Today is my last day in Orkney and half of my summer in Scotland is already over. Time flies by! Tomorrow the ferry will take me to the North of Scotland for a week in Assynt and then another ferry to Lewis & Harris. Two isles down, two (and one) more to go before I´ll be back home in Vienna (and probably doing another self-isolation).
Orkney was quite the surprise after Shetland. Shetland feels quite rough and raw, with no trees, high cliffs and lots of sheep. Orkney has soft rolling green hills and sometimes reminds me of Ireland. Very little sheep but lots of cows.
So how is travelling in Scotland in times of the Covid virus – it is definitely different than usual but then also not and it is easy to forget about the whole thing.
First of all, keep an eye on the official Scottish government sites to be up to date with the current regulations, they change regularly AND are different from the ones in England or Wales.
Since Monday all of Scotland is on Level 0 which has brought a few changes to social distancing (just one meter) and how many people can meet. But we are still required to wear a mask inside a shop or museum or on the ferries. Ferries have reduced capacities as have restaurants and cafés. Here in Orkney, the inner-islands ferries must be prebooked and during the sailing, we stayed in the cars.
When visiting an island we are asked to take a lateral flow test three days prior and on the day of boarding the ferry (or plane) – I brought lots of rapid tests with me and am testing myself every other day and on the days I am on a ferry.
It probably isn’t as busy as it usually would be. In Shetland, I was told that all the cruise ships and coaches had been missing, the same here in Orkney. But this week I saw the first coaches driving around and this week the very first cruise ships were arriving in Lerwick and Kirkwall, so things might get busier now.
Not all sites of interest or museums are open – I have quite the list for next time. But there is still enough to explore and visit. or just take a walk along the shore or in the hills.
Again it helps to have an eye on the sites of the Historic Environment of Scotland and the National Trust of Scotland. It is also often required to book tickets for open sites. Track & Trace is in operation at every site, museum and restaurant or café.
I have mostly booked self-catering places, loved every single one so far, and am always greeted with loads of hand soap and disinfectant. Often things like books or DVDs are removed to avoid “contact” with former guests and every place gets deep cleaned.
Even when we might stay two meters apart, people are still incredibly friendly and helpful and there are lots of cute dogs to cuddle! I am enjoying every minute so far! After a year mostly spend in my apartment and in & around Vienna this wideness and having all this space is just the most relaxing ever.