Also have a look inside the ruined Earl's Palace, of which only a few feet now remain of its walls. In every room, a little note tells the story about it. Having walked through the ruins, I finally make my way to the Brough. This lies about a mile west of Birsay village and is a tidal island, only accessible at low tide. A concrete slabbed walkway provides a fairly safe if slippery access route. On arrival at the other side, I say hello to the warden and start by looking round the Viking settlement, of which only foot-high walls remain. It included a church. Then I go on a walk around the island, which has some pretty high seacliffs, up to 40 metres / 135 ft high. Like the views down the coast to Marwick Head, with cliffs up to 80 metres / 265 ft high. Pass the lighthouse, where a cleft, only a few inches wide, crashes down to sealevel. The coastline is eroding badly, and you have to be very cautious. I walk along, latterly with two other people in the distance. Cross the causeway back to the mainland at 4pm, and stay behind to watch the tide coming in. Have a little walk along the coastline to Skipi Geo, where people used to store their boats high up on the shore, in a shed. Sit down with two other walkers to enjoy the afternoon sun for a while. Then head back to the carpark to watch the tide creep in. At 4.30, the flag is taken down at the visitor centre on the Brough, and the warden cross over. Shortly afterwards, the tide covers the middle section of the walkway. We had a cup of tea from a van selling sausage rolls, but when we looked round again, it had gone. Hobble back to the village to wait for the 6pm bus. It's a long and chilly wait. The return journey goes along the north coast of Mainland to Evie and Loch of Swannay. Pick up ferry passengers at Tingwall and return to Kirkwall at 6.50
Weblinks: Rousay on Undiscovered Scotland: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/rousay/rousay/
Kirkwall Youth Hostel:
(Pictured: Carrick House, picture courtesy Peter Burges, 1970)
It's very wet and muddy on the far side. Start to trudge up the hillside, above the lighthouse. Once across a small stream, I take a break for lunch and try not to get entangled in the barbed-wire fences. Rise up afterwards and proceed up the hill, to end up on Noup Hill. Views are very good. Because of the unstable, strongly showery weather, visibility between showers is excellent. Only problem is the force 9 wind that roars over the top of the ridge. You see Westray to the NW, Papa Westray to the NNW. Sanday stretches northeast. Head back south again, but do not go back to Carrick. Instead, I make my way south across Vinquoy Hill. Although only 76 m in height, this again offers nice views, this time over the northern part of Eday. I proceed through a few bunkers until I come out on a raod. Go southeast along it for a few hundred yards, then strike off southwest along a path which should hopefully deliver me on the next road. Have all sorts of fun and games trying to cross fencing withouth damaging clothing. Finally gain the road from North Ayre to Millbounds, which I follow as far as Newark. Head down a track through some fanks, which then passes thorugh some fields. Crossing the fences becomes ever more difficult as they fall in disrepair. Derelict houses provide a reason for that. Turn up by a house that is also empty, but not ruinous. I now look out over the Eday airstrip, which I cannot reach due to an insurmountable wall. I battle my way through bracken to the hostel, which I reach at 5 pm. Engage the heating, do my laundry in the washing-machine provided and prepare my meal. It's cold outside, and the strong wind does not help. Taking a shower is not an option conditions like that, too blinking cold.
Bis Geos Hostel: http://www.bisgeos.co.uk/
Westray on Undiscovered Scotland: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/westray/westray/
Today's activities start with a morning visit to Stromness, followed by a sailing to Westray in late afternoon, as I'm stopping at The Barn in Pierowall for the weekend. On the main road to Stromness, the bus passes a group of men pulling a truck all the way from Stromness to Kirkwall, a distance of 18 miles. They are at Tormiston Mill at 10.30. Alight at Stromness and walk down the main street. This is paved with slabs, is fairly narrow yet in use by vehicular traffic. Go up the road by the youth hostel and leave the town in a northerly direction. A scattering of showers come past. Presently head down a track to a cemetery and finally a beach. This overlooks the westcoast of Hoy, across the water. Sit there for a while before proceeding along the coastline on the top of the cliffs. Nice walk, but it's a bit windy today. Come out past the golfcourse and round the cape to the marin and the campsite. Have a spot of bother finding a path through both of them, but finally I manage to reach the road into Stromness. Children are swimming in the harbour, which would be cold. Cats are sunning themselves outside a house. Return to the ferry terminal in time for the lunchtime bus back to Kirkwall. Pass the lorry pullers at Finstown. Bus always passes through the industrial estate at Hatston before going into Kirkwall proper. Hatston also has the ferry terminal for services to Aberdeen and Lerwick. After the shopping I head for the youth hostel, and encounter a trailer full of boys and young men with blackened faces sitting amongst bags of coal. Jump on the ferry to Westray and arrive there after an uneventful if slightly lively crossing. Tell the busdriver at Rapness that I want the Barn at Pierowall, yet he manages to overshoot. He does reverse back for me. I report to the house by the hostel and am shown round by the proprietrix. It's a comfortable place, with a huge livignroom upstairs and a large kitchen downstairs. There are several bed rooms, but I have one for myself. This evening I also have the kitchen for myself. You have to place your food in larder boxes in order to keep it together. There is also a washing machine, but I don't need that. You have to be extremely careful on the backsteps; the slate slabs are slippery if wet, and the frequent showers have turned them into an icerink. After dinner, I head out
for a walk. Initially, I take just a brolly, but one look to the west suggests I'd better put on waterproofs. It duly starts to rain, and by the time I reach the pier, it's blowing a hoolie and pouring it down. As if that's not enough, the rain gets interspersed with hail, which makes it a very painful experience. Darkness has fallen by now, and the cars don't see me - well, what do you expect with a dark coat and dark waterproofs. Return to the Barn absolutely dripping - long live the waterproofs.
Weblink Stromness: http://www.orkneyjar.com/orkney/stromness/
Weblink The Barn, Westray: http://www.thebarnwestray.co.uk
Today's activities start with a search for new accommodation in Kirkwall. The TIC are very helpful and fix me up in an address at the eastern edge of the town. Have to go up the hill past Orkney College on to the Berstane Road. As the road rises, the view widens to the west and south. can see a large school complex to my right. It's a nice, sunny day today. I finally reach Viewfield Terrace and knock on the door of number 3, where mrs Eunson affords me a cordial welcome. Pleasant bungalow in a cul-de-sac. Get along very well with the Eunsons. After a cup of coffee I return to Kirkwall, more specifically the airport. There is a dedicated bus which runs hourly. At lunchtime, I report to the inter-island desk at the back of the lounge,. Yes, I can go out on a return to North Ronaldsay. I have a couple of hours. When the time comes, I'm shepherded to a small, 8 -seater Cessna. You need to be failry gymnastic to prize yourself on board. Once everybody is strapped in, the pilot joins us. It's a case of "Everybody strapped in? We all happy? Let's go". Safety brief? What's that? We taxi to the runway where we accellerate for take-off. The hills above Finstown loom up to the left, then we veer north-northeast over Kirkwall, along the east coast of Shapinsay. We fly at 400 feet, and in the brilliant afternoon sunshine the sandy bottom can be seen underneath bottle-green seas. After ten minutes, we pass straight over the airfield on the island of Sanday; can even read the sign on the airport hut. It's quite interesting to see the islands from above. For instance, the number of ruinous buildings is quite high. Presently, we lose height on the approach to North Ronaldsay, and we land on the grassy strip at Hollandstoun. I can walk straight off the airfield, others wait for their luggage to be unlaoded, which only takes a minute. I set off north along the main road, a single-track affair. The houses here look rather run-down, and the place has an air of neglect about it. All around the island a wall has been built designed to keep the sheep out. The NR sheep live off seaweed on the seashore. Veer right in the direction of the two lighthouses on the far eastern point of NR. Pass Park House. The lovely sandy beach of Linklet Bay can be seen stretching south. I finally end up by the Old Beacon on Dennis Head, ¼ mile south of the present lighthouse. I have a nibble on the very rocky foreshore, beyond the wall. A clutter of unhappy looking sheep are ferretting about among the shingle. Can't stay long, so I quickly head back. I take the side-road to Garso. After the farmhouse, the road degenerates into a path. A hillock looms up to my left - the sea a little way to my right. Follow the road through the 'settlement' of Anamtown, then head back to the airfield. Have a natter with the airport crew and other passengers, until the plane reappears. The flight back is uneventful. I had a strange encounter at the airport in Kirkwall. Having collected my bags, I walked outside and noticed the hosteller from Papa Westray who was going to stay there for a month. Well, it's only 5 days down the line, so he never lasted. After the morning mists, the sun has come out at lunchtime. had supper in KW, then went to a lack-lustre ceilidh, which was connected with the science festival. I managed to keep my eyes open until 11.30. On return to Viewfield, I walked up the Berstane Road to encounter several cats out on the prowl. On erolled in the grass, wanting me to tickle her tummy and following me. The other sat on a wall and I snapped it with a camera. Had quite a pleasant chat with the Eunsons before retiring for the night.