Caledonian Sleeper + Stromness Orkney Islands

Norse Pole

Orkney Islands Ferry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Caledonian you’re calling us. We’re tartaned to the nines. This week’s Country Life confirms: “In August the Caledonian Sleeper fills with… denizens of the Highland season.” It’s certainly one of life’s more memorable experiences, enjoying a wee dram (one for the rail) in London Euston then wakening up while crossing a viaduct slicing through pine fringed glens. “The Scottish Highlands are the best for me ever darling,” shares leading hotelier Astrid Bray. “I last visited them in October when the evenings were still light. The pine trees were red with the sunset. I was blown away. I just like what I like. That’s really important. I love trekking round a loch!”

Stromness Orkney Islands Scotland © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Stromness Orkney Islands © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Our Highland fling is far flung as we’re off to the archipelago that is Orkney. First stop, Stromness, a vision of the past with its winding flagstone paved streets and 17th century houses dipping into Hamnavoe Bay. Orkney place names are wildly evocative from Hobbister to Grimbister. Rapness. Twatt. Voy and Beaquoy. Quoyloo and Quoyscottie. Backaland and Outertown are suitably rural. So is Gorseness. Whitehall isn’t as urban as it sounds. Brough of Deerness, Calfe of Eday and Knowes of Trotty suggest a sense of belonging. A whiff of Scandinavia is hardly surprising: Bergen is closer than London. Even the ferry terminal revels in splendid nomenclature: Scrabster. But we would walk 500 miles.

Stromness Harbour Orkney Islands © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley