After months of planning, at long last I’m on my way to Orkney, exactly two years after my month in Shetland. I’ll be performing with Anne Bünemann, Peter Hunt and Orkney composer and flautist, Gemma McGregor in the King Street Halls, Kirkwall on Friday 16th as well as working in local schools. I thought I’d remembered the beautiful winter light on Scotland’s northerly outposts pretty well, but actually, I’d forgotten exactly how special it is.
After rolling through my usual stamping grounds of the Central Highlands, it was onto the Far North Line to Scotland’s north coast. I was treated to some golden autumn colours around Lairg and then, after lunch the light faded rapidly. I’d forgotten the pale blue of the northern sky in winter and also the dramatic skies over wide-open seas – fortunately for my evening sailing, looking flat-calm today.
With time to kill, I walked the 2 miles from Thurso to the Scrabster ferry terminal, Hoy, the hilly Orkney isle, sitting tantalisingly on the horizon. I watched the astonishing sunset from the lighthouse. The sky was lit flame-red over the village, with Dunnet Head, Britain’s most northerly point, highlighted in pastel pinks. Overhead a skene of geese was lit up from below by the sinking sun – a reminder of my newest piece, Anna Appleby’s “Hrakningar”. I felt the need to text another composer-friend, Lillie Harris. Two years ago, we shared a week on Shetland – she knows exactly how special the Northern Isles are in winter!