Now that the Wu'flu is on the downturn. I imagine people's thoughts will be returning to more mundane but in many ways more exciting things such as house-buying.
The Creel. too, has been patiently waiting for new potential owners to announce themselves, since it managed to put itself on the market just before these current troubles began, But, since it has stood for at least a couple of hundred years, I don't suppose it felt that was a very long time.
All these goings on have given more time for photography in this beautiful location, rated one of the best and safest places in the UK to live. And it's not just me saying that (and feeling it too!):. For instance:
The Telegraph: https://bit.ly/3dvlvlV
The Guardian says: https://bit.ly/2Z3V2XA
The Beeb: https://bbc.in/3dyaQXJ
From a blog by someone who moved: https://bit.ly/3ezzOau
The Creel is currently excellently kitted out as a fully functional B&B which can be taken over and made operational from one day to the next.
However, if I did not already have my own house in Orkney, this would be the family house I would be sorely tempted to buy – four bedrooms (3 with sea views), each with their own bathroom, and space, space, space downstairs to make a day room with this view
which the other day (19June) looked like this when cooler air from the North Sea wafted in some mist:
It would be as easy as anything to repurpose, with a couple of screens, the large dining room into two areas, each the size of a decent sitting room – a family dining room near the entrance to the professional kitchen with its Aga, and the front area into a cosy sitting room.
That's what I would do, anyway, the space would allow for solutions beyond my limited imagination.
Living in St Margaret's Hope would seem to me a perfect solution in the new age which is starting: high speed internet (fibre to the box gives us 50Mb), two shops, two pub/restaurants, and a post office two minutes' walk away, a local primary school in the village, Kirkwall Grammar School in town (with its own bus) and the beauty of Orkney nowhere further than a short drive away.
Here are some photos from how we spent the lockdown.
A walk around the village. More pics here
Picnic and walk in Sandwick. More pics here
Walk in Orphir. More pics here
Just down the road – A wander round Lythes. More pics here
A tiny bit further down the road. A wander in the South Parish. More pics here
Yesterday's sunset (24/6/20). Nothing unusual for this time of year! More pics here
My slaves (actually super helpers, actually super sons) are changing with the times. William will graduate this year and needs to be free to move on. Arthur is in school and can only help at weekends throughout the height of the tourist season.
As it was only with their vital contributions that we were able to make the Creel operate in the way and to the standard we liked, the time has come for the establishment to change hands.
The Creel is therefore as of yesterday on the market at a remarkably reasonable price. It is being sold by Lows Law Property and Finance in Kirkwall – click here for details . They are the particularly nice estate agents in Kirkwall thanks to whom I breezed through the purchase of the Creel myself a number of years ago.
I wonder what will happen next to the Creel. Personally, I think it would make a wonderful large family home. This is because the Blue Lobster Bar, currently furnished as such, has the capability, by simply changing the furniture, of becoming an absolutely wonderful day room, with its view over St Margaret's Bay. Then the large dining room could be re-organised to become a large and cosy sitting room near the front with the back half continuing to serve as the family dining room. And imagine having a house where every bedroom has its own en-suite! (And in Orkney too, one of the best places to live in the UK – see this, for example.)
On the other hand, of course, the Creel as it is stands is completely ready to continue as a wonderfully located bed & breakfast under enterprising new owners. Or, given the fact the house has a proper professional kitchen, it could even go back to being a restaurant with rooms, as it once was.
So, now we wait to see what the future holds.
And while we wait, I pause to remember all the wonderful guests we had from all over the world – NZ, Australia, USA, Canada, many from Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, even a Hungarian family, and others (not to mention England and Scotland!). The vast majority of all these guests were a delight to have staying with us and made for very enjoyable times. My sons and I are all very glad we did this B&B thing and hold very warm feelings for all of our guests. (Pssst... Except for one English business lady – no names, no pack drill – who was our one and only experience of the guest from hell. But that's another story...)
What I wouldn't give to live on this waterfront:
St Margaret's Hope - The Waterfront
(actually, I do and still will live here as I will be staying for my 'second retirement' in the house next door to the Creel.)
One of the great things about the Creel which I will miss, is the view from the day room, one of the best places I know to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Hope with an ever changing view to enjoy at any time of the year.
A spring dawn
A summer view
A winter view
A stormy view
A misty view
A crazy view
(we get plenty of those too!)
There's a grand new thing to do on South Ron and it fills an aching void as there is not much on offer in this line. You can now see Scapa Flow and our cliffs from the sea thanks to Orkney Marine Charters, a new start-up here in Saint Margarets Hope. The Mary Ann, based right here in St Margaret's Hope, is a 33ft boat that can take 6 passengers out for sea angling, birdwatching, and generally enjoying the scenery from sea level. This is going to be a special treat.
I wrote about the Altar in this blog the other day, an extraordinary rock formation that I said I called the prehistoric fossilised giant octopus. Discussing it with a fisherman friend, he told me that from the sea, it looked like an elephant. Of course, I didn't really believe him. And??? Well, here's the 'octopus' again as a reminder.
And here's what it look like from on board the Mary Ann:
I should have been more trusting!!!
And this is the boat one can see and do all this and more from – the Mary Ann
So I was doing a supply run to Kirkwall this morning (we have 6 guests from the USA arriving today) and needed to get my favourite eggs from Eddie, the breeder of champion chickens, who lives in Tankerness. The route takes me past some of my favourite standing stones, which I have written about previously here. These nice and modest stones, two of which get dunked daily by the rising and falling tides, are in fact in a line of 5, the others lined up further inland. And since we have plenty of 5000-year-old stones up here, they still get to make themselves useful. Like this:
What3Words location: ///blackbird.outlines.tasters
and it's beautiful and very different. A ferry-ride of a little over an hour from Kirkwall takes one to tropical views in cool (on 31 March – very cool!) crystal clear air and crystal clear water. Can you believe this is a view on a island to the North of Scotland?
What3Words Location: ///snuggled.smokers.starter
We had to wonder why the island was called Sanday...
We had a lovely lunch at the Kettletoft Hotel (///fussy.handy.pile) with seals wallowing on the beach outside the window.
Entranced by the island, its, beaches and sea, we happened to come across the GALLERY IN THE NORTHWA' (///roving.carbonate.anode) the home and gallery of Bill McArthur, who really knows how to depict Sanday's seas. Bought a painting too!
Now you can buy your postcards of South Ronaldsay before even coming here and post them from your favourite post box back at home (or bring them with you to pop into the post here and get a St Margaret's Hope postmark, or even, now that you have the postcards, cancel your trip and booking at the Creel and save yourself a pretty penny). I have just made a series of 10 postcards of South Ronaldsay. These can now be bought at the Creel or at The Old Trading Post (and post office) just around the corner from us.
If you would like to buy the set (£8 -UK, £10 Rest of World including p&p), please email the Creel (click here) and with the name and address you would like them sent to. We will send you an invoice that can be paid by the click of a credit card and then post to the address you have given.
PS on the day following the post - p&p charges lowered as, when I went to the Post Office to post a pack yesterday, it turned out cheaper than I expected).
Saint Margaret's Hope (///severe.dignity.myths)
Our local church/cemetary on the far side of the island with the North Sea beyond
A calm sunset one day just outside the Creel (///chilling.breaches.pushy)
View from the old battery at Hoxa, guarding the entrance to Scapa Flow. (The Pentalina takes a risk as it passes here 6 times a day as it crosses from here to Gill's Bay in Scotland.)
And here she is, seen from Hoxa too, but further up the Flow and safely past the battery
The Altar, near Herston. Three and a half miles by car then two muddy fields and a slightly hairy clifftop walk away from the Creel. (///breeze.labs.tonal)
The Hope basking on a fine summer's day (///deflection.fastening.guarded)
Tomison's Academy (going to ruin) in the South Parish and a fine Orkney sky
The Sands of Wright, 2 miles from here. Some brave folk swim here (but not me).
A stormy winter's day at Windwick (5 miles away. I went to take a foul weather pick during a raging storm with sheeting rain/hail but the sun came out when I arrived!
Here are the snow-capped hills of Hoy, seen from South Ronaldsay a couple of days ago. Time to plan that skiing excursion!
Shame there's no ski-lifts, the snow is only an inch thick, and it all melts in a couple of days.
Here in Orkney, the sun stays low in the sky from dawn to dusk. This means that we have great photography light all through the day. It also means that in changeable weather (which is most days!) we can get some lovely rainbows. Today's, however, was a doozy even by Orkney standards. Here it is:
This rainbow was a full semicircle but too close for my lens, even at its widest, to capture it. That was just something to enjoy while I took the shots.
This lovely little church is St Mary's in Burwick. It was falling into desuetude and the Church of Scotland no longer wanted to look after it. A group of local people formed a trust – the St Mary's Preservation Trust – to rescue it and turn it into the social and tourist amenity it deserves to be since it is not only of historical interest but also located in one of our island's lovelier spots. Do visit the website for more information and pictures. Click here.
This being the off-season, with less work to do (apart from maintenance and improvements), I was at last able to get around to carrying out a project I had had in mind since the summer. One of the most senior residents of our village, George Esson, some years ago produced a book called South Ronaldsay In Retrospect, filled with wonderful photos of past times here. However, it was basically just bound xerox copies and the images were really somewhat lacking in quality. During a conversation last summer, I suggested that I might rescan them and do a reprint if he was agreeable to the idea. He was. And in a superbly organised way, dug out all the old photos that he had used for his book. You can page through an online copy by clicking here.
I like to take photos and am fond of clichés - so I'll say I find them to be worth a thousand words.