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.
Everyone knows the Standing Stones of Stenness, but far fewer have met the Drowning Stones of Tankerness
(I confess that I've just invented that last name, but take a look)
Everyone coming to Orkney wants to – and get to – see the Standing Stones. And lovely they are too!
Far fewer go to see their lowly, but sympathetic, cousins stuck out in Mill Sand in Tankerness. But there is something sweet about them.
Seas have risen and these poor things now barely get to keep their heads above water at high tide.
And here they are at low tide
A short drive to Tankerness is very worthwhile. I also like the Iron Age village of Mine Howe on the same road. And there is a new plus this year: Sheila Fleet, one of Orkney's great jewellers,has her workshop (and a shop) there, to which she has now added a very pretty eating place in an old kirk.
(not my photo)
Check it out here
...as the temperature fell a bit below average and a NE wind of gale / strong gale force whooshed in. It was therefore just the day to go to the cliffs at Yesnaby to enjoy the weather to the full.
If one turns left from one's landing point at Yesnaby, a short walk along the grassy clifftops
takes one to this😀❗️❗️❗️
We saw something yesterday that we had not ourselves seen before. What at first sight looked like snow was whipping up and over the clifftop.
This in fact was foam churned by the pounding waves to a froth that was then carried up and over the cliff!
Getting to Yesnaby from the Creel is easy. This is what Google Maps suggests. (We went there by another route but it's more or less the way we drove back). This route takes you past the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, two extra treats.
The weather turned so ridiculously nice a few days ago that I began to wonder if we hadn't drifted off into the vicinity of the Canary Isles or at least the Azores.
So one afternoon, after our nice guests had gone off sightseeing, I grabbed my camera, jumped onto to my Moto Guzzi and went for a spin.
The sun seemed to be in the right part of the sky for a ride to Deerness and I decided to have another wander around Newark Bay and the Geo slipway.
This is what I found and we will deffo (just had some Australian guests😀) do a picnic there this summer.
Just look at this:
Newark Beach. (It was a little crowded as there were at least 4 people on it).
I walked down onto the Geo Slipway and just loved this rockpool:
There were several possible picnic spots and places to sit, but I liked this one best:
Getting there is easy
Orkney is a place of megaliths. So one day found me looking at a website called The Megalithic Portal to learn about megaliths near us. There was something marked just 3 miles away and the photo of the site just blew me and my son away. We had to see it for ourselves and, as soon as a patch of foul weather ended, off we went. And found this stunner.
The bit of interest to lovers of megaliths is something on top of this magnificent rock formation, which is called The Altar. Personally, I think it's a fossilised prehistoric octopus, although someone has also suggested the claw print of a giant dinosaur.
I also think it's a sight just as impressive as the Old Man of Hoy and can't understand why it seems hardly to be known.
Getting to it is mildly problematic as the coastal path is quite eroded and none too safe in parts (see annotated map below). So my son and I made our way through two fields of the Hall of Herston farm. One of us leapt the barbed wire fence at the far end of the field and the other crawled under the bottom wire and so reached The Altar.
Today I confirmed with the owners that they don't object to Creel guests doing the same, although care should be taken if there are cattle in the fields and not to damage fences and barbed wire.
There was also a nice view of Scapa Flow from the spot.
Splendid destination for a very small after-lunch excursion. Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of Burray and South Ronaldsay. The church, also known as Old Burray Kirk, dates back to 1621 and is a very pretty ruin. The cemetery is still in use. The whole stands on the site of a possible broch. There are some Commonwealth War Graves there.
There is a nice view on the approach.
With its nave open to the skies, there is a pleasant feeling with the church walls
A very touching gravestone. The text at the bottom of the little white cross reads "Who ne'er wept nor smiled". It's for a child, stillborn in 1901
Another view of the church
Getting there is simple
A rather nice new lunch option has hit the Hope: another gourmet 'hamburger van' has appeared in Orkney. As good as Leigh's, but different. And this time it is just up the road from the Creel, increasing our local South Ron eating options in a valuable way. Just look at this minute steak in a bun!
The above is what I got my son, who has been working hard in the garden, for lunch today, My treat was this:
Cajun chicken, that was, before I wolfed it down.
So anyway, we're delighted to recommend 'The Grill' which has opened at the top of the hill, open 10am-2:30pm every day. It's excellent value and a nice & tasty lunch solution.
William and I have set ourselves the task of working our way through the menu, something that promises to be fun.
Here is the establishment itself. It may not look grand, but it's what comes out of it that counts! (I particularly love the two strong webbing straps to either side of the hatch to hold it tight to its trailer against Orkney's winter winds.)
and the chef, Elaine Gutcher:
Find The Grill here
My friend Paul, who was over from Paris and with whom I went for the walk described in my previous post, showed himself to be a proper Frenchman and wanted organoleptic tourism as well. Having a fondness for cheese, he asked if we had any local cheeses. It was nice to have someone interested in more than just whisky! Also I knew just where to go. This kind of requirement called for a trip to Kirkness & Gorie, our quality delicatessen and serious wine merchant – always a nice activity, even though it generally costs me dear as there are too many (rewarding and appreciated) temptations there. So, in the funny way of things, we dropped in to the shop and asked about cheeses. To be honest, the Orkney cheddar one sees everywhere is, although nice, nothing much to write home about. We were soon shown the right path in this shop.
These two cheeses from Westray are truly excellent and interesting.
We both bought some (and today I've just bought some more) – hence this post. I took the photo below with my iPhone as I shopped today.
In fact, Paul impressed me by buying food to take back as a souvenir and something for the other members of his family to enjoy. So what else does a Frenchman take back from Orkney? Answer: several kilos of our wonderful Orkney beef, so good it has its own 'appellation' . Its a PDO – 'Protected Designation of Origin'. So we bought a couple of kilos each of filet and sirloin, sliced and vacuum packed in two, from the Creel's favourite butcher, Williamsons, Paul's wife, Ariane has already emailed to say the meat was excellent.
Both shops are in Kirkwall and well worth a visit. (And no, I don't get a commission for these plugs!!!)
I like to take photos and am fond of clichés - so I'll say I find them to be worth a thousand words.