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Thursday 31 January 2019

Snow showers.....

Incoming over Graemsay!

If you are expecting photos of deep crisp snow and a Winter Wonderland, sorry to disappoint.  Orkney is fortunate to be favoured by the Gulf Stream so we don't get very cold Winters as a rule. We will get a smattering of snow for a few days, and sometimes several inches of snow.  But no Polar Vortex for us.  Our winters are characterised more by gales and rain.  However this week we did have some snow, and quite a bit of ice.  Temperatures outside dropped to -4C so although that is cold for us.  It was -14 in Aberdeenshire last night (Mainland Scotland).

Anyway, we did have some dramatic skies and the landscape looked pretty for a few days.  So here are some photos of a walk to the beach.  Button was with me but didn't hang around for pictures - cold paws and all that!

Blue skies! And snow on the beach...

Footprints in the sand/snow.  It always amazes me that the snow doesn't melt given the saltiness of the shoreline...

A smattering of snow on the East of Graemsay....

Wonderful cloudscape over Stromness - as you can see - the tide is well out!

This is what is meant by "snow on hills" - ha! Ward hill on Hoy is white. At least it will give camouflage to the mountain hares who turn white in Winter.  They stand out quite a bit otherwise - you can even spot them through binoculars form Graemsay in their winter fur!

Fancy a paddle?


This shag (or Cormorant?) must have cold toes!


The old sailhouse at Sandside (the sails from the yole, the sailing boat used by most families on the islands in days gone by, would have been kept here.

And a short (35 sec) video of a cold but calm day at Sandside, Graemsay

Monday 28 January 2019


I rarely see a sunrise except in Winter in Orkney!  On the shortest day the sun rises about 9am, and continues to rise a minute or two later a day for a few days after.  But now towards the end of January sunrise is at 8.29 (well tomorrow it is!). So it's getting a little earlier every day. Yay! 

Sunset is getting later.  Again around the shortest day sunset is not long after 3pm and it's dark by 4.  But now sunset is at 4.25  pm tomorrow.  The days are getting longer. YAY!

Anyway last week there was a lovely sunset that I captured out the front door.  It would have been even more spectacular over the other side of the hill but you will have to imagine that....

The colours were changing over the minutes....

And the sky over the Hoy hills was ethereal as it turned pinky grey......

Sunday 27 January 2019

Clouds and sleety days

Last week we had a lot of sleety showers and it was really cold, barely getting above 4 degrees C (which is chilly around these here!).  I still went for a walk each day but not for long. So just a few pix from a wander to the shore between showers.

Above snow on the Hoy hills but all green on Graemsay..... and in the photos below, clouds holding lots of "weather"!

Hurry Button before that shower comes in!

And while I wait I take a photo of this old barn.  I just love it.  The stories it could tell! It was built well before my house, which was built about 1860....

And looking back towards Stromness

Brrr time to be indoors!

Saturday 26 January 2019

Calm day.....

These pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago now when there were a few calm days -  the wind is building up again as I type, with drizzly rain all day and low grey skies.  Ah well.  I'm snug indoors so I won't complain.  But here is a reminder for me of the other week.

Above, Sandside Bay with the tide going out.  Smoke drifts between the Hoy hills and Graemsay, and grey clouds hang over the hill.

Down on the coral beach the seaweed sways gently in the receding tide.

Landscape - with Cat.  The old stone pier at Sandside with Button sitting atop.

She is only content when she is the centre of attention.... of course....

Meanwhile in the garden the hellibores are (or were - there's been a storm, sigh) beginning to flower....

The hens are enjoying the calm and dry spell too.....

One of the hens has been living a little too al-fresco and I was concerned she wasn't seeking shelter with the others in the hen house at night.  So I waited till dusk when all the hens would be roosting to check.  Fortunately they were all present and correct!

And across the water the lights are on in Stromness (sorry very grainy photo as it was my phone camera but you get the gist...)

And then I went home to photograph my treasures from the beach.  Some Maerl (cold water coral) as well as two groatie buckie (tiny cowrie shells)

And then Madam Button came in after a hunting expedition..... I said she had to clean her paws before she was sleeping on MY bed again!!

Monday 14 January 2019

Out and about....

Last week I remembered to take my camera when on a run out round Graemsay. Here are a few photos from that day. It was a very grey day which isn't the best for photos but I do like to show Graemsay throughout the year.  It's not all sunshine. Hee hee!

Above is the croft of Dean with Ward Hill on Hoy in the background....  The South side of the island has a very different feel with Ward Hill looming up quite dramatically.

There is a lot of heathland on Graemsay.  No peat though.....

Apparently Graemsay folk had peat cutting rights somewhere on Hoy in years gone past. It would have been the main fuel for the fires to keep homes warm.  Not much wood around as very few trees, so cutting peat would have formed part of the yearly cycle.

Another croft now, looking towards Stromness.

And further along the Graemsay road takes us West.  This looks across Burra Sound towards the greener pastures on Hoy.

Though there seems to have been a land slip in the last few years on the slopes of the Hoy hills. You can see conifer woodland on the green slope of Hoy. These are (I think) part of Forestry Commission woodlands.

And this photo looks towards Moaness on Hoy, where our ferry sails to (Stromness-Graemsay-Moaness, or sometimes Stromness-Moaness-Graemsay depending on time of day!)

Sunday 13 January 2019

Blustery day.....

Winter has arrived after a very mild December.  The last couple of days have been chilly and breezier.  I stayed indoors for much of today, just going out this morning to feed the hens and Charlie the barn cat.  It was also a day of raimbows - or part rainbows like the one above. (Hmmm couldn't get the horizon right without the lighthouse looking like the leaning tower of Pisa. No idea what I did there...)

Hens soaking up the rays of the sun between showers....

Clouds and blue sky, with white horses riding the waves.... Photo taken by the Henny house

Another one looking West (nothing between me and Canada!)

A (non-leaning) lighthouse.....

Blue skies over the house....

The rest of the day was spent doing "domestics", paperwork and..... a jigsaw!  A favourite activity of mine in the Winter months.....

Jigsaw and a cup of tea, what better way to spend some time.  Button? Oh she's been sleeping under a bedspread most of the day!

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Happy New Year!

Ingrid Budge
I have to confess I was cosy and asleep when midnight arrived last night rather than out carousing! But as ever there was a Hogmanay party on the island at a neighbour's.  And a few folk "first footing" around today.

The last couple of days have been cold, windy and wet.  The stunning image above was taken by Ingrid Budge, a local artist who uses photography as part of her artistic creations.  These cliffs are high and on the West Mainland at Yesnaby.  The waves and spray are crashing over them.  Some foolhardy people appear to be on the top fairly near an edge (if you click to enlarge the photo).  Dramatic cliffs but never underestimate the power of nature.....  anyway I love the photo and Ingrid kindly said I could share with you.  (We have no boats for two days due to public holidays so I can't get off the island!).

As you can sea the seas were pretty rough.  Another local photographer, Cecil Garson, took this photo of the MV Hamnavoe sailing from Stromness to Scrabster. Glad I wasn't on it!

A couple of days ago there was a medical emergency on the island.  A patient was taken by the Scottish Ambulance helicopter to the local hospital in Kirkwall.  The patient is doing well and due home once the boats sail again  after the holidays.

A neighbour keeps the landing lights ready in a shed and they are put out in the designated landing spot in my field.  In good visability the helicopter can (and has) landed elsewhere on the island. However in poor visibility (such as that late afternoon) they use the landing lights at Sandside.  Here are a couple of pictures.  I haven't shown close ups so as not to embarrass anyone.

Big yellow whirly bird!

On the Orkney Mainland there are some Christmas and New Year traditions taking place.  In Stromness yesterday was the annual Yule Log pull - the Soothenders (Southenders from the South of Stromness) against the Northenders (from the North of the town) play tug of war with a log down the main street in the town.  I'm delighted to say the Soothenders won again (our pier is at the south end so Graemsay folk qualify to be on the team!).  Yesterday for the first time there was a junior version and one of the Graemsay lads took park.  Later there was an adult version and again the Soothenders won! Yay!  Here's a photo by Cecil Garson again of the adult version......

Meanwhile in Kirkwall there is a whole different tradition, known as the Ba'.    Both a boys and a men's ba'.  No women take part.  They are held on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. This is a game of street "football" with no rules and two teams.  The Uppies (traditionally the farmers) and the Doonies (traditionally the fishermen). Now it's where you were born or where you live that determines which team you might join.  Or your particular allegiance.  It's a tough game and there are surprisingly few injuries given the "srum".  Spectators also have to be quick on their feet or they can get caught in the scrum!

Here is a report of the Men's New Year Ba

And here is a report of the Boy's ba that went on for SIX HOURS this year!