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Monday, 14 November 2011

A matter of interpretation.....

Above you can see the new interpretation boards that have been attached to the Graemsay waiting room at the pier. Both the boards were provided by the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership, working in collaboration with the Graemsay community.  The Partnership has been working to have new interpreation boards put around Scapa Flow. It has to be said I have mixed feelings about such boards. I think they are fine on our waiting room - they give visitors to the island an idea of the history and flora and fauna. But I do get grumpy when I see interpretation boards out in a wilder more natural landscape. If I've staggered up a hill (a rare occurrence - that's why I chose to live on Graemsay, only 65ft at it's height!) or walked along a rugged coastal path, I love to marvel at the landscape, the remoteness of Orkney etc. I *know* many feet have trodden the same path, but - well I like to feel I *might* have been the first.  An illusion that is shattered when I come upon an interpretation board.....sigh.....

However I digress, and the new boards look smart and give a good snapshot of the history of the island. Including of course both the lighthouses, Hoy High and Hoy Low. Built by Alan Stevenson (one of the "Lighthouse Stevensons" and who was related to Robert Louis Stevenson, who did visit the island in the 196h Century. Someone has a photo of it somewhere!  I think it was taken outside Hoy Low.

An example of some of the plans for the lighthouses

And some photos of plants (always useful I find!) and some info on the various beaches around the island.

Apparently there will also be a leaflet or something available on the Orkney Mainland at the tourist offices, showing the coastal walks around the island.  Always handy unless you can memorise a map! Though it has to be said with the island being so small (about 1.5 x 2 miles) it's hard to get lost! Though the pier can seem a looong way away when it's near boat time and you are the wrong end of the island!

Having told you about all the information, it has to be said, there are no special "sites" on Graemsay. We have no Maes Howe, no Skara Brae, no standing stones. But we do have lovely views around the island of the Hoy Hills and Stromness. And a quiet gentle walk around a farming community, plus some lovely beaches with shells and cold-water coral! Just remember if you visit - there's no shop, pub, restaurant, or tea room!


  1. Scapa Flow- Why do I remember that name from all the World War 2 histories I have read? Wasn't it a big naval or submarine base? Why am I thinking of "Sink the Bismark"?

  2. Betsy - oh yes lots of links to WWI and WWII. WWI - Scapa flow - the german fleet scuttled their ships here. WWII - bit naval base at Lyness and gun batteries around the Flow. The Royal Oak was sunk in the flow too with the loss of 800 lives. There are some links in the previous post on "Remembrance".

  3. Do you get many strangers coming cold to Graemsay just to look at it, rather than visit the people who live there? Would seem strange, since there are no amenities and the place is so small.

  4. Bev - yes strange as it may seem we do get tourists visiting! Folk who are interested in lighthouses (did I mention ....?), plus folk who are just interested in a quiet island with little or no traffic, wild flowers, photography etc. We also get return visitors - the shell beach is popular as is the beach on the West Cost where pottery from a ship-wreck in the 19th century is still washed up. Also intersting geological stuff. And stunning views of Hoy & Graemsay. Also people who have connections with the past come to visit the kirk and take photos of Great Great Grandparents homes etc. Hard to put a number on it, but folk come of in ones, twos or small groups and wander about the island. Mostly in the summer but also at other times of the year. Some even CAMP here!

  5. I know just what you mean about the incongruity of information boards in wild countryside, Sian. The information is usually excellent and enhances the walk, but the boards' presence is at odds with the setting. When we walk from Tongue up to Varich Castle along the new path (which does make it much more accessible) there are several such boards, welcome yet not welcome. :-)

  6. I have an intense dislike of brown tourist signs. Where has the fun gone in discovering things for yourself? Therefore I understand the boards dilemma you face .......inside or out or not at all?!

  7. I always intended to walk round Graemsay as part of my quest to visit all the inhabited isles while I was in Orkney... sadly I didn't manage it.

    I was... surprised, when I went on the annual trip to Eynhallow, to find interpretive signs there - somewhere that can only be reached once a year unless you have your own boat. That's dedication, I thought...