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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Ancient and Modern

One of the great things about Orkney is the sheer breadth of history for you to explore, from prehistory right up to modern times. Vikings such as the legendary Kolbein Hruga left their mark on the islands. His stronghold on the peaceful island of Wyre passed into Orkney folklore as the castle of the mythical Orkney giant, ‘Cubbie Roo.’ As you stroll round the islands on a misty evening, it’s easy to imagine a Viking longboat bursting suddenly through the sea fret. Kolbein and his exploits on Wyre, a green jewel of an island, were recalled round the firesides of the ancient Norse saga-tellers in the Orkneyinga Saga.

Moving through the centuries, you can find out how ordinary Orcadians lived and worked at the Kirbuster Farm Museum. But some of the most poignant relics on the islands date from the World Wars. The tragedy of HMS Royal Oak is remembered, along with artefacts recovered from the scuttled German High Seas Fleet, at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre on Hoy. One of the most inspiring reminders of the war years is the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm. This masterpiece was created by Italian POWs from scrap and whatever materials they could salvage. The interior is wonderfully decorated by Domenico Chiochetti. The sheer beauty and peace inside the chapel never fail to bring a lump to my throat.
Images © Sue and Nigel Wilkes: Cubbie Roo's castle, Wyre.
Italian Chapel and interior, Lamb Holm.


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