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Friday, 2 September 2011

A Day Out

Yesterday I had a day out in Orkney. First it was a visit to the town of Kirkwall, although really it's a city, as in the UK any place with a cathedral is termed a city - whatever it's size!  Kirkwall is the main town in Orkney and most of the (approx) 20,000 inhabitants live in or around the town. The town is also the "commercial" centre of Orkney with most people working in the town, either at the local authority or the health board, as well as smaller offices. Of course there are also the shops. There is one main street with small shops along it (though the name varies from Albert Street at one end, through Broad Street, to Victoria Street at the other). Then of course there are the main supermarkets, just on the outskirts of the town, and an industrial estate further out. But those of you from further South in the UK do NOT think large shopping centres!  Remember we only have a population of 20,000!  But you can get most of what you want within the town, though you may pay higher prices than "south" (cost of transporting from south), and you might not have the same wide choice.  BUT it can be done!

Broad Street - rather a quiet day on the "main street"!

As I mentioned Kirkwall has a Cathedral. As you will see from the photo at the top of the page it is a fine one at that. St Magnus Cathedral was built in the 11th Century by Earl Rognvald, though his intentions were not entirely honourable! Read more about the history here.  Unusually for cathedrals in the UK, St Magnus is owned by the people of Orkney and managed by the local authority, Orkney Islands Council, and the "Friends" of the cathedral. It is used for recitals, pop conterts, and a performance space as well as for the usual worship, weddings and funerals.  The regular services are "Church of Scotland", though other denominations are able to use the cathedral too.

Next to the Cathedral is a lovely cafe "The Reel" run by the Wrigley Sisters, local musicians. Often they have music nights in the cafe, which is also part music shop, but yesterday I was able to enjoy a quiet cafe latte, with a wee cake in peace and tranquility. Just what I needed after an early rising!

After calling in at a local feed merchants to get more food for hungry hens, I headed back to the town of Stromness, which is just across the water from Graemsay.  The Pier Arts Centre has an exhibition of Sylvia Whishart's work and it was wonderful to see the whole collection together for the first time. Sylvia Wishart was an Orcadian artist, her studio used to be in the building which is now the Pier Arts Centre. She described her own aspirations for her life as ‘having no ambition beyond painting on and finding out what comes’. Her paintings are all of Orkney, though not what some people would call truly representational art. She was friends with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicolson, some of whose work is also part of the Pier Arts Collection.

The notes accompanying one set of paintings called "Reflections" explained that she loved painting through her window, and her painting included reflections of inside or reflections from other windows onto that window, so within the painting it's hard to tell what is inside and what is outside. I loved them! In this set of paintings there is an added layer too as the viewer's reflections is also imposed upon the painting! These paintings hang overlooking the harbour where she would have sat painting in her own time too. I was really pleased to here a book has been commissioned and will contain essays from many of her friends as well as plates of her pictures.

After such an uplifting experience it was time to head off for a walk along the coast with a friend and her wee doggies.  But more of that another day.


  1. So very interesting, thank

  2. Louise from Seattle3 September 2011 at 16:26

    I feel so lucky to know many of the places you describe, after having visited Orkney twice. Jeff and I are working on plans for a third visit, perhaps summer 2012. Thanks for your lovely posts, Sian!

  3. Pat - glad you enjoyed it!

    Louise - hanging head in shame...sorry I owe you an email...or two! But if you are here next year you must come out to graemsay!

  4. Louise from Seattle5 September 2011 at 03:44

    Sian, no worries! I'm not keeping track of emails sent or owed! If we make it up there next year, we'll visit you on Graemsay for sure. Wouldn't miss it! Now how about coming out Seattle way???

  5. The Wrigley Sisters are fine musicians. I have one of their CDs from some time ago. Good to hear they remain true to their roots up there on Orkney!

  6. What a lovely and informative post. It makes me long to 'pop' up to Orkney again! I think the Wrigley Sisters (I love the name, it makes me think of caterpillars) are playing in our local music venue soon, though sadly I can't make it along. We have a lot of live folk music here though so we're lucky.