Six years after starting this I’ve finally got round to finishing it.
Olav’s Wood is a cultivated woodland on Orkney that was started by Olav Dennison in the 1970s and is still being developed.
There are a variety of trees, especially in the upper part of the wood near the entrance, and there a numerous paths that wander round this area.
The path continues down alongside and over Oback burn.
Further down is an area of evergreen trees.
The path then rejoins the burn.
Next to the south end of the woodland is an area that has been planted with dog roses.
The Yesnaby cliffs are a popular tourist spot on Orkney, probably because there’s a road that leads up to it and a decent sized car park that is the firing point of the World War II anti-aircraft firing range.
The circular mounting points for the AA guns can clearly be seen in the concrete and crews from ships moored in Scapa Flow would come here to practice firing at targets towed by aircraft (including Defiants, Skuas, Martinets and Cheaspeaks) based at H.M.S. Tern (R.N.A.S. Twatt).
Near the carpark is the Brough of Bigging which is a promontory which has views from Hoy to Marwick Head.
Further on there is the Castle of Qui Ayre, an arch that is still – just – attached to the cliffs.
On the other side of this is the stack known as Yesnaby Castle.
Waking further round this back the path heads up hill along the edge of Inga Ness and becomes significantly less trafficked, it’s obvious that the vast majority of visitors don’t venture much past Yesnaby Castle.
Further along the cliffs past Inga Ness is Harra Ebb where the cliff tops slope down more gently to the sea. There were a number of seals round the rocks here.
Next is the point of Lyregeo which features an impressive cave. This coast line is a great example of a school geography lesson with the tag line “cracks, caves, arches, stacks and stumps” which are the stages of erosion on this kind of coast.
At the furthest point we walked to (and had our lunch before turning back) is North Gaulton Castle which was used for a Rover advert.
The Brough of Birsay is an island that is reached via a tidal causeway from the Point of Buquoy on Mainland. The name derives from the Norse Byrgisey meaning “fortress island”.
Arriving on the island from the causeway there is a Norse settlement dating from the 10th and 11th centuries and a church and monastery from the 12th century.
Walking round the edge of the islands there are some vertiginous cliffs with deep clefts home to many seabirds.
There were plenty of seals visible from the cliffs and I’m beginning to suspect my companion is a selkie as she even managed to spot one swimming under the surface.
At the north west of the island is the lighthouse on Brough Head. This was built by David Alan Stephenson in 1925.
Returning back towards the causeway the rest of the panorama can be viewed.
Back on mainland the walk continues round the coast to Skiba Geo and its boat nousts, recesses dug into the in the cliff tops where fishing boats were stored over winter.
At the headland on the far side of the bay is a whale’s vertebrae mounted on a rib at the end of the 19th century, possibly as a fisherman’s marker. It is known simply as The Whalebone.
Mentioned in the 1136 Orkneyinga saga the Orphir circular Kirk is the last remaining circular church in Scotland. The plan is said to be inspired by the rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem which was increasingly visited by pilgrims following the capture of the Holy Land in the first Crusade. One of these was Earl Hakon who traveled there to atone for ordering the death of St. Magnus on Egilsay in about 1116. The Orphir Kirk may have been built after his return and before his death in about 1123.
The St Magnus trail follows the coast round the north shore of Scapa Flow.
The wall round the edge of the field has a heavy covering of lichen.
Further along the headland are a pair of fishermans’ cottages.
The tip of the headland looks out onto the stretch of water where on 5th August 1917 Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning became the first person to land a plane on a moving ship. Taking off from Smoogro in a Sopwith Pup he landed on the flying off deck of HMS Furious dodging the funnels and the turbulence they produced. Well before the invention of arrester wires a grappling party of the ship’s deck hands grabbed hold of ropes that had been attached to the plane in order to restrain it. Unfortunately five days later he died attempting to repeat the feat when, despite the best efforts of the grappling party, his aircraft fell off the side of the deck and he drowned.
Continuing along the path the coast line flattens out and there is now a fish farm close to the shore.
Returning to the fishermens’ cottages and heading inland near Gyre farm there is a small area of woodland, very unusual for Orkney.
The first set of standing stones were the Stones of Stenness. The name comes from the Norse Stein Ness meaning stone point which suggests they have been the dominant feature of this area for most of human history as this is one of the oldest henges in the British Isles.
Behind the stones is a settlement. This features a large building surrounded by circular borders and the entrance to the Standing Stones faced in this direction suggesting it had some form of ceremonial significance.
Next to this is a building with two hearths that is constructed in a similar way to burial cairns which suggests this was also a significant, non-residential, building. Behind this is a residential building, similar to those found at Skara Brae.
Following the path towards the Ring of Brodgar past the Loch of Stenness the peaks of Hoy are visible in the distance.
The Ring of Brodgar is a much larger stone circle that is 500-1000 years newer than the Stones of Stenness and is the third largest in the British Isles.
The path returns to the Stones of Stenness and on the other side of the cuaseway that links them lies Loch Harray.