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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Cat, hens, beach.....

 


Weather is still changeable but we make the most of the sunshine when we can!  And in other news, from Monday Orkney, along with other islands (except Skye) drops to Level 1 in the Covid Restriction model, Moray stays in Level 3, but the rest of Scotland drops to Level 2.  Confused - join the club!  In Level 1 it seems most things can open with a few exceptions and there are various permutations of numbers to meet in homes, hospitality and outdoors as well as weddings etc.  Not a lot will change for me, though I am out and about more, but I plan to stay in Orkney for the summer and just see how things go.  

Anyway back to cat, hens, beach..... Always said Button was a white cat in a full bat suit...


Mmm best to keep an eye on Gimpy Hen....



Never turn your back on an apparently snoozing cat....


Glad someone gets to use the bench!



Keeping a watchful eye on those pecky beaks!



A sulking Button as Gimpy Hen is guarding the entrance to her palace.... she dare not pass...



Oh dear what are they plotting now!


Random tulip!


Down on the beach.....  Button has a roll...... I'm sure she was a dog in a previous life...


Covered in sand....


I think she fancies a paddle?



Spot the cat....


Low tide.....



Thrift on the old pier, Sandside Bay, with Hoy Hills in the background....


Creels on the old pier....


And that evening sky again....




Thursday, 6 May 2021

Adventuring round Orkney Part 2 - Birsay, the village

 


This burn runs through the village at Birsay. The day I was there, sand martins were flitting over the water.  

The village is small, it has a local shop/post office, plus petrol pumps, a kirk, artist's gallery just outside the village and a tea room.  What more is needed!  

The important bit - coffee cake and tea.  At Birsay Bay Tea Rooms.  Even before Covid regulations it was necessary to book as it was so popular!


Love their lighting too - and the decor...


And just down the road this lovely old stone bridge (with those sand martins again)


With a lovely walk alongside - we thought the sand martins were perhaps nesting along the bank here


The burn leads out to the sea....



The St Magnus Way also has a section through Birsay with waymarkers.  Worth doing even if you don't with to be a pilgrim!

On the outskirts of the village there was a small flock of horned sheep (yes there was more than one otherwise it might just be a flick of horned sheep?)


And also on the edge of the village is the Earl's palace (16th Century ruin) I mentioned in yesterday's post





Fireplaces everywhere!  Well it can be chilly in Orkney in Winter... and Summer.... and Autumn....and Spring...



In the absence of trees.....


Hmmm a bit precarious?



And through the round window - well it's not a window. Not quite sure what it was really? Several of them around (no pun intended!)





Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Adventuring around Orkney Part 1 - Birsay

 


Well ok it was a drive out with flask of tea, and a meeting up outdoors and one or two meets in a cafe with cake!  But after a year of lockdown that equates to adventuring for me!  These photos are from a trip out to Birsay in the West Mainland.  It's one of my favourite bits of coastline and has a lovely wee village with a great tea-room.  There's quite a bit to see and do if touring about so well worth looking up what's available if anyone plans to visit!

Anyway here are a few photos.....  Above is the Brough (pronounced Broch like Loch) of Birsay, a tidal island with a lot of history. Info available here

You can see the causeway in this photo and (checking tide times) you can walk over to the island, and up to the lighthouse at the highest point



Or stay lower down and explore the remains of a Pictish village (managed by Historic Scotland) which is just off the causeway (the stone building in the ticket office/shop for the site.



Or walk along the edge (not too close!) and admire the wildlife, wild flowers etc. as well as the view of course!


From here you get a view of one of the larger of the Orkney islands - Westray. It's a lovely island and well worth a visit.


You can just make out the lighthouse at Noup Head.  A large gannet colony there which I just love watching!


Meanwhile back at Birsay looking along the coast....


And at my feet a carpet of celandines (er there was more than one - honest!)


And back the way I came - towards the village in Birsay.....


And Marwick Head and the Kitchener Memorial - click here for some of the history  Marwick Head is another spot to enjoy watching the seabird population that summers in Orkney to breed.  Kittiwakes, guillemots, puffins, and others.  The sound and smell is quite something!


The village in Birsay. I will share photos of that in another post.


The village and the ruin of the Earl's palace


And this lovely cottage called Zanzibar. Made "famous" after appearing in an episode of "Top Gear" in 2009.  The challenge was to try and beat the post where a First Class Letter was posted in the Scilly isles to the cottage.  And the team had to race against Royal Mail in a Porsche.  I'm delighted to say the Royal Mail won!! The film has most of Orkney laughing when shown as they were showing shots out of sequence so if you knew the route from the ferry to Zanzibar you were going back and forth all the time - no wonder the post beat it!  Sadly the "team" were also very grumpy when "fans" met them at the airport as they flew south.  Not their finest hour then...


So that's The Brough of Birsay and the coast...... next stop the tea shop for cake!

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

May Day (no not an alarm call!)....

 


At 08.25 on the early May Bank Holiday in 1999 I set foot on Graemsay for the first time.  It doesn't feel like 22 years ago.  It feels timeless somehow.....  But that was the day we came to look at the house, having spent the weekend looking at various properties "in need of work" on the Orkney Mainland.  Now let's be honest, the Orkney Mainland is an island and that was island enough for me.  Till I saw Graemsay.... and there was a beach just yards away from the house, on which were seals........

Unfortunately the ferry schedule on a Monday at that time mean that we arrived at 08.25 and had to leave again at 10.45 to head to the airport for our flight.  But given the house had not been lived in for many years and was - er - uninhabitable at the time, taking a tour didn't take very long.  In fact it only took as long as it did as I waited while others went in front of me upstairs so if the floorboards gave way it wouldn't be me plunging down to the ground floor.  Hahahahaha!  Pigeons were the only residents, actually nesting and roosting in one of the bedrooms.  The windows were boarded up as the aforementioned pigeons were getting in through the roof and then flying out windows and smashing them - hence needing boarding up.

As we drove down the hill to the house, neighbours were at the post office, which at that time was run out of a small outbuilding attached to the house.  So we met one or two while others looked on in curiosity.  They had seen various folk come and go looking at the house with plans that came to nothing.  So they were reserving judgement I think!

Anyway after perusing the house and wandering down to the shore, it was up to the farm for tea and chat before heading to the pier again.  A shake of the hand on the pier as the ferry arrived and the deal was done.  It was a year before I was able to move up, and even longer before I could move in. But it was definitely worth it!! All of it...... well..... most of it ..... ;-)

So here are a few pictures from around that time.  The photo at the top was taken as we sailed back to Stromness on the ferry and looking back at what would become "home".  On seeing how close the lighthouse was to the house the first question I asked was did it have a foghorn? (No it didn't), and the second was does it have a revolving light (again No.  Not sure I could sleep with a revolving light through the bedroom!).

Estate agent's photo before all the windows were boarded up.  Red door was the post office.


View from the road in June the following year when I had moved up and was staying in the caravan parked in the garden...


Those seals on the beach! Sadly they don't haul out on the sand like this any more but are seen around on the rocks....


View from the skies. Photo taken by a neighbour when a passenger in a light aircraft flying over the island.


And this was how the house was originally back in the late 1800s.  It was a two storey maisonette with an external staircase for the upstairs flat.  Very unusual for an island or rural area even.  The outer staircase went in about 1905 we think.  But lots of history attached to the house....


And the house 22 years later - you can see in the stonework the outline of the old staircase!


And for those new to my blog, at the bottom of this page are the links to the story of how I came here and what we did to the house...

https://sianthom.blogspot.com/p/about-graemsay.html