THERE’S a price to pay for going on holiday for nearly a fortnight. It’s called a pile of dirty laundry and a car full of rubbish to unpack.

John, of course, cleared off as soon as we got home to check on his sheep, cut some hedges, do a morning’s crop spraying for a friend, disappear off to who knows where in his beloved Land Rover and generally keep out the way until I decluttered the car, did the washing and ironing and hung and put everything away in it’s rightful home.

We had followed our fishing trip to Sutherland with a few days in Orkney.

Neither of us had been there, but as we were so close, and I had read so much about the islands and its wonderful bird life, we booked into a B&B, caught the ferry and, as it was an evening crossing, sailed into the sunset.

Orkney is beautiful. Unspoilt. Magnificent lonely beaches. Dramatic cliffs. And, apparently this was very unusual even for July, brilliant sunshine.

Of course our visit included a mandatory visit to the local auction mart. There were very few cattle in, and no sheep at all to be sold that day.

I thought at one stage we were going to be the only people sat in the auction ring, and had visions of us ending up having to charter a boat to take all those cattle over to the mainland if either of us made the wrong hand gesture.

But at the last moment, as the auctioneer sorted out his gavel and microphone and shuffled all his paperwork into the right order, a troupe of furtive looking farmers and buyers shuffled in.

Most of the cattle were Limousin and Charolais, with a couple of Aberdeen Angus bullocks.

After accepting that we were not mainland buyers out to scoop up all the available stock for sale, we were accepted into the post auction huddle in the cafe. And I can certainly recommend Kirkwall Auction Mart’s cafe for fish and chips.

In fact, I would recommend Orkney to anyone for a visit. The preservation and reverence for our neolithic and recent wartime history is tangible.

The RSPB, which apparently own much of the islands, enable the public to access wild and wonderful sites for bird watching.

And, just an after thought, this and in no way did it influence our view of the islands after a visit to a distillery, the whisky is pretty good too.