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Tuesday 14 June 2011

More on Westray

While I was on Westray I went in search of puffins.  I've seen puffins flying past Graemsay but never seen them on the ground.  The Castle O' Burrian in Westray is an ideal place to just lie on your stomach on the grass and look across to the rock stack known as the Castle and just watch the puffins come in and out of their burrows. I have no photos as just focussing on them with the binoculars was challenging enough and I didn't want to miss any of the action! But we all know what a puffin looks like so I'm sure you'll excuse the aberration In Orkney they are known as "Tammie Norries" - no idea why but I think it suits them. I watched about 15 or so, flying in, flying out, or pottering among their burrows. I find it amazing that these wee birds spend most off their life out at sea, just coming onto land to nest and breed.  They mate for life and come back to the same burrow too.

I've been following the Shetland Puffincam rather obsessively. Apparently the egg is due to hatch within the next few days.  The link is here

I also paid a visit to the "Westray Wife" (know internationally as The Orkney Venus). You can see her below - she's tiny!  But she is 5,000 years old and was discovered during the links of Notland dig in 2009. There's a closer view here along with another part of a figure found at the same dig. Both are on display for the summer in Westray.

Below is a picture of the ruin of Notland Castle, which has had a rather lurid past, the original owner who had the castle built was the brother-in-law of Mary Queen of Scots and was tried for treason. He seems to have had murderous tendencies in more than one direction! There are some caves on the coast not far from Notland now called "Gentleman's Cave" where it is reputed Balfour, the owner of the castle, hid from those trying to capture him.

But carrying along the road leaves behind the darker past and the view across cliffs and the lighthouse on Noup Head open up.

Another lighthouse designed by the Stevenon family who also built the 2 lighthouses on Graemsay

And these horses seemed to be enjoying the lush grass (we are not suffering the same drought conditions of the South of England as you can see!).

The cottage we stayed in was at the North end of the island near the airport - now before you start imagining London Heathrow - here is a photo of the plane which landed twice a day near the bottom of our garden!

The plane also makes the trip to Papay Westray, the island in the background - it's more the size of Graemsay but with around 60 inhabitants a wee bit more crowded!  From Papay, as it is known locally, to Westray you can get the world's shortest commercial flight (and a certificate to prove it!) - the plane journey takes about 3 minutes and most of that is landing and take off! 

The more usual form of transport is the local ferry, again much bigger than our Graemsay ferry and this one is a proper roll-on-roll-off ferry able to take cars, tractors, livestock trailers and articulated lorries - unlike our own wee ferry!

So that's it for Westray for this year.  There are some more photos from my visits in previous years if you want to take a look: 2008 and 2009.


  1. I hadn't realised that puffins were off shore for such a long period of time ~ a little like the Albatross that nest on Otago Peninsular [NZ]. We happened to stay near there once and the albatross was such a magnificent bird. Compare a thrush to a seagull and a seagull to an albatross! I have an umbrella with puffins on it:) I used to take it to the yearly meetings of people with family affiliations to Orkney [also in NZ].

  2. What an interesting post, Sian, The photos were great too. I'm learning so much from your blog and others. Isn't it fun?

  3. I can only agree, I look forward
    to your postsn not least for the
    history side of things, and of
    course the photos.

  4. Shirlwin - OOoh I've never seen an Albatros - bet they are spectacular! I did see Gannets diving off Westray which I forgot to mention. It was brilliant watching them.

    Perpetua - it's amazing how much we learn from other blogs isn't it! I've not had much time to blog hop recently. Hoping to catch up soon.

    Pat Thanks!

  5. Hi Sian
    I love your picture of the Westray Wife on her pedestal. I wonder if I could use it in my essay? Its not for publication and I will credit you.

    1. Yes of course, you are welcome to use my photo as long as you credit me :-)

  6. Yes of course, you are welcome to use my photo as long as you credit me :-)