Beer Blog 63: Orkney Islands

So, as promised in the previous blog, here we are in northern Scotland. This blog has not featured a Scottish brewery for 26 entries, so I thought it was about time I rectified this. Let’s see what this wild, untamed land has to offer….

Orkney Brewery – Skull Splitter

This bottle is 330ml snd comes in at 8.5%. It is another one from the Christmas collection (only 4 to go now from this collection), and so cost me nothing. I love the art work on the bottle. It shows how the brewery is proud of its heritage, which always fills me with confidence ahead of trying a stronger beer!

This beer is everything I expected from a brewery based off the north coast of mainland Scotland. A punchy, malty beer which has bags of character. From the first taste the slightly harsh malt hits the top of your mouth and lingers like the warmth you get from a nice Sambuca or Tawney Port. It has though that wonderful moorishness to it that keeps you coming back for that next sip. With a name like skull splitter, I expect this beer has a history of giving pretty bad hangover headaches when drunk in large quantities (and nothing to do with the Viking history which surrounds these islands). I am very lucky that I have been to Thurso & looked out across the sea towards Orkney. I have never step foot on the isles though. Whilst drinking this beer I have bagpipes playing, which really takes me back to the area and sets off this beer really well! The head retention of this beer is really good, however I can’t help feel it is slightly under carbed making the beer a bit thick. It might just be me (or potentially I’m not used to the higher abv). On the whole this is a wonderful beer which provides a nice relaxing, long drink. It also gives me a chance to reminiss.

The Brewery is based in Quoyloo, 17 miles North West of the island capital Kirkwall. Found on what is known locally as mainland Orkney. The village is on the B9056 roughly halfway between Stromness to the south and Twatt to the north. The settlement name originates from the Old Norse þveit, meaning ‘small parcel of land’. The Norse word commonly produces in England the place name element Thwaite. The name Twatt is similar to the common English expletive twat, (an insulting word used to express contempt or derision for another individual, although it can also colloquially refer to a vagina). Its name featured at number four in a list of the most vulgar-sounding names in Rude Britain, along with its Shetland counterpart. There is also an Upper Twatt Road on the island in Stenness. It was previously the location of RNAS Twatt (HMS Tern) between 1940 & 1949.

The remains of Twatt airfield

To the north of mainland Orkney can be found the ruins of Birsay Earls Palace. The castle was constructed in two phases. The first phase of work, begun in the 1570s, consisted of the great hall located in the south range, above the main door. Beside this was Lord Orkney’s private chamber in the south-east corner tower. An inscription above the entrance, dated 1574, marks this phase. The second phase, completed in the 1580s, saw a new range containing a great hall and chamber built on the north side of the courtyard. The second phase probably followed Robert’s acquisition of the Earldom of Orkney in 1581. After the death of Robert Stewart, the palace was used only occasionally by later earls of Orkney, and was not occupied after the mid-17th century. By 1701 the palace had begun to deteriorate badly. The two-storey palace was constructed around a central courtyard and well, with large stone towers at three of the four corners. It was as much a fortress as a residence. Only the palace’s upper floors had large windows; the accessible ground floors were equipped with small openings and an array of gun-holes, from which musketeers could cover every side of the building.

To the south is the harbour town of Stromness. The name Stromness comes from the Norse Straumsnes. Straum refers to the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness through Hoy Sound to the south of the town. Nes means headland. Stromness thus means headland protruding into the tidal stream. In Viking times the anchorage where Stromness now stands was called Hamnavoe, meaning peaceful or safe harbour. A long-established seaport, Stromness has a population of approximately 2,190 residents. The old town is clustered along the characterful and winding main street, flanked by houses and shops built from local stone, with narrow lanes and alleys branching off it. There is a ferry link from Stromness to Scrabster on the north coast of mainland Scotland. Stromness presents to the Atlantic a range of cliffs between 100 and 500 ft high, and to Hoy Sound a band of fertile lowlands. The rocks possess great geological interest, and were made well known by the publication of the evangelical geologist Hugh Miller: The Footprints of the Creator.

Stromness Harbour

This northern outpost has some amazing spots which I hope you enjoyed exploring with me. Orkney also has a thriving football scene. However, instead of trying to fathom this out, can i please draw your attention to Clint’s superb blog on exactly this subject. He has done a far better job than I ever could: https://the94thminute.com/2020/04/11/the-northern-isles-my-initial-delve-into-orkney-islands-football/

I’m going to leave you as ever with the ongoing progress map!

One thought on “Beer Blog 63: Orkney Islands

  1. An awesome blog as always, and I will certainly have to try that beer next year, once the sober year challenge has been completed! Also thank you for linking my blog also, really appreciate it!

    Like

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