The Orkneyinga Trail – Kirkwall and Beyond – A short, and not entirely reasonable, ramble about the Vikings in Orkney

By Bernie Bell

Having seen my ‘Looking up in Kirkwall’ pieces in ‘The Orkney News’   someone asked did I know that there is an Orkneyinga Saga Trail , in Kirkwall?  And, here’s my answer – possibly not a popular view, but I tells it like I sees it………….and often with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

Orkneyinga Saga Trail Kirkwall

Re the Orkneyinga Saga Trail in Kirkwall…….I’m vaguely aware that there is one, and of the Orkneyinga Saga Trail, around Orkney  – I see the noticeboards when we’re out for walks.

Thing is…I don’t like the Vikings.  I don’t like their attitude – to other people, or the world around them.  And I’m not keen on The Orkneyinga Saga – a lot of it is people being horrible – chopping up their relatives, burning houses over people’s heads etc.  I realise that the Orkneyinga Saga is very valuable  as a source of information about  that time, but….I just don’t like the Vikings, and so, following a trail dedicated to them, for me, would be like following a trail of Places of Importance in the Development of the British Conservative Party.

I do have a liking for big blond blokes – (Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin – Si King of the Hairy Bikers), but big blonde blokes who rampage about, with a bad attitude – not so much.

Some years ago, Mike was in Denmark, with his work, and he found the Danes to be, by and large, a very peaceable, friendly, easy-going people. He was having a beer with some Danish colleagues, and asked, how come the Danes are so pleasant, when the ones who came over in their big ships ….weren’t? The answer was that the nasty ones went ravening, and the nice ones, stayed home.

I kind of like to think of Sweyn Asleifsson  as being our neighbour, over on Gairsay, but, when he was actually there, I would probably have been happier knowing he was over there, on Gairsay, at home  not out ravening!

So, it’s like when I did my piece about Birsay  and said that the Earls Palace is there, for those who like that sorta thing, but I dislike the Stewart Earls, and so, I don’t want to visit their houses. Same with the Vikings.  Possibly not a popular view, but mine own.

For me, it all went downhill after the Neolithic. They looked to the sky and the stars. Bronze Age – so so – made lovely things.  Iron Age – had its good points,  but looking more down, into the earth. After that  – Romans with their regimentation, rigidity and downright strange attitudes to other  peoples ( “We’ll build a wall!” – sounds familiar?), then…..the ******  Vikings!

I’m aiming for a Stroll Through Stromness, when I get the opportunity – along the lines of ‘Looking up in Kirkwall’.  Meanwhile, I’ll just …ramble on.

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4 replies »

  1. Bernie, I have the same feelings about the Stewarts castle in Scalloway. As for the Vikings, you’ve got to admit that they were great seafarers and navigators but they were only following in the footsteps of that great Irish Saint, St. Brendan!!!

  2. That reminds me…of this……

    “The Danes came to Ireland with nothing to do
    But count up the numbers of the Irish they slew
    “Away wi’ ye Vikings”, said Brian Boru
    And threw them back into the ocean

    The sea, oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide
    Long may it roll between England and me
    It’s a sure guarantee that some hour we’ll be free
    Thank God we’re surrounded by water.”

    • Morning Bernie, think this loses some of its Ooooomph in the translation from the Gaelic but people will get the point. Pity is we’ve got a ‘land border’!!!!

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