Sanday we have several

0:32:090:32:12

and this is one of the better examples that we have.

0:32:120:32:16

We know many of the well-publicised sites on mainland Orkney,

0:32:160:32:21

but it seems to me here on Sanday

0:32:210:32:23

that the sites are not so well publicised.

0:32:230:32:25

Does that make them more interesting for you?

0:32:250:32:28

It does for me because there's the feel to them that nobody else

0:32:280:32:32

has been here.

0:32:320:32:34

This one is an example, it is right out on the edge of the island.

0:32:340:32:38

It's really at risk of being lost to the sea

0:32:380:32:41

in the not too distant future,

0:32:410:32:44

and that makes it all the more special,

0:32:440:32:46

that I am able to come here and see it.

0:32:460:32:50

It's just a really fantastic part of the island.

0:32:500:32:52

And I'm happy to admit that I was totally wrong

0:32:550:32:58

with my first impression of Sanday.

0:32:580:33:01

There's a wild elemental beauty here that touches my very soul.

0:33:010:33:06

OK, I know that's a bit poetic,

0:33:060:33:08

but I do want some time just to soak up the atmosphere here.

0:33:080:33:12

In recent years, I've certainly become something of a committed camper van man.

0:33:300:33:35

But, you know, despite that,

0:33:350:33:37

you can't take the lightweight backpacker out of my psyche completely,

0:33:370:33:41

and every so often I like to leave the camper van

0:33:410:33:44

at the end of the tarmac and take a bit of a stroll with my tent

0:33:440:33:48

and my sleeping bag and bits and pieces,

0:33:480:33:51

and camp for the night.

0:33:510:33:53

And tonight I've chosen, I think it's an idyllic spot, actually,

0:33:530:33:57

on the very north edge of Sanday.

0:33:570:34:00

And although it's a bit windy,

0:34:000:34:02

it's no more than the locals here would call a mere draft.

0:34:020:34:06

So I'm kind of looking forward to getting into my sleeping bag,

0:34:060:34:09

get cooried up,

0:34:090:34:10

listen to the sound of the breeze,

0:34:100:34:12

the sound of the surf,

0:34:120:34:14

and maybe the nice call of a curlew or an oystercatcher

0:34:140:34:17

from the wetlands over there.

0:34:170:34:19

But before I do that,

0:34:200:34:22

the most important thing in backpacking is getting a brew on.

0:34:220:34:26

I can't believe it.

0:34:400:34:42

I've woken up to another glorious morning.

0:34:420:34:45

These huge, clear blue skies and the sun glinting off the ocean.

0:34:450:34:50

It's wonderful.

0:34:500:34:51

Yesterday I began my exploration of Sanday's archaeological riches.

0:34:520:34:57

It was impressive but - and it's a huge but -

0:34:570:35:00

it's just one of hundreds.

0:35:000:35:03

I know the previous county archaeologist used to say that

0:35:030:35:06

Sanday has the best preserved archaeological landscape in Orkney,

0:35:060:35:11

which is saying quite a lot,

0:35:110:35:13

given how fantastic the archaeology is in Orkney.

0:35:130:35:16

Cath Parker heads up Sanday's archaeology group,

0:35:160:35:19

and she's brought me to this site at Poole,

0:35:190:35:22

on the west side of the island.

0:35:220:35:24

To be honest, I might just have walked past this cliff,

0:35:250:35:27

enjoying the view,

0:35:270:35:29

but these are important sites,

0:35:290:35:31

where the action of the sea has exposed layers of history.

0:35:310:35:35

Unassuming sites like this are an archaeologist's treasure trove.

0:35:350:35:39

What we have here is a multi-period occupation site

0:35:400:35:44

that was inhabited from the Neolithic

0:35:440:35:47

through to the Norse periods.

0:35:470:35:48

Not constantly, but on and off.

0:35:480:35:50

There's remains known back to the Neolithic,

0:35:520:35:54

so back to 4,000 to 6,000 years ago,

0:35:540:35:57

and there's maybe earlier stuff that we've just not found yet.

0:35:570:36:00

This is my favourite part of this erosion profile.

0:36:020:36:05

Because, as far as I can see,

0:36:050:36:07

this is the first thing that happened here,

0:36:070:36:10

it's the earliest event.

0:36:100:36:11

-OK.

-So, we had...

0:36:110:36:14

This is all natural.

0:36:140:36:15

This is bedrock, this is glacial till.

0:36:150:36:18

This is like an uninhabited island, possibly, who knows?

0:36:180:36:23

And then people have come along and the first thing they've done here

0:36:230:36:26

is start to dump out material, maybe from a hearth,

0:36:260:36:30

it looks like it's been burnt,

0:36:300:36:32

and what we have is a little hill inside this massive profile,

0:36:320:36:36

so you have all these horizontal layers above, and down here

0:36:360:36:40

you have this little hill going up there and down there.

0:36:400:36:44

And I just love that this is the first thing that we know about

0:36:440:36:47

that happens here.

0:36:470:36:49

And then after that, it became this great big settlement.

0:36:490:36:54

So, we've got the original mound here,

0:36:540:36:57

and then it looks like maybe a floor

0:36:570:36:59

-or something above it...

-Yes.

-..running right along there.

0:36:590:37:04

That's exactly what it looks to be.

0:37:040:37:05

It looks like a cobbled surface of, presumably,

0:37:050:37:08

a structure which has gone out of use.

0:37:080:37:11

And if you look just about a foot higher up at that end,

0:37:110:37:13

we've got another floor level of a building that's come after that.

0:37:130:37:17

You can start to unpick the sequence

0:37:170:37:19

of buildings that have happened one after the other.

0:37:190:37:22

Originally, when people were settled here,

0:37:230:37:25

I'm assuming this would have stretched right out towards the sea,

0:37:250:37:29

and over the years, this has been eroded away and so exposed to this.

0:37:290:37:33

Yeah, that's right.

0:37:330:37:34

Is there a danger that we'll lose a lot of old structures like this

0:37:340:37:38

because of erosion?

0:37:380:37:40

On Sanday, at last count, we've got 300 actively eroding sites,

0:37:400:37:45

which is pretty substantial,

0:37:450:37:47

and that's clearly beyond what we can do to record

0:37:470:37:50

all the sites before they go.

0:37:500:37:53

It's just impossible to achieve that.

0:37:530:37:55

So, yeah, the archaeology is actively disappearing.

0:37:550:37:59

You don't need to have an archaeologist's eye

0:38:000:38:02

to see Sanday's best known structure.

0:38:020:38:05

The chambered cairn of Quoyness has been excavated and preserved.

0:38:050:38:11

The outside is instantly impressive,

0:38:110:38:13

but inside is no less spectacular,

0:38:130:38:16

and, for me, it was a privilege to have an expert guide.

0:38:160:38:20

-This is incredible.

-Mind your head!

0:38:200:38:23

I'll need to hold my breath, I think...like Fat Man's Alley!

0:38:230:38:26

SHE LAUGHS

0:38:260:38:28

Wow.

0:38:300:38:31

Wow, this is amazing.

0:38:330:38:35

So I know this is a chambered cairn, but what exactly was its purpose?

0:38:350:38:39

Chambered cairns are funerary monuments dating to Neolithic times,

0:38:390:38:43

which is 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

0:38:430:38:45

So it's in monuments like this that people would inter their dead.

0:38:450:38:49

So it's a tomb?

0:38:490:38:50

It is exactly that. It's a tomb.

0:38:500:38:52

I know in ancient Egypt people were taken to the pyramids

0:38:520:38:55

and they were buried with some of their best possessions.

0:38:550:38:58

Was it the same in a place like this?

0:38:580:39:00

It's a very, very different thing from Egypt,

0:39:000:39:03

cos in Egypt everything was about the individual,

0:39:030:39:06

about the Pharaoh,

0:39:060:39:07

whereas in the Neolithic, these tombs were communal.

0:39:070:39:10

You'd get the remains of many people in one tomb and you wouldn't get,

0:39:100:39:13

like we have all these little side chambers,

0:39:130:39:16

you wouldn't get one person in each side chamber,

0:39:160:39:18

you'd get bits of people.

0:39:180:39:21

So exactly what they were doing, we don't quite know.

0:39:210:39:24

There were theories that normal funerary practice

0:39:240:39:27

would be to do something like exposing the body outside

0:39:270:39:31

and then bringing parts in after the body had rotted down.

0:39:310:39:35

It's just so different from what we have today now,

0:39:350:39:38

the burials or cremations.

0:39:380:39:40

It seems so far removed, yet these were our ancestors.

0:39:400:39:43

I know, it's quite amazing, isn't it?

0:39:430:39:46

But I was at presentation a couple of years ago and there was somebody

0:39:460:39:50

who'd been looking at old human bone assemblages

0:39:500:39:53

from chambered cairns

0:39:530:39:55

and they'd found all the little tiny bones that you get,

0:39:550:39:59

like knee bones and finger bones or whatever,

0:39:590:40:02

they were represented in the right proportions in the assemblages,

0:40:020:40:06

whereas you'd think, if the body was exposed first,

0:40:060:40:09

that some of the little bones would be disappearing

0:40:090:40:11

and you'd more just get the big ones.

0:40:110:40:13

So their theory was that a body would be brought in

0:40:130:40:17

and it would be moved about as it decomposed,

0:40:170:40:20

which is absolutely bizarre from our perspective.

0:40:200:40:24

That's not how we deal with dead people.

0:40:240:40:27

We don't keep on handling them as they decompose.

0:40:270:40:30

But it's a fascinating theory anyway.

0:40:300:40:33

I'm guessing you've been in here loads and loads and loads of times.

0:40:340:40:37

-I have.

-But the first time you came in to a chambered cairn like this,

0:40:370:40:41

what was your feeling?

0:40:410:40:42

I thought it was absolutely amazing.

0:40:420:40:44

It's atmospheric and slightly chilling in a way.

0:40:440:40:47

You think of the horrendous sights and smells that there must have been

0:40:470:40:51

in here,

0:40:510:40:52

and grieving people, and...

0:40:520:40:56

Yeah, it must have been a not pleasant place to be at one time.

0:40:560:41:01

You know, it's an extraordinary thought that people have been living

0:41:090:41:11

on these northern islands for 6,000 years,

0:41:110:41:15

and yet this island of Sanday is so unspoiled.

0:41:150:41:19

You can see these beautiful beaches.

0:41:190:41:22

But it's not the most northern of the islands I've visited.

0:41:220:41:25

My final destination lies across the Sound.

0:41:250:41:28

Over there you can just see the low-lying shape of North Ronaldsay,

0:41:280:41:32

and that's where I'm heading for next.

0:41:320:41:35

I could get used to ferry hopping from one island to another,

0:41:400:41:43

but it's not easy.

0:41:430:41:45

You can see North Ronaldsay from Sanday,

0:41:450:41:48

but to get there you have to first return to the Orkney mainland,

0:41:480:41:52

then it's a journey of just over two and a half hours from Kirkwall.

0:41:520:41:57

So I've got plenty of time to put my feet up and relax

0:41:570:42:01

before arriving at my final destination.

0:42:010:42:04

But that's about to change.

0:42:040:42:07

I'm now on dry land, but my vehicle is still on board.

0:42:070:42:12

There's no slipway here in North Ronaldsay,

0:42:120:42:14

and when I asked the guy at the pier in Sanday

0:42:140:42:16

how they were going to get my camper van out the ferry,

0:42:160:42:19

he says, "They'll lift it out on old fishing nets."

0:42:190:42:23

So I'm worried, I'm seriously worried.

0:42:230:42:25

This camper van is my pride and joy.

0:42:250:42:27

It's just coming, I think.

0:42:290:42:31

I tell you, this is really nerve-racking. It really is.

0:42:310:42:33

If they drop this my wife will never forgive me and my heart is racing.

0:42:340:42:38

It's, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

0:42:380:42:40

Oh, this looks like it.

0:42:420:42:43

Yeah, a bit of tension there.

0:42:430:42:45

Come on, lads, heave away.

0:42:450:42:47

Oh, here we go. Oh, no!

0:42:470:42:49

Everybody says, "Ach, it'll be fine."

0:42:510:42:53

But when it's your baby it's a different thing altogether.

0:42:530:42:56

Oh, don't bump it, guys.

0:42:560:42:57

Watch my bike.

0:42:570:42:59

That's it, swing it round.

0:42:590:43:01

OK, careful, fellows, careful, don't drop it.

0:43:010:43:04

Here we go.

0:43:050:43:06

Oh, thank goodness for that.

0:43:080:43:10

That was really scary.

0:43:100:43:12

Cheers, lads. Thank you very much.

0:43:140:43:16

I've been in many tricky situations before,

0:43:220:43:25

but that was something else!

0:43:250:43:27

I need to calm down, slow my heart rate,

0:43:270:43:30

relax and chill out.

0:43:300:43:32

Home is where my camper stops,

0:43:420:43:44

and how is that for a room with a view?

0:43:440:43:47

Now it's time to start my exploration of North Ronaldsay,

0:43:510:43:54

and, once more, I'm discovering somewhere new.

0:43:540:43:58

This promises to be an interesting experience.

0:43:580:44:01

I've found myself on an island that's bereft of all those things

0:44:040:44:08

that I hold dear in Scotland.

0:44:080:44:10

There are no hills or mountains here.

0:44:110:44:13

There are no vast pinewoods.

0:44:130:44:16

There are no tumultuous rivers or crashing waterfalls,

0:44:160:44:18

no glorious lochs.

0:44:180:44:20

And yet, as I look across this landscape of North Ronaldsay,

0:44:210:44:26

I'm filled with a peculiar emotion,

0:44:260:44:27

and it's an emotion I find very, very difficult to describe.

0:44:270:44:31

But I think the Gaelic has a word for it.

0:44:320:44:35

It's a word called cianalas,

0:44:350:44:38

and it's a word that means, a longing,

0:44:380:44:41

perhaps tinged with a certain amount of sadness.

0:44:410:44:44

And as I look on this landscape I'm reminded of an older world,

0:44:460:44:51

a world that's less materialistic,

0:44:510:44:53

a world that's less complex,

0:44:530:44:55

less combative.

0:44:550:44:58

And I just wish I could take that emotion and put it in a bottle

0:44:580:45:01

and take it home,

0:45:010:45:04

and have a glug at it every time I feel the world

0:45:040:45:07

has become just a little bit darker.

0:45:070:45:09

This is the only A-listed wall I've ever come across.

0:45:190:45:23

It runs right round the island for 12 miles

0:45:230:45:27

and the idea is it'll prevent sheep

0:45:270:45:29

from coming in to the agricultural land

0:45:290:45:31

on that side of the wall,

0:45:310:45:33

so what we have is sheep that live on the coastal side of the wall,

0:45:330:45:38

predominantly eating seaweed as fodder.

0:45:380:45:40

And I'll tell you, the mutton from those sheep is absolutely A1.

0:45:420:45:47

Islanders in North Ronaldsay today

0:46:010:46:03

enjoy a fairly good standard of living.

0:46:030:46:06

The ferry calls twice a week,

0:46:060:46:08

and there are daily flights from Kirkwall.

0:46:080:46:10

But that wasn't always the case.

0:46:100:46:12

It was quite tough not that long ago.

0:46:120:46:14

In the middle of the 19th century there were 500 people living here.

0:46:140:46:18

Today, there are less than 60.

0:46:180:46:20

And for once we can't blame that depopulation

0:46:210:46:24

on the Highland Clearances.

0:46:240:46:26

Until the middle of last century housing was of very poor standard,

0:46:260:46:30

sanitation was almost non-existent

0:46:300:46:32

and there was very little running water.

0:46:320:46:34

The ferry only called once a fortnight.

0:46:340:46:36

So people must have felt they were kind of on the edge.

0:46:360:46:39

They must have felt it was a very remote existence.

0:46:390:46:42

Someone who embraces isolation

0:46:470:46:49

is naturalist and photographer Keith Allardyce.

0:46:490:46:53

Some 30 years ago his passion for our wild places

0:46:540:46:58

took him to many far-flung corners of Scotland,

0:46:580:47:01

including North Ronaldsay.

0:47:010:47:03

He earned a living as a lighthouse keeper,

0:47:040:47:07

which is a job that sounds romantic,

0:47:070:47:09

but what was it really like?

0:47:090:47:11

It was a great way of life.

0:47:110:47:12

I loved every minute of it.

0:47:120:47:14

I spent a year as a travelling keeper

0:47:140:47:17

right round the coast of Scotland,

0:47:170:47:18

sometimes remote islands.

0:47:180:47:20

Just the three of us,

0:47:200:47:21

three keepers on a rock station with a bit of land around you -

0:47:210:47:25

wonderful - seals and birds on your doorstep,

0:47:250:47:28

right round the coast of Scotland.

0:47:280:47:31

In 1998 our lighthouses became fully automated

0:47:310:47:34

and lighthouse keepers were basically no more.

0:47:340:47:37

Are we right in feeling nostalgic about a lost occupation?

0:47:370:47:42

Well, I think so.

0:47:420:47:43

It was a great way of life.

0:47:430:47:45

There are many keepers who say they would do it all over again.

0:47:450:47:48

Because it wasn't just about being stuck on a rock

0:47:490:47:52

and being isolated and lonely.

0:47:520:47:54

It wasn't at all like that.

0:47:540:47:56

Every time you went out to a lighthouse on the rock stations,

0:47:560:47:58

it was a great adventure.

0:47:580:48:00

I've always felt at home in Orkney, funnily enough.

0:48:050:48:07

I mean, I'm from Northumberland,

0:48:070:48:09

and in some way the Northumberland coast

0:48:090:48:14

is a bit similar to Orkney.

0:48:140:48:16

There's a sort of friendliness about the people that I've always found

0:48:180:48:21

very welcoming, and that's why I've come back so often.

0:48:210:48:24

One of the things that has drawn Keith back here again and again

0:48:250:48:28

is the passion he'd developed for beachcombing.

0:48:280:48:31

Years of research have produced two fascinating books of photographs,

0:48:330:48:37

illustrating the finds made by himself and the islanders.

0:48:370:48:41

Keith, explain to me something of the attractions of wandering along

0:48:420:48:45

a beach picking up bits and pieces.

0:48:450:48:48

Well, there's the attraction of going onto a beach,

0:48:480:48:51

perhaps for the first time,

0:48:510:48:52

and never knowing what to expect.

0:48:520:48:54

It's the anticipation of the whole thing.

0:48:540:48:57

And when it comes to beachcombing,

0:48:570:48:59

you might find something,

0:48:590:49:01

you might not, and whatever you find becomes a bit special.

0:49:010:49:05

Whether it is a shell, a piece of stone, even a piece of seaweed,

0:49:060:49:10

a piece of driftwood,

0:49:100:49:11

it doesn't have to be something of value at all.

0:49:110:49:14

You've made beachcombing sound like a very relaxed contemplative

0:49:150:49:18

thing to do, but in actual fact

0:49:180:49:19

you've turned it into a bit of an art form.

0:49:190:49:23

A lot of other people had found things of interest,

0:49:230:49:26

so I thought it would be an ideal combination

0:49:260:49:29

to have as a theme

0:49:290:49:31

and to photograph those people on the piece of shore

0:49:310:49:35

where the object was found, or in their homes.

0:49:350:49:38

So I felt this would make an ideal combination to express

0:49:380:49:42

something of the Orkney culture.

0:49:420:49:44

So, very often there is a fascinating story

0:49:440:49:47

about Orkney behind these objects.

0:49:470:49:51

I believe you've got some bits and pieces with you

0:49:510:49:53

that you've discovered.

0:49:530:49:55

-Something that you can find...

-Oh, wow.

0:49:550:49:58

..quite commonly in Orkney -

0:49:580:50:00

whalebone vertebra.

0:50:000:50:02

It's probably from a pilot whale.

0:50:020:50:05

It's a beautiful object, beautifully worn.

0:50:050:50:08

I was given this, it's called a Molucca bean.

0:50:080:50:12

Now they come from the Caribbean.

0:50:120:50:14

-Good grief.

-Yes.

0:50:140:50:16

And so they travel all the way up the Gulf stream,

0:50:160:50:18

some get deposited in the Outer Hebrides,

0:50:180:50:21

some on the Orkney shore,

0:50:210:50:23

some up to Shetland and further north.

0:50:230:50:25

-It's beautiful, actually.

-It is.

0:50:250:50:27

-It's almost heart-shaped.

-Yeah.

0:50:270:50:28

-It's lovely.

-Yeah.

0:50:280:50:30

I've also got this thing, which I found on the west coast of Orkney,

0:50:300:50:34

on the Bay of Skaill.

0:50:340:50:36

Oh, that's amazing.

0:50:360:50:37

An extraordinary thing. Just lying like this on the ground,

0:50:370:50:40

kicked it over and there was this lovely engraving.

0:50:400:50:44

That's fantastic. Look how clear this boat is.

0:50:440:50:47

A beautifully done boat. Yes, yes.

0:50:470:50:49

And it looks a bit like a Scandinavian,

0:50:490:50:53

-maybe Faroese design.

-It does almost, doesn't it?

0:50:530:50:56

Like a purse hanging down, and a belt and ring on the finger.

0:50:560:50:58

-Yeah.

-It's lovely.

0:50:580:51:00

It's an amazing thing.

0:51:000:51:01

Have you an idea where that might have come from?

0:51:010:51:03

No idea. Not a clue.

0:51:030:51:05

That's part of beachcombing - the mystery, you know?

0:51:050:51:08

No idea at all.

0:51:080:51:10

Looking at some of the items people have found can raise far more

0:51:110:51:14

questions than answers.

0:51:140:51:17

How they came to wash up on these Orcadian shores

0:51:170:51:19

is often a complete mystery.

0:51:190:51:22

And walking along North Ronaldsay's main road,

0:51:230:51:25

I was in for another surprise.

0:51:250:51:28

I literally bumped into someone who is spending a year travelling around

0:51:280:51:32

Britain on his bike, spotting rare birds.

0:51:320:51:35

And he's not the only one doing it.

0:51:360:51:39

This is a serious competition,

0:51:390:51:40

and Gary the bird man is on a mission

0:51:400:51:43

to become the European and then the world record-holder.

0:51:430:51:47

It's called green birding,

0:51:470:51:50

and the aim is to try and get a record,

0:51:500:51:54

to get the most number of bird species within a calendar year.

0:51:540:51:58

So you start on January the 1st,

0:51:580:52:01

you go until December 31st.

0:52:010:52:03

In every way you try not to use carbon.

0:52:030:52:06

But obviously the main one is transport,

0:52:060:52:09

and therefore I have the bike and I cycle.

0:52:090:52:12

So what sort of distance have you cycled?

0:52:120:52:15

Well, this year it's just over 5,000 miles.

0:52:150:52:18

And I've got maybe 2,000-3,000 miles to go

0:52:190:52:22

before I can get home at Christmas

0:52:220:52:25

and the 5,000 miles have taken me to

0:52:250:52:30

Cornwall, down along the south coast,

0:52:300:52:34

through London, into East Anglia,

0:52:340:52:36

and then up and down East Anglia, Kent, etc,

0:52:360:52:39

looking for birds,

0:52:390:52:41

up into the North of England,

0:52:410:52:43

across to Mull in Scotland,

0:52:430:52:46

to Aberdeen and finally to this incredible island, North Ronaldsay.

0:52:460:52:50

When did you start this particular journey?

0:52:500:52:52

This particular journey started January 1st, 2015.

0:52:520:52:56

It's been going ever since.

0:52:560:52:59

I bet you must have stayed in some strange places over the year.

0:52:590:53:01

GARY CHUCKLES

0:53:010:53:03

Yes. In 2010, the first year that I ever did this,

0:53:030:53:07

to get the British record,

0:53:070:53:09

I ran out of money while I was on Shetland,

0:53:090:53:11

so from September to December 31st,

0:53:110:53:15

church porches, bus shelters,

0:53:150:53:18

bird hides,

0:53:180:53:20

and the most comfortable night was in some disabled toilets.

0:53:200:53:24

So you're a birding hobo.

0:53:240:53:26

I have been on occasions.

0:53:260:53:27

This year it's a bit more bourgeois.

0:53:270:53:29

When I get to Fair Isle it's going to be little different.

0:53:290:53:33

I'll probably be sleeping in a derelict croft.

0:53:330:53:36

I've got lots of friends who are birders.

0:53:370:53:39

Some are very, very passionate,

0:53:390:53:42

some are quite obsessed.

0:53:420:53:44

-OK.

-Which are you?

0:53:440:53:45

GARY LAUGHS

0:53:450:53:47

I suppose, I think I would use the word driven.

0:53:470:53:51

I have an aim, I have a focus,

0:53:510:53:53

I will achieve my aims.

0:53:530:53:55

It will be this year.

0:53:550:53:57

I will become the European record-holder,

0:53:570:53:59

the green birding record-holder for Europe.

0:53:590:54:02

Once you achieve that, what's next?

0:54:020:54:04

My ambition is to try and achieve world record status.

0:54:040:54:09

At the moment there's an American named Dorian Anderson.

0:54:090:54:13

He is the world record-holder,

0:54:130:54:14

with a total of 618 birds in one year.

0:54:140:54:17

I want to beat that.

0:54:170:54:19

People don't think of themselves as eccentric,

0:54:190:54:22

but I imagine other people might think that my lifestyle

0:54:220:54:25

is a bit different.

0:54:250:54:27

And I don't think anyone would argue with that.

0:54:270:54:30

Much as I love my bike,

0:54:300:54:31

I couldn't spend a whole year using it and living a nomadic lifestyle.

0:54:310:54:36

In fact, my own journey for this year is almost over.

0:54:360:54:40

There's just one part of North Ronaldsay I've still got to visit.

0:54:400:54:43

I've wandered up to the north of the island,

0:54:490:54:51

to an area called Dennis Head.

0:54:510:54:54

And the building you can see with all the scaffolding behind me here

0:54:540:54:57

is the Old Beacon,

0:54:570:54:58

which was North Ronaldsay's original lighthouse.

0:54:580:55:02

It was built in 1789 by a man that went by the name of Thomas Smith,

0:55:020:55:06

and his son-in-law and his apprentice

0:55:060:55:09

was called Robert Stevenson.

0:55:090:55:11

Stevenson eventually inherited the lighthouse building business,

0:55:120:55:16

and it wasn't long before the name Stevenson became synonymous

0:55:160:55:19

with some of the most important lighthouses

0:55:190:55:22

that we have in Scotland.

0:55:220:55:23

The family also produced a young man

0:55:250:55:27

by the name of Robert Louis Stevenson,

0:55:270:55:30

who of course went on to become one of our greatest ever novelists.

0:55:300:55:35

Now, more recently, the Old Beacon came to prominence as part of

0:55:350:55:39

the BBC's Restoration Village programme,

0:55:390:55:42

and you can see the restoration work is still in progress.

0:55:420:55:45

I quite like to think that eventually

0:55:450:55:47

it might become some sort of tourist accommodation,

0:55:470:55:50

because I can think of few places in Scotland where you

0:55:500:55:53

could get a better get away from everything type holiday.

0:55:530:55:57

Along this part of the coast

0:56:060:56:08

there's this lovely series of circular dry stone walls,

0:56:080:56:13

and you might be forgiven on this archaeological Orkney

0:56:130:56:17

that these are perhaps old tombs

0:56:170:56:19

or something to do with Vikings.

0:56:190:56:21

The explanation is much more prosaic, I think.

0:56:210:56:26

These were round walls

0:56:260:56:28

and inside them people grew cabbages,

0:56:280:56:31

and that dates away back to the 1500s.

0:56:310:56:35

A place for growing cabbages.

0:56:350:56:37

The idea was the cabbages would be protected in here

0:56:370:56:40

from grazing sheep and, more importantly, from the wind.

0:56:400:56:43

And they were built close to the coast to really cut down on

0:56:430:56:48

the possibility of frost damage.

0:56:480:56:50

Today, they form quite an interesting

0:56:530:56:55

part of the skyline here.

0:56:550:56:57

And they kind of remind us again

0:56:570:56:59

that people have lived on these islands for a long, long time.

0:56:590:57:03

Well, that's it - journey's end,

0:57:100:57:13

at the top of the most northern island in Orkney,

0:57:130:57:16

and in the shadow of the highest land-based lighthouse

0:57:160:57:19

in the UK, and it's absolutely spectacular.

0:57:190:57:24

It's also a great place to reflect on what has been another fantastic

0:57:240:57:28

journey along Scotland's roads less travelled.

0:57:280:57:31

Starting at Dornoch Point,

0:57:340:57:35

just south of the lovely old cathedral town,

0:57:350:57:38

and making my way up through these beautiful villages of Scotland's

0:57:380:57:42

north-east coast, into the very heart of the Flow Country peatlands

0:57:420:57:47

and those wide-open skies and wide-open spaces of Caithness.

0:57:470:57:51

And then across the Pentland Firth

0:57:520:57:54

to Orkney, and what an eye-opener that has been.

0:57:540:57:58

You know, I've only visited six of the Orkney islands,

0:57:580:58:01

so that leaves me plenty of scope to come back and explore even more.

0:58:010:58:06

So I hope you'll maybe think of joining me next year,

0:58:070:58:10

as I explore some more of Scotland's Roads Less Travelled.

0:58:100:58:14

So it only remains for me to sign out by quoting my old grandmother.

0:58:170:58:21

"If I'm spared, I'll see you next time."

0:58:210:58:24

Bye-bye.

0:58:240:58:25

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.