Sunday, 23 June 2013

Orkney, June 2013, Part 2

The Aikerness peninsula at the northern tip of Westray has much to recommend it. At least, if you're of a similar frame of mind to a Tense Towers Team.

Our accommodation was situated within easy reach (and by 'easy' I mean 10 minutes gentle walking) of some fantastic coastal scenery.

Due south, and reached by a sandy track, was the Bay of Skaill, whose brilliantly-hued beach was featured in the previous post. This shallow bay was visible from the cottage and we never tired of watching the light changing upon the water, from the deepest blue to a sumptuous turquoise. Continuing around the coast for another mile, another sandy beach and an accompanying ayre were accessible at low tide. It was here that Our Lass spotted the butterfly highlight of the trip, a Painted Lady, nectaring on the ground from the flowers of (I think) Common Chickweed.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
From here, it was possible to return to the cottage on a single track road, which had the added advantage of passing by the Wheeling Steen Gallery which, as well as some gorgeous photographs and artwork, also sold tea/coffee and cakes.

If we turned right out of the cottage rather than left, and wandered through several small fields, we reached the northernmost tip of Westray at Bow Head. This was a favourite evening walk, but also at any time of day, really. For the first few days of our stay, the prevailing wind was from the north west and the ancient flagstone strata of this headland produced some rugged scenery.

Looking south west from the The Taing, we watched as the waves rolled in to The Scaun, a three-arched promontory of weathered rock. 

Noup Head lighthouse, in the distance, is four and a half miles away
The Scaun again, moments later, as the light changed
The shore, where the above photographs were taken from, was gently-sloping with the occasional step in the rocks as consecutive layers of flagstones were weathered out by the force of the sea. As long as care was taken to avoid slippery surfaces, it was possible to reach the water's edge, always being careful to maintain a respectful distance from the surf.

Further around the coast, on the west side of the peninsula, the geography became even more rugged. I shall post more on this area in a future blog, but for now, here's a taster...

Directly east of the cottage was the airfield. Occasionally, if the breeze was from the right direction, the 8-seater Islander aircraft operated out of Kirkwall by Loganair, would pass by the end of the garden wall whilst we were having breakfast.

The field immediately below the cottage contained several pairs of breeding Oystercatchers. The nearest pair were visible from our bedroom window and within a day or two of our arrival had settled down to incubate their clutch of eggs. They ignored any traffic that passed by on the single track road, but would scuttle away so as not to reveal the location of the nest if any cyclists or walkers came into view. Fortunately, from our vantage point, we did not appear to disturb them.

One Oystercatcher amongst thousands of Daisies

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