Orkney Trip

By Matthew Kendrick
Published 14th Mar 2023, 09:50 GMT

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A few weeks ago, I enjoyed travelling up to Orkney for SRITC. SRITC is working on a project funded by Inspiring Scotland’s Rural and Islands Communities: Ideas into Action. The funding is to develop a transportation STEM project plan for rural and island young people who often miss out on urban STEM outreach opportunities. I tracked the travel process to Orkney and my decision-making to travel there.

Journey Decision Making

As part of the fact-finding trip, I put together a matrix of travel options and the main factors that I am concerned about when travelling.

Blog table

In addition to the potential journeys' price, time and environmental impact, other intangible considerations impacted my decision. Airport strikes impacted flying into Orkney by limiting available flights and raising ticket costs.

Looking at the train, the main benefit of this journey was the freedom to work and relax. In contrast, driving requires 100% attention but affords the most flexibility and control over the journey.

Ultimately the matrix indicated that travelling by train was the best option. Given the journey lengths, the ability to work and relax was also a deciding factor.

In Orkney

During my two days in Orkney, I spoke to several organisations involved in supporting young people. I met:

Scottish Autism - Orkney

Established in 1968 by a group of parents, Scottish Autism is now Scotland's largest provider of autism-specific services and a leading authority and advocate for good autism practice. They exist to help those diagnosed with autism to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives and be recognised as valued members of the community they live in.

VAO Orkney

VAO supports the third sector in Orkney by providing advice, information and practical services. The third sector is made up of voluntary, community and charitable groups, social enterprises and volunteers. VAO is a Third Sector Interface (TSI), part of a national network.

Youth Cafe Orkney

The Orkney Youth Cafe, is a drop-in service funded by various grants and charities.  BBC Children in Need & Robertsons Trust currently fund the youth cafe.  We are open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to offer young people from S2-19 a place to socialise with friends and enjoy various fun activities.

International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT)

The International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) is a research centre at the Orkney Campus of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. It focuses on developing sustainable solutions for small island communities worldwide, mainly on renewable energy, marine science, and environmental management.

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The Return Journey

On my way back from Orkney, the difficulties of rural travel took centre stage. The ferry I booked was delayed due to a mechanical issue. The knock-on effect meant I missed my train, the only one travelling that day. I could leave Orkney in the afternoon but had to stay the night in Thurso to catch the first train on Monday.

It’s easy as an urban resident to make alternative travel arrangements, but in rural settings, there are limited options, and the resiliency of those options becomes significantly more important. To an extent, this is balanced by the camaraderie of rural communities. The inn owner, where I had stayed the night before, let me wait in the bar despite not being open, the ferry staff provided multiple options to rectify the missed journey, and the taxi driver pooled passengers together to get to hotels. It was enlightening to experience first-hand the topics raised repeatedly in cafes and workshops and see how they are solved at the moment.