Graemsay is on of the smaller of the Orkney Islands. (Orkney is located about 12 miles off the North Eastern tip of Scotland in the U)K. Our island sits between the town of Stromness on the Orkney Mainland and the island of Hoy, in the approach to the famous "Scapa Flow". Graemsay is about 1.5 x 2 miles with 12 inhabited houses and currently 27 people. Folk living here are either farmers/crofters, work on the Orkney Mainland, like myself work from home, or are retired.
The island is farmed, there is although heathland, and wetland habitats, great for a wide variety of birds and wildlife. Lots of wildflowers along the verges too.
There are two lighthouses on the island, Hoy Sound High and Hoy Sound Low. These are "leading lights" and were used to guide the herring fleet safely through the difficult waters to harbour in Stromness. Both lights are automatic now, but for many years light-keepers lived in the houses beneath the lights and were an integral part of the community.
There are no shops, school, pub or indeed anywhere to spend your money on the island! The children go to school on the Orkney Mainland which is a 15 minute ferry ride away. The ferry takes us into Stromness, one of the two main towns on the Orkney Mainland. Stromness has a number of shops, banks, health centre, dentist etc. Several of the shops will send groceries and other supplies over on the cargo run three times a week. Or they go by bus or drive to the capital of Orkney, Kirkwall, which has the magnificant St Magnus Cathedral. Here there are a wider variety of shops and banks. Kirkwall is about 18 miles from Stromness.
Modern "services": Yes we have mains electricity (overhead power lines, which can get damaged in the wind, but fortunately not many power cuts). Most have mains water, though some have their own reservoir or well water. Our mains water comes from the hills of Hoy, via Sandy Loch and a treatment centre on Hoy then is pumped through to our own reservoir tank on Graemsay. Of course we have telephone and broadband (internet). No mains gas in Orkney, but most houses will use bottled gas. Fuel (oil, coal) has to be shipped over on our ferry. No peat on the island so no peat fires burning. Also few trees so no source of wood for fires either.
Post office : yes we do have one! Though it has limited opening hours Mon, Weds & Fri. We also have a mail collection and delivery from Monday to Friday by our own Graemsay postman.
Ferry: Orkney Ferries run a regular daily service between Graemsay and Stromness (the route also goes via the island of Hoy). Weekends we just have one ferry in the morning and one in the afternoon, but during the week there are more frequent services.
School: As I said above the children go over to the Orkney Mainland to school, either the Stromness Primary School, or the Stromness Academy for older pupils.
Church/Kirk: The Minister from Stromness comes over once a month and holds a service in our community hall.
There are no major tourist attractions on Graemsay. No Skara Brae or Maes Howe, so we don't get many visitors. But it is a lovely place to wander in the summer, with wildflowers in the verges and fields, different beaches (sandy, shell, rocky) and stunning views of Stromness and Hoy. It's also a wonderful place to live!
Graemsay - Orkney's best kept secret article
Some links to the story of how I came to be on Graemsay: