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Sunday 21 February 2016

Up West....

A friend from London, Anne, was staying with me for a few days at the start of February and we went out exploring a wee bit.  She has been to visit me several times before over the years.  We couldn't quite remember how many! Anyway I thought I'd share some photos with you of our trip "Up West" which in Orkney refers to a trip round the West Mainland, but in London means going up the West End (Regent's St, Oxford St etc).  Can't get two things more opposite. Haha!

Above is a photo looking towards Marwick Head which is home to thousands of seabirds come the Spring.  It was a pretty chilly windy day we were there. Bracing weather!  But lovey to be out and about and there were just two other folk on this beach at Birsay.

This is the Brough of Birsay, a tidal island.  The causeway is hidden beneath the waves in this photo. But at the right time you can walk across and up to the lighthouse on the hill, or round the edge and peer over the edge to the seabird and seal colonies.

Did I mention the lighthouse?

On the tidal islands are the remains of Pictish, Norse and later settlements.  They are just to the right of the stone hut, which is the Historic Scotland "Office" during the summer. They manage the site and charge visitors in the summer and provide lots of useful information.  The warden has to watch the tides though to make sure s/he gets off before high tide!

You can usually see Scotland looking South but it was too hazy over the Scottish coastline.  So just big open skies and sea.

Did I mention waves?

In this picture you can just see the causeway underneath the waves....

And of course when out in Birsay one must visit the Birsay Bay Tearoom!! Views out across Birsay, free wifi, and most important of all, wonderful CAKE!

On the way back to Stromness we had a bit of an adventure - a bit fell off the bottom of my car. Well I was aware of a loud noise coming from under the car, though the steering was OK, so I didn't think it was a burst tyre.  On investigation we could see something hanging down but couldn't dislodge it or indeed move the car back or forth without gouging out the tarmac.  It was on a fast bit of road and I knew I needed to get it moved before dark so phoned my garage (Kenny Garrioch in Stromness) and Kenny was a Super Hero and came out within 20 minutes complete with trailer to tow me back. However he was able to dislodge what turned out to be the cover to the fanbelt or something and the car was declared fit to drive.  Phew!  So we got back to Stromness in plenty of time for the ferry.

After doing a bit of shopping in the "new" Co-op we had time to take a quick look in the "new" Library in Stromness.  Some local weavers had created a tapestry under the guidance of Ros Bryant. It was given to the Library to display and is magnificent.  It shows the wee town of Stromness and includes the Kame of Hoy AND the Hoy Low Lighthouse.  (Click on the image to see it larger in "lightbox".

Upstairs in the library is a great space to sit and read and look out over the harbour and towards Graemsay and Hoy.

We are so lucky to have a new library building when so many councils in the UK are closing theirs. There are a couple of other interesting paintings on the stairs too.

Tam from Stromness Books & Prints (knows as the Stromness bookshop) in a surreal painting by Calum MacInnes.

And one of George Mackay Brown, a world renowned writer and poet, born in Stromness. I'm not sure of the artist but the picture is on loan to the library.

And then the next day it was time to take Anne back to the airport for her trip home.  We have propeller planes for the trip to the Scottish Mainland.  The little yellow plane is the air ambulance to transport emergency cases from our local community hospital to the larger hospitals, usually Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Note: late submission by Anne to show that the plane IS indeed a propeller plane!  Nice image! Um, I can't rotate the photo, I don't think the plane was doing a loop the loop!

During Anne's visit we had, of course, been for a walk with Madam Button - it was a bit blustery and Button told us her views on this in no uncertain terms.  She ended up leaving the shore for less windy hunting grounds and we made our own way back to the house for tea and Cake....

Button having a bit of discussion about the weather.....

As you can see my house guests are warned to wear appropriate clothing! Button posing for the camera here....

Monday 8 February 2016

Winter days....

The current weather system to hit the UK, Storm Imogen, is leaving the far North alone this time.  But we've had our fair share of stormy winds over the last few weeks. Including one that was localised do didn't get a name from the Met Office!  However I've been trying to get out and "take the air" every day, except when I can't stand up in the wind!  So here are a selection of photos taken over the last couple of weeks.  Naturally Button features too!

The photo above is the field below The Manse on Graemsay.  A neighbour's sheep are fed silage in the corner of the field.  Ward Hill on the next island, Hoy, makes a snowy backdrop against the green of Graemsay.

Though this was the view from the house for several days as high winds and rain lashed down....

The pointy blur is Hoy High lighthouse!

Stromness lost in the sea spray

But on the days we can get out, there are big dramatic skies.....

And some surf! The sea can get quite choppy in Hoy Sound but it's generally fairly sheltered, leading to the sheltered waters of Scapa Flow.  Oystercatchers having a bit of a rest. Stromness on Orkney Mainland in the background.

The shore around Sandside has been blasted by wind and waves for thousands of years no doubt. Any "soft ground" has long gone and each year a little more gets eroded.

A shower coming in from Stromness.  Time to head home!

Though round the corner it looks fair....

I love the stone around the beach - sandstone flags seen on many a croft house floor!  Nice stepping stones too.  Though can get slippy when wet.

Button took an interest in the calm waters.  Think she wants to take up fishing maybe?!

My little sea cat!

Um.... Button, don't look now but a sleety/hail shower is approaching!  I'd stop fishing if I were you and come home!

I mentioned big skies.... and approaching weather....

Can you spot Button?

And then it was home for tea and cake and to warm our toes!