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.
Today was a lovely autumn day and definitely one on which to check up on our seals. There had already been some pictures in various Facebook pages of the new arrivals, so William and I headed off for the South Parish to the sealy spots we had found in previous years. And bingo, they were there!
These were on the beach at one of my favourite beauty spots on the island. There was a fine view from the clifftop:
It was incredibly bright and everything sparkled. Several dads seemed to be guarding the baby beach from the sea:
And there was plenty to guard. Why do the seals choose to lie in mushy seaweed when there are nice clean stones right nearby?
These seals were in the sort of sunny spot I might have chosen for myself (but it was another beach and it didn't have any seaweed):
They also had some cormorants to watch over them
The season being nearly over, there are gaps between bookings. Seeing we had a few days free, son William and I decided to take our motorcycles for a spin in mainland Scotland and decided on a quick little run to Cromarty in the Black Isle.
This little town was so nice, I thought I'd write about it as a possible interesting stop for people en route to us by car from down Sooth! I would highly recommend it as a small detour off the A9 main road.
This is the detour:
An added plus is that one gets to use one of the sweetest little car ferries (we were told it’s the smallest car ferry in the UK), which runs to and fro 40 times a day between Cromarty and Nigg. Details here.
But here is the ferry itself!
Good eating (and staying) in Cromarty at the Royal Hotel
However, we stayed right next door in a flat with a lovely view over the Firth and highly recommend it (Seascape Holiday Apartment). Owned and managed by a lovely lady called Helen, it was cosy and so spic and span that I was almost afraid to touch anything😊. This was the view from the sitting room window (iPhone pic). That's our bikes parked on the waterfront.
On the return journey we detoured just a few miles to Dunnet Head, northernmost spot of Great Britain, as we had time before the ferry home. Great spot – and it was good to see Orkney on the horizon.
While this must be Great Britain's most northerly dwelling:
We did not get rained on once during our 2-day trip, It only started to rain when we were safely on our lovely Pentalina, heading home. And even this gave us a lovely view of Dunnet Head as we headed off.
I like to take photos and am fond of clichés - so I'll say I find them to be worth a thousand words.