An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

I love Orkney and have made several trips to the archipelago. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to share some favourite islands and stories with Huw.

To me Orkney is one of the friendliest archipelagos in the British Isles. The communities are the warmest and most open armed. Here I look forward to bumping into the island postmen/women and have now met most of them. Anne (now retired) cycling with her postbag to deliver on Flotta; riding around Rousay in the back of the Trish’s van amongst the empty post bags to get me to the friendly Taversoe Inn; and the postie on Shapinsay who asked me what the heck I was doing when I seemingly emerged from a hedge (route finding was a bit shaky that day).

Orkney Ferries are special too – their crew have fixed my punctures, looked after my laptop for the day and offered me friendship and company when I have spent days alone on the islands.

The island communities are a constant joy. I’ll never forget being invited to Papa Westray’s community coffee morning before I had even landed on the island – and I can certainly vouch for their excellent home-made cakes and chats. I’ve met people from far flung places of the world at the North Ronaldsay sheep festival – all dedicated to supporting the last example of community farming in the UK and helping to rebuild the stone wall that makes this island and its tasty mutton so special. During the summer months each island has its own agricultural show, music events and community parties and there is nothing quite like travelling out to them en-masse from Kirkwall on the ‘party ferry’.

I also love Orkney because of its serene beauty and gentleness, its quirkiness and its mind blowing history. There’s plenty more about this to be found on this website.

It’s where I cut my teeth on the Islandeering project, it’s where I had my first rejection from a publisher and yet didn’t care as I was in a place that filled me with such joy.

The author Richard Clubley talks of Scottish islands and a ‘special kind of freedom’ and nowhere have I felt it more than on these wonderful isles.

Of course I didn’t say all of this in my interview – I wish I had because Orkney you are special. The only shame is that you can’t listen to its fabulous radio station outside of Orkney but you can hear the full interview hear.

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