Olav’s Wood walk

Olav’s Wood is a cultivated woodland on Orkney that was started by Olav Dennison in the 1970s and is still being developed.

Entrance to Olav's Wood

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.

Path in Olav's Wood

The path continues down alongside and over Oback burn.

Bridge over Oback Burn in Olav's Wood

Further down is an area of evergreen trees.

Path in Olav's Wood

The path then rejoins the burn.

Walkway in Olav's Wood

Oback Burn in Olav's Wood

Next to the south end of the woodland is an area that has been planted with dog roses.

Dog roses at Olav's Wood

Rose hips in Olav's Wood

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Yesnaby Cliffs Walk

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.

Yesnaby carpark showing AA gun mounting points

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).

Yesnaby carpark showing AA gun mounting points

Near the carpark is the Brough of Bigging which is a promontory which has views from Hoy to Marwick Head.

Panorama from Brough of Bigging showing Hoy to Marwick Head

Further on there is the Castle of Qui Ayre, an arch that is still – just – attached to the cliffs.

Castle of Qui Ayre

On the other side of this is the stack known as Yesnaby Castle.

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.

Yesnaby Castle and Garthna Geo

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.

Harra Ebb

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.

Point of Lyre Geo

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.

North Gaulton Castle

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Brough of Birsay walk

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”.

Brough of Birsay and causeway

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.

Birsay settlement and church

Walking round the edge of the islands there are some vertiginous cliffs with deep clefts home to many seabirds.

Cliffs on the Brough of Birsay Cliffs on the Brough of Birsay Cliffs on the Brough of Birsay Cliffs on the Brough of Birsay Cliffs on the Brough of Birsay

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.

Birsay lighthouse

Views from here go from Marwick Head to Rousay

Marwick Head and Atlantic Brough Head and lighthouse

Returning back towards the causeway the rest of the panorama can be viewed.

Point of Buquoy to Marwick Head

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.

Skiba Geo boat nousts

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.

Skiba Geo

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Head of Faraclett walk

The Head of Faraclett is on the north east corner of the island of Rousay which lies across the narrow Einhallow sound from the north coast of Mainland.

The first half of the walk crosses farmland round the back and side of the headland.

Start of Head of Faraclett walk

Coming round the headland there is a view out to the Atlantic via Wastray Firth which lies between Rousay and Westray to the north.

View West from the Head of Faraclett between Rousay and Westray

Further round is the tip of the headland with spectacular 270° views round from Saviskaill Head round the bay on Rousey; past the northern islands of Westray, Eaday, Sanday, Stronsay; with Fair Isle a dark line on the horizon.  Close to Rousay are Egilsay and Wire, with Shapinsay and Girsay slightly further out on the approaches to Kirkwall bay and a direct line of sight to Kirkwall itself.

West to north panarama from the Head of Faraclett

North to east panorama from the Head of Faraclett

East to south panorma from the Head of Faraclett

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Orphir walk

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.

Orphir round kirk Orphir round kirk

The St Magnus trail follows the coast round the north shore of Scapa Flow.

Shoreline near Orphir

The wall round the edge of the field has a heavy covering of lichen.

Lichen on a stone

Further along the headland are a pair of fishermans’ cottages.

Fishermen's huts

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.

Shoreline near Orphir

Continuing along the path the coast line flattens out and there is now a fish farm close to the shore.

Shoreline near Orphir Shoreline near Orphir and fish farm offshore

Returning to the fishermens’ cottages and heading inland near Gyre farm there is a small area of woodland, very unusual for Orkney.

Gyre farm woods Gyre farm woods

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Standing stones walk

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.

Stones of Stenness

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.

Barnhouse settlement

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.

Barnhouse settlement

Following the path towards the Ring of Brodgar past the Loch of Stenness the peaks of Hoy are visible in the distance.

Loch of Stenness and Hoy

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.

Ring of Brodgar Ring of Brodgar

The path returns to the Stones of Stenness and on the other side of the cuaseway that links them lies Loch Harray.

Ring of Brodgar Loch of Harray Standing Stones of Stenness

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Markwick Head walk

We start at Marwick Choin, a bay that has a lagoon when the tide goes out.

Choin - Marwick

On the beach is the remains of the boiler from the tramp steamer Monomoy which was wrecked in 1896. As boilers were built to withstand enormous pressures even 124 years later there is still a significant amount of metal remaining.

The boiler of the steamship Monomoy, wrecked in 1896

Some of the internal structures are still visible.

The boiler of the steamship Monomoy, wrecked in 1896

The boiler of the steamship Monomoy, wrecked in 1896

Further out there is a large sheet still mostly intact.  From here you can see across the lagoon to the Kitchener memorial on the headland to the north.

View across the Choin to the Kitchener memorial

Continuing around the southern coast line there are some fishermens’ huts at Sand Geo.  These were built after the Monomoy ran aground and blocked access to the beach meaning the fishermen had to relocate their boats.  The fishermen were local farmers who would fish using hand lines for cod and haddock that they would consume themselves rather than sell.  The huts were restored in 1984.

Fishermens' huts at Sand Geo

Sand Geo

At the top of the inlet is the winch they would have used to haul in their boats.  It is said to have been salvaged from the wreck of the Monomoy.

Winch at Sand Geo

Returning past the Choin and continuing up the path along the cliff tops we come to the Kitchener memorial.  Secretary of War, Lord Kitchener was on the HMS Hampshire with a delegation to Russia on 5 June 1916 when at 8:45 it hit a mine laid by U-75 and sank off Marwick Head in a force 9 gale with the loss of 737 souls – there were only 12 survivors.  The memorial was built by public subscription and unveiled in 1926.

Kitchener Memoral

In 2016, again by public subscription, a memorial wall was added listing the names of the other 736 people who lost their lives.

Names of crew lost on HMS Hampshire

There now follows a brief interlude for lunch on the cliff tops.

Lunch of champions

The path continues around the cliff tops with some fine views of the Atlantic.

Kitchener Memorial and Markwick head

Marwick head cliffs

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Evie anti-torpedo netting

Piled up at the back of the beach at the Sands of Evie is a section of anti-torpedo netting.  This is made up of interlocking rings of thick gauge galvanised wire, somewhat like chain mail.

Anti-torpedo netting on Evie beach

Where it’s above the high water mark it’s still in good condition but where it’s regularly covered by the salt water it’s got a fair amount of surface rust.

Anti-torpedo netting on Evie beach

The steel hawser that ran across the top is still clearly visible as are a number of joints with shackles attached, I assume this is where the floatation boys were attached.

Anti-torpedo netting on Evie beach Anti-torpedo netting on Evie beach

South Ronaldsay War Memorial

This is situated on the main road on the southern approach to St Margaret’s Hope.

South Ronaldsay War Memorial

South Ronaldsay War Memorial

To commemorate and honour the men of Sth Ronaldshay who fell in the Great War.

  • The dates of the war are given as 1914-1919 on the ends of the surrounding wall.

WWII

The WWII names have been added to the side of the memorial following the style of the WWI panel.

South Ronaldsay War Memorial

Middle of the island

Graemsay