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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Hoy Low Beach

I was only saying the other day that in the summer there's so much going on I don't have time to blog and in the winter when I have more time there's not much to say! So I'm kind of catching up with this post. A few weeks ago some friends visited from London and we went down to the beach at Hoy Low, on Graemsay. I was just in time to catch the "ships that pass in the day" - the MV Graemsay sailing into Stromness as the MV Hamnavoe sailed out on her way to Scrabster in the North of Scotland.

I've mentioned the beach at Hoy Low before in wartime relics, and talking about the geology and the "old tales" about the stone structures, but this beach has other fascinating "treasures".

This may look like any old broken china, but is in fact likely to be china from the wreck of the "Albion". This ship was en route to New York from the UK port of Liverpool in January 1866 when it was lost in a gale just off the Point of Oxan at Hoy Low. There were 43 passengers, 11 lost their lives. Part of the cargo was china from the potteries in the North of England being sent to the US. Some of it was unglazed, some of it already glazed and patterned. To this day you can find bits and pieces of the china washed up on the beach at Hoy Low. The tiny ball in the centre of the picture may have come off a tureen or be a teapot knob? In the past I have found pieces which look like fruits - lemons, oranges etc. I shall have to find them and post a photo of them.

On the way to the shore we passed these inquisitive beasties.

Below are the Hoy Hills seen from the road leading to Hoy High Lighthouse on Graemsay (note - the lighthouses on Graemsay are called Hoy High and Hoy Low because they are in the Hoy Sound, even though the island of Hoy is behind us - are you keeping up? I'll ask questions later!!).


  1. The shards of pottery from the 'Albion' are very poignant, aren't they. We got a free book with the Scotsman one Saturday on shipwrecks in Scotland (cheerful weekend entertainment, eh!) and it was shocking to see how many of them occurred around the northern isles. Reading about the wreck of HMS Hampshire during WW1, in which Lord Kitchener and most of the 655 men on board were drowned, I realised that we would have had a grandstand view of it from our garden between Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay. A sobering thought. On the land, the number of surviving concrete 'pill boxes' and of course Nissen huts on Orkney is very striking to the visitor. They give a hint of the immense strategic importance of Orkney in both world wars. Never again, let us hope!

  2. There is a "Kitchener Memorial" not far from where you stayed. You probably saw it atop the hill? That incident was quite chilling as local stories tell that those that tried to set out in small fishing boats etc to rescue the men on board were turned back by armed soldiers on the shore. Lots of conspiracy theories about that one. As for the WWII huts and bunkers etc - have to say I'm not a fan of them, they feel like a blot on the beautiful landscape, but do act as a reminder of the past, and as you say, let us hope, Never Again!

  3. We did see the memorial and intended to climb up to it on the Friday, hoping to find some puffins. But the weather was so atrocious that we took ourselves off to the splendiferous Birsay Tearoom instead. I'm sure it was just as educational, honest...