In my previous post, I mentioned that we had booked to go on an event at the Orkney Nature Festival. Despite having lived here for several years now, neither of us had managed to attend a Nature Festival event at all, mainly due to work commitments.
However, the Northlink Per Mare Nature Cruise 2017, aboard the mv Hamnavoe, was on a Sunday afternoon and beckoned welcomely. This vessel is one of the regular ferries between Orkney and the Scottish mainland but, for the Nature Festival, Northlink add in a trip up the west coast of Orkney, to look at the scenic cliffs and wildlife, plus a buffet. What. Is. Not. To. Love.
We arrived in Stromness just before lunchtime, to see the Hamnavoe entering the harbour on her normal run from Scrabster.
Before too long, four hundred eager foot passengers were aboard, comprising wildlife watchers, sight-seers, locals, tourists and folk just wanting some nosh.
After leaving Stromness and rounding the Ness, we cruised gently up the west coast of the Orkney mainland, and I tried to work out the landmarks from the opposite view.
This wasn't easy, especially when we passed by this stack which I'd never seen before. I think it's the Castle of North Gaulton.
I learnt a great deal during the trip. The main lesson was not to leave the image stabiliser on my camera switched off. At some time in the recent past, I had been using it on a tripod, so had switched off the I.S. I didn't realise until we were back home. Gah!
Further up the coast, was Skaill Bay, and a distant view of Skaill House (circa 1620AD) and Skara Brae (circa 3180BC).
Just north of the bay is a farm. Painted on a pair of barn doors, and not visible from the road on the landward side, are some Arctic Terns. I think that this is the area which is written about so evocatively in Amy Liptrot's 'The Outrun'.
On the bridge of the ship, a crack team of wildlife watchers were assembled, tensed like coiled springs, ready to spot anything interesting and communicate it to the passengers. Thank you, Emma (Sanday Ranger) and Alison (RSPB)! As we cruised ever northwards, we were treated to some fantastic cetacean activity...
Risso's Dolphins and...
However, the three (yes, three!) pods of Orca which were being reported from around the archipelago did not grace us with a visit.
By the time we reached the north west corner of Orkney, it was time to have a look at the Brough of Birsay from a new angle.
On our very first visit to Orkney, back in 2006, we were stood on those cliffs, looking out to sea, at roughly the point we were now, and seeing a whale!
The cruise then surprised us by heading along the north coast of Orkney, all the way to Costa Head. This gave us a view back along the coast to Birsay.
At this point, Our Lass and I repaired to the buffet for a late lunch and some chat with friends. By the time we popped back on deck, the Hamnavoe was nearly back to Stromness. This just left a small opportunity to photograph a couple of buildings on the island of Graemsay. Buildings normally to be found within the blog pages of Life on a Small Island.
Bottom: Community Hall
And just to prove that we didn't spend all the voyage ensconced in the buffet, here's a shot cribbed from the Northlink Facebook page: