I arrived in Orkney by air – not usually my choice of travel – on a gloriously sunny day. I had the rest of the day to myself, so I enjoyed a wander along the harbour and the high street before settling down to a good lunch.
The high street here was of particular interest to me. The Newtonmore event in the Cairngorms National Park included a passionate discussion about the role of our high streets, and the need to preserve at least one such facility in a village. It wasn’t about access to basic provisions, so much as it was about every village having a focal point, somewhere you catch your neighbours up for a quick chat, and where people who are otherwise quite isolated, can feel a part of the community.
It was heartening then to see the bustling main street of Orkney, with lots of independent shops doing a good trade. Several people were enjoying a coffee at an outside café, children were riding their bikes along the street and shoppers both local and visiting were clearly keeping the high street alive.
There are no easy solutions to the problem – big supermarkets produce cheap goods, and many people in our rural communities live below the poverty line – but it’s certainly food for thought.