Disembarking at Kirkwall, guests on National Geographic Explorer had the opportunity to select a number of activities that included a town walk (during which Arctic explorer John Rae’s grave site was viewed), a visit to several Orkney treasures (notably the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae), and a visit to Scapa Flow that consisted of Ness Battery, the Churchill Barriers, and the Italian Chapel. Our visit to Scapa Flow provided an educational, yet sobering experience that afforded us the chance to view the anchorage that was used by the UK Admiralty for its fleet during World War I and World War II. It is the location where over 70 ships belonging to the German High Fleet were deliberately scuttled by the German Navy at the end of World War I to avoid them being taken into the hands of allied forces. Scapa Flow is also the location of the four Churchill Barriers that were constructed to prevent penetration by German U-Boats during both world wars, and on our tour, we were able to cross each barrier. Our visit also included the opportunity to enter the Italian Chapel, a small and beautiful structure that was built by Italian prisoners of war who were relocated to Orkney from North Africa.

Before dinner all on board National Geographic Explorer enjoyed a whisky tasting that was hosted by Highland Park Distillery. Highland Park’s operations are based in Kirkwall. Following dinner, Saltfishforty!, a local duo from Orkney, entertained us with beautiful traditional music that was played on an assortment of instruments. The melodic tunes were accompanied by the soft, warm, and mellow voices of the two performers. It was a very special day in a very special location.