Orkney, just off the north coast of Scotland, is an archipelago which consists of 70 islands, twenty one of which are inhabited.
Those who are born in Orkney are called Orcadians. For those who choose to settle there, it takes a long, long time to be considered a local.
Tour guide and historian
Kinlay Francis, who runs the tour business Orkney Uncovered has lived there, and loved the islands, since 1990, but is still not considered to be a genuine Orcadian.
Perhaps it is a good thing that Kinlay is an outsider, for he has accepted that Orkney is the place for him; so admires and believes in the islands rather than taking them for granted as part of his birthright.
Kinlay is a tour guide and a historian, with a particular interest in the military history of Orkney. One of his specialities is his knowledge of Scapa Flow, the world’s second largest natural harbour, which was an important British and allied naval base during the First and Second World Wars.
When I spoke to Kinlay his enthusiasm for Orkney was infectious. His descriptions of the isles and his deep appreciation for the locale convinced me to want to go and visit Orkney.
The Orkney landscape and climate
He described a part of the world that is supremely attractive, but with a climate that can be both wild and invigorating. Because of its northerly location, I imagined the Orkney Isles to be cold, barren places. Barren they may be in some places, but the weather there is actually quite temperate. Snow and frost are a rarity, which was surprising to learn. Whilst the islands may remain relatively snow-free, the biting, ferocious winds are a constant reminder of your location at the meeting point of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The image of the islands that Kinlay described were of a soft green and fertile landscape, beautiful beaches, spectacular cliffs and abundant wildlife.
Kinlay’s telling of the human history of the Orkneys had me thinking of the Iron Age people who built massive stone monuments in many parts of the islands. Today, evidence of their existence in the form of exceptionally well preserved Neolithic monuments.
He reminded me of the Orkneys Viking history. The so-called `Men of the North’ didn’t have to travel too far to reach Orkney and their legacy remains in the DNA of Orcadians, and many of the place names.
Kinlay Francis’s love for the Orkneys is entirely genuine, and through his guiding service Orkney Uncovered visitors can enjoy a true and genuine Orkney experience in the company of a man who has chosen to live where he wants to be.
(Originally published at www.radioroaming.com)