The Bog Bus goes to The Orkney Islands

First, an explanation of what exactly constitutes the Bog Bus

The Bog Bus

The Bog Bus in its current incarnation is a VW caravanette. It is whatever vehicle the Bog Crew use to travel to various bothies, and on holidays and trips such as the one recounted here.

The participants in this latest venture were whittled down to four regulars from the Clachnaharry Inn in Inverness, and two interlopers from the wilds of Lochailort.

In no particular order, we have Jim and John (The Chemical Brothers)¹ Keenan, Stevie Dougherty, Bog Bus proprietor and driver, Glyn (is Scot Ads out yet?) Young, George (I don't snore) Clark, and your humble narrator.
¹ So called because of the quantity of prescription drugs they both have to take...

Day one saw us leaving Jim's Clachnaharry residence on Sunday around 2pm. With typical Bog Bus efficiency, we immediately stopped after 100 yards, to go to the pub for a farewell pint. Stevie had an Irn Bru...

The journey northwards was largely uneventful, apart from cries from the back seat of "Are we there yet?", but we soon tired of this hearty badinage. We stopped at a hotel somewhere in Caithness which had a car park full of vintage cars, but as my camera was firmly packed in my bag at the time no photographs were taken by me. Some of the others took snaps, so they may be added later.

Eventually we reached John O'Groats, our stop for the first night, where we fed and watered with some considerable enthusiasm, after putting up the tents, of course...

Day two dawned bright and early (in fact it doesn't really get dark at this time of year in the Far North), and tents and hangovers were packed away for the short run to Gill's Bay ferry terminal.

The ferry boat "Pentalina B" duly arrived, and we were finally on our way to the Orkneys! Arriving at St Margarets Hope we immediately stopped at the first pub we came to, in order to celebrate our arrival in South Ronaldsay. Having refreshed ourselves, we moved swiftly to the mainland by way of the causeways that link the islands together, finally arriving at Kirkwall in the early afternoon. Tents were erected in the camp site adjoining the Pickaquoy Centre, and plans were made to a) have lunch and b) go to the pub.

Much eating, drinking, and making merry ensued, and eventually we retired for our second night under canvas. Overnight the weather took a turn for the worse, and we got up the following morning with our tents absolutely drenched...

This brings us neatly to Day three. We had planned to move on from Kirkwall after just one night, but the thought of packing up wet tents was too much to bear, so we decided to spend another day in Kirkwall. We had breakfast in the Peekaboo Centre, as Jim decided to call it (he couldn't remember the actual name). This elicited a comment from Jim to the extent of "I know what to put in that survey form now".

Cultural stuff - went to Skara Brae after an abortive trip to the Orkney Brewery - it doesn't do tours (it's really quite a small operation).

More eating, drinking, etc. followed. On the way back to camp after the final pub shut, Jim decided he would take a short cut back to base, John having left earlier, so Stevie, Glyn, George and I made for the long way home. As soon as Jim was out of sight we grabbed a taxi back to camp, leading to a very puzzled Jim, who we also led to believe that as well as walking back faster than he had, we had also stopped for a kebab on the way back... (Sorry, Jim!)

Day four. Wednesday already! The weather having improved somewhat, we decided to move on to Stromness, for a change of scenery/beer, etc. having already decided to give Evie a miss - some of the lads wanted to go fishing and thought it would be an ideal base, but it proved to be too small.²
² No pub...

Having set up camp in Stromness we set about exploring the village - the main street is very narrow, and is made of flagstones with a central cobbled section. We immediately found a pub to our taste, and Stevie and Glyn hired bikes, more of which later...

That evening we had cheese and wine in the Bog Bus, then everyone but Stevie, who had Plans of his own, went in to town to sample fish suppers, and then on to the Ferry Inn, where folk music was perpetrated. Glyn had taken the hired bike in to the village, but did not want to take it back to camp, and suggested that I might like to take it back for him. As I hadn't been on a bike in about 20 years I readily agreed, and after lowering the seat (I'm taller than Glyn but he had the seat at a height where my legs couldn't reach the ground) I set off for camp.

Stevie, it transpired, had been visiting the tent of some other campers³ and had joined them for a barbecue and much else besides. There was much noise and music going on, but I went to bed and so cannot accurately transcribe what the rest of the crew got up to that night. A discreet veil will be drawn...
³ They just happened to be young and female, OK?

Day five - Thursday already, and our last full day. A great deal of fishing gear had been taken on the trip, as at least four of the crew are regular fishermen. So far, not a single fly had even got its feet wet, far less any fishing having been done. Glyn discovered that his waders were cracked, and his bowels were rebelling against something he had consumed the night before, so we dropped off George and the Chemical Brothers beside a loch and left them to fish to their hearts' content.

With Glyn's requirements for a nearby toilet for the remainder of the day we couldn't move too far - near the loch where we dropped off the fisherman was the Earl's Palace at Birsay, a ruin now, which was built by James V's illegitimate son Robert Stewart, who at the time was Earl of Orkney. He and his son Patrick were later executed for treason following an armed rebellion against James VI. At this point the batteries in my camera ran out, so there are no more pictures of that day. Not far from the present day Birsay is the Brough of Birsay, another ruined settlement on what is now an island that can only be reached by causeway when the tide is out. We didn't go across, as once again the need for toilet facilities raised it's ugly head. We collected the fishermen, who had a mixed bag (all returned to the loch) and were reasonably happy, then returned to camp.

For our last night on the island we decided to treat ourselves to dinner in the Royal Hotel, followed by more folk music. I didn't make the folk music (one night a week is all I can take), and so returned to the camp along with Glyn, who was a little the worse for wear having visited the toilet about nine times already. John's inflatable mattress had deflated, apparently, leading to much cursing and rapid pumping noises coming from the tent...

Friday now - Day six. We had to be in St Margarets Hope by 11:30 to catch the ferry, so we were all up and about by around 8am. The camp was highly entertained by John, as he strode towards the ablutions, yelling out “Morning, Glyn. How's yer arse?”...

We drove to Kirkwall first of all, having struck camp, and had breakfast in the Pomona Cafe. Newspapers were bought (Glyn found a new adpaper) and we finally set off for the last leg of the trip. We arrived at the ferry in good time, and arrived back on the mainland after a slightly choppier crossing than the journey to the Islands. Last leg of the trip was the drive back to Inverness, and the ceremonial finishing pints in the Clachnaharry Inn on our return. Home at last!

Now for the fun part - the snapshots

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