Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where is Kirkwall?

Sunny Kirkwall

Yesterday I studied the weather reports in The Guardian. Yes, yes, I know, I know...I talk about the weather a lot. I think it is part of the process of 'becoming British', like taking the bus, eating sausages and mash and complaining about the Royal Mail. On the weather page, I found a chart which records statistics from the previous day's weather around the United Kingdom, including  rainfall, temperatures, what the weather was like at noon, and...hours of SUNLIGHT in the day. In the 24 hours to 6 pm on Sunday 6th February, of 64 places listed, 41 recorded no sun at all, and 16 more recorded less than one hour of sun. That leaves 7 places where the sun shone for longer than an hour. I eagerly sought out the sunniest place in Britain, which recorded the amazing total of 4.6 hours of sun!! Yes, Kirkwall wins.

Kirkwall locator
But I had never before heard of Kirkwall. This needed to be remedied, as - who knows? - I may wish to spend a weekend there, sunbathing. So I looked it up. It is in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. It has a population of the satisfying number of 8,686, and is the largest town and capital of Orkney. It sounds a very interesting place, where, according to Wikipedia, "one of the major annual events in the town is the Ba Game, held each Christmas Day and New Year's Day between the Uppies and the Doonies, each team representing one half of the town. Kirkwall also has the most northerly of the world's Carnegie libraries, which was opened by Andrew Carnegie and his wife in 1909." Last Sunday, Kirkland also had temperature in the charmingly mild category of 3 to 6 degrees C, and at noon was reported as "sunny". It did also manage to have 1 mm of rain in the 24 hours, but perhaps that was overnight. In all, Kirkwall sounds delightful - for somewhere with a latitude of 58.95.

Full of enthusiasm for Kirkwall and The Orkneys, I checked the Kirkwall Airport site, where they are encouraging visitors with the following information about the seasons in The Orkneys:

There's something to be said for every season on Orkney. If you like outdoor activities, you'll appreciate the long Northern days of late spring and summer - Orcadians have midnight golf events in May!
On the other hand, Orkney's ancient monuments are less crowded and more dramatic in the wind and rain of winter. Winter is also when you might see The Merrie Dancers - Orcandian for the Aurora Borealis.
Autumn is a time for migrating birds. In Spring, the sea birds nest on every available cliff, daffodils bloom in the gardens and the heather bursts into colour.

Hmmm...I like the sound of the 'long Northern days of late spring and summer', but 'the wind and rain of winter' makes me wonder if Sunday last may not have been a bit of an aberration.

The Orkneys

Oh, and yesterday in Kirkwall? 3 to 5 degrees, 2 mm of rain, 0.3 hours of sun and 'showery'. The most sun achieved by anywhere yesterday was 5.9 hours (magnificent effort!) in Northallerton. Now where is Northallerton? North Yorkshire? I suspect another flash in the pan....

Sunny Northallerton...but for how long?
But all is not lost - this morning I woke to actual real sunlight in London. Everyone is out with their faces turned upwards, sun-worshipping. The Guardian's weather page tells me that today's forecast for London and South East England is "After a chilly start with local mist patches, it will be dry and fine with prolonged periods of wintry sunshine". 'Prolonged periods of wintry sunshine'! You can't ask more than that. Even if the sun is due to set at 17.03 and not rise again until 7.26 am.

Tavistock Square this afternoon - proof that the sun CAN shine in London in February!

Ghandi enjoys the 'wintry sunshine' in Tavistock Square

Does this mean that the hibernation season is over?

Images from:

No comments:

Post a Comment