On Thursday, I was tasked with moving some equipment to allow building work to proceed on the upgrade to the hostel on the island of Papa Westray (often known as Papay). Due to the time involved in travelling, sailing wasn't an option, so a trip in one of Loganair's Britten Norman Islanders was the alternative.
This week has been particularly wintry, with much of England and the central belt of Scotland having enough snow to cause havoc with everyone's travel plans. Sadly, this included First Born's long weekend visiting Orkney, which was scuppered by stationary traffic on the M62 and cancelled flights out of Manchester.
Orkney, by contrast, has seen light but frequent flurries of very fine snow, which drifted in the strong easterly breeze. So I wasn't completely sure that my flight would go ahead, or that I could return to Mainland later in the day.
I needn't have worried. Despite the wind chill and freezing temperatures, we left Kirkwall Airport on time and headed for our first port of call, the island of Westray. As we flew over Shapinsay, the bright Winter sun sparkled off the frosty scenery below, lighting up Helliar Holm lighthouse and Balfour Castle and casting long shadows behind them. Then, as we passed Egilsay and Rousay, a snow flurry obliterated the view for a while. As we neared Westray, the sun returned, giving spectacular views along the cliffs of the island's western coast. In the far distance, Noup Head lighthouse looked as though it was perched on a giant slice of carrot cake, the dark cliffs rising from the sea towards the snowy icing above.
Having landed on Westray, the next hop was a scant two minute journey to Papay, officially the word's shortest scheduled flight. As the seats in front of me were now vacated, I was able to film this bit of the journey without getting in anyone's way.
Conditions deteriorated a little during the day, but with the equipment successfully relocated, my return flight went without a hitch. We encountered a few more snow flurries en route, but made it back to Kirkwall without incident. And by some weird Pavlovian response, I celebrated by purchasing a carrot cake.