On Thursday 9th February, NorthLink Ferries welcomed members of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotel Association (ACSHA) along with others onto MV Hrossey for a trip to the Orkney Islands. MV Hrossey was a very appropriate ship to be on; Hrossey is the old Norse name for Orkney.
After everyone had boarded, the guests were treated to a bridge visit. There they saw Captain Allan Scott manoeuvring the ship through the narrow passage out of Aberdeen. It was a great ‘behind the scenes’ look at the journey. Afterwards it was onto the Feast restaurant for canapes and our evening meal, which were Orkney-inspired. We enjoyed Orkney crab, cheese, beef, fudge and ice-cream, to mention but a few!
We arrived in Kirkwall that same evening. We disembarked the ferry and jumped onto what was to be our bus for the whole trip. When we drove to the Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall we were met by Lyall and Wendy who settled us in for the evening. The hotel was exceptional and it must have been slightly daunting to have such a number of hoteliers staying at there at once! However, the staff at the Ayre Hotel took it in their stride.
Friday morning came and it was time to start our whistle-stop tour of Orkney. We went first to the Orkney Cheese factory in Hatston, Kirkwall. We were all overwhelmed by the amount of cheese that was being stored on the premises! Of course we all had to do a bit of quality control testing – but the cheese passed with flying colours! It was a delicious way to start the morning!
Next we ventured a little further out of Kirkwall to the Scapa Distillery which overlooks the stunning natural harbour of Scapa Flow. A cool crisp morning with the frost and snow settling made for some beautiful photos but none did the views justice. It was fair to say that the day was going well with having both cheese and whisky all before 10am!
We then headed across the island to the second biggest town; Stromness and paid a visit to Argos Bakery. This was a treat for all the company, who were enjoying the Orkney produce (possibly) a little too much. It would have been rude not to taste everything!
Along with the NorthLink staff and ASCHA members we also had Callum MacInnes of Orkney Food and Drink aboard the bus showing us the sights of Orkney. With Callum being with us the obvious next stop was The Island Smokery! Callum started up the Smokery in Stromness more than 10 years ago and was more than happy to show us around and let us sample his divine range of products.
Another short bus journey saw us at the NorthLink Ferry Terminal in Stromness ready to board the MV Hamnavoe for lunch. The lunch on-board was another Orkney-inspired meal which had sandwiches supplied from Argos Bakery, and Cullen Skink Soup made using Orkney fish.
As beautiful as Stromness was looking with not a cloud in the sky we couldn’t stay too long as our next appointment was looming. The Orkney Brewery was next. There we all got to sample their ‘Northern Light’ and ‘Orkney Gold’ beer. The Brewery was the last ‘official’ site on the tour and we then headed back to Kirkwall (with a short stop at the Standing Stones of Stenness for photographs.)
Arriving back in Kirkwall we all went to the St Magnus Cathedral and took some time to browse the local shops before returning to the Ayre Hotel for our farewell dinner. Joining the group for dinner was Stephen Kemp, the director of Kirkjuvagr Gin. Dinner was accompanied by a fine gin tasting session!
The farewell dinner was the perfect ending to our whistle-stop tour, and everything on the menu was supplied from local companies on the island. Our evening ended as we headed back on the bus for our final journey to the MV Hrossey, sailing to Aberdeen.
A huge thank you must go to all the members of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotel Association who attended this event along with all the suppliers and companies who let us tour their premises and a few even opening especially for our visit. It is sure to be a trip that we won’t forget in a hurry!
A blog by Shona Lawrance of RGU who accompanied the group