View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 27 September 2009

From the archives: Monday 27 September 2004

For the morning session, I walk out at 10 o'clock, heading east out of the town centre towards Inganess Bay. This takes me along the road to the B&B where I stayed nearly 3 weeks ago. Once past there, the road veers off right; the road to Berstane Farm carries on straight ahead. When I reach a wood, filled with junk, I am confronted with a sign saying "Private", and I have to backtrack a little way. Then I jump over a gate and head south along the perifery of the wood. Can continue along the fence for nearly a mile, with views opening up over the airport. To my left lies the Creag of Berstane. Also see a windturbine near Heatheryquoy Farm. Cannot go there in a direct line, but have to veer right along fencing to Inganess Farm. Once on the minor road, I head east, downhill, to the salmon farm. I can drop down to the sands of Wideford, but have to rejoin the top of the seawall after the salmon farm. From here, a new-looking signposted walk leads me back to Scapa. The route is punctuated by some horrendously steep stiles, but finally I arrive at the A960 road to the airport. Cross this with care and carry on along the path. With some difficulties in orienteering, I reach the A961 Burwick road at midday. Cross with care and head into the road that leads to and past Fea Farm. From here, the track winds itself down a messy looking slope to Scapa Pier. This is familiar territory and I easily walk back to the YH on Old Scapa Road. After lunch, I join the bus which will take me to the Bishop's Palace and nearby Brough of Birsay (on the far northwestern corner of Orkney Mainland). The bus goes past Finstown, then down the A986 along such places as Doune and Twatt. People alight at various places along the way, some of them quite jolly. Many have been into town to do their shopping, and are now lumbering it home. Reach Birsay at 2.30. A few people get off here, several joining the bus for the journey back to Kirkwall. First of all, I have a look inside the small church dedicated to St Magnus. A little bare - have a look at this link
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 theViking settlement, of which only foot-high walls remain. It included achurch. 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 crosses 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. Hop 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

Brough of Birsay, image courtesy Flickr-user bugmonkey

Birsay Palace, image courtesy Flickr-user leguan001

Sunday evening

It hasn't stopped raining all day. Went out to Gress, which is 5 miles short of Tolsta, without said guests as they were being entertained. It was nice on the beach, although it was raining steadily. I spent a quiet afternoon finishing two books I was reading: one about the landraids on the island of Vatersay, off Barra, the other about cloudformations. Also watched television, a programme about Italian architecture, and another about unusual wildlife in Indonesia. Makes a difference from being glued to this wee screen ;-)

I'll close proceedings on here by posting an archive entry from 2004, when I was coming to the close of my stint in Orkney. Having arrived there on 1 September, I spent 4 weeks exploring virtually all the islands (with a few exceptions) in that archipelago.

Sunday 27 September

Dismal morning in Stornoway, wet and windy. Nonetheless, may end up taking out some overseas visitors to the delights of the beach at Tolsta

which obviously doesn't look like that this morning. Improvements in the weather are still some way off.

From the archives: Sunday 26 September 2004

It's a cloudy day today, and it does not look as if it's going to brighten up. Arrive at a derilict busstation to take the tourist bus to Skara Brae, with a view to walk across to Stromness. It's also quite blustery and cold. Alight at the neolithic village at 11, and now have the rest of the afternoon to cover the 6 miles to Stromness. I start off by merrily walking into the teeth of the gale, past Skaill Farm,along walls and through pastures. Past herds of bemused looking cows,but very quickly I find myself crossing barbed-wire fences without any stiles. Back I go, glad to have my face out of that very cold SW wind. Retrace my steps as far as Skaill Farm, then head southeast, along a farmtrack that runs roughly past Loch Skaill. Then it's due south, and I'm again diverted because of herds of cows. WIth difficulty, on account of an overgrown and boggy farmtrack, I gain the road which leads south to Stromness. Because of the force 8-9 wind, I decide to engage in a spot of roadwalking. This presents me with quite a challenge, because the severe gale strength wind is determined to blow me into the path of oncoming traffic. After 2 miles, I get the opportunity to leave the busy B9050/A967 to briefly head for quieter side-roads. Pass Kirbister and proceed over Redland Hill. Here,a minor disaster befalls me, in that one of my bootlaces breaks. I tie the two ends together and carry on. My mapcase is also giving me grief. This consists of a Morrisons bag, and is flapping furiously, not really affording much protection against the force 9 winds. Carry on along the A967, with the weather improving gradually. As I struggle past Newburgh and Millhouse, the sun comes out. Head into a country lane to enter Stromness by the backdoor. The ruinous farm buildings along here don't do much for the scenery. Take a break off Millhouse farm, then descend to the bridge cum ford across the Mill Burn and wearily trudge down the hill into Stromness proper. This is along HIllside Road, not the main Kirkwall Road. Past the Co-op and the firestation at 4pm, and up Franklin Road to gain the higher reaches of Stromness. Even go up Brinkies Brae with my purchases from the Co-op, then into the town for a cuppa before the bus comes back at 4.50. Julia's Cafe is a nice wee place opposite the ferry terminal. Kids are sliding along the tiled floors. Have a cup of tea and a pastry before I rejoin the bus back to Kirkwall. Sun is out on the way back, making it quite an acceptable late afternoon.

Stromness, October 2008

Skara Brae, October 2008