Wind, kayaks and folklore: The enduring charm of the Orkney islands


it ’o wend today,” says the Orcadian; except it’s a habitual greeting – it might be blowing like hell. In some ways, it’s commendable that complaining about the weather is virtually unknown in Orkney, given how regularly the sea is raucous enough to broach the land and close roads.

It’s impossible to ignore the wind, though, because it constitutes both weather and conversation. 

Orcadian endurance hides an astute mind for the breeze. They’re wind aficionados, keenly marking the incremental differences between the light skiff of a kuil and a slightly stiffer tirl, and on upward through a gurl, a gushle, a hushle, a skolder, a skuther, a gouster, right up to the strong, muscular blast of a skreevar. Even the wind that rushes down the chimney pipe to scatter the ashes has a name: flan. When the wind falls, as it occasionally does, there are some 17 words for drizzle to draw on instead.

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