Sunday 15 July 2018

A craking good day

If there's a problem with moving to live and work in a place where you used to go on holiday, it is that it can be very difficult to recapture the carefree spirit of a vacation. Sure, it's easy enough to spare a few moments for a sunrise or a sunset, or back off the throttle ever so slightly when you catch sight of a Hen Harrier gliding across the road in front of your car, or even stop at the side of the road to watch an ephemeral moment of sunlight and clouds. It is much harder to find the time to go 'full tourist', even without a loud shirt and red trousers.

However, this weekend, we made the effort, along with friends L and C, and booked ourselves onto the ferry to Westray to sample the heady delights of the 'Queen of the Isles'.

Following the recent dry spell, it seemed churlish to be a bit disgruntled about the decidedly damp and dour weather, as the landscape needs some precipitation to maintain its verdant complexion. Fortunately, there were plenty of gaps between the showers and places to go indoors when there weren't.

It was a very early start for a weekend morning, the ferry leaving Kirkwall harbour at 07.20. The journey was pleasant enough, with most of it spent on deck, watching the world slip gently by. At 08.45, when we landed at Rapness in Westray, we set off straight away for the Castle o' Burrian, a lump of rock sat at the entrance to a sheltered bay. This is as close as you can get to Puffin Central in Orkney, without sailing 60km out into the Atlantic to visit Sule Skerry. Walking along the clifftop path to the Castle, we were oo-ing and ah-ing at all the cuteness to be seen, with fluffy Fulmar chicks and boisterous Black Guillemots vying with the Puffins for our attention.

Returning to the car, there was also grand views of a Twite, sat picturesquely on some ripening seed heads. 

After a visit to a tea room, natch, we headed to Noltland Castle. As L and C explored the ruins, Our Lass and I were astonished to hear a very recognisable bird call from some wet pasture a little way away. Although it was the middle of the day, there was no mistaking the crex crex call of a Corncrake.

Next stop on our whirlwind tour was Grobust beach, but our wander along the sandy bay was cut short by a heavy shower, so we decamped to the Wheeling Steen Gallery to marvel at the wonderful photographs of Westray scenery and wildlife.

Following a pleasant lunch at the Pierowall Hotel, we drove along the rough track to Noup Head, an RSPB reserve and seabird colony. Here, along with Gannets galore and beguiling Guillemots, were Razorbills, Kittiwakes, more Fulmars and Puffins, as well as Arctic and Great Skuas.

Somehow, we managed to fit in another tea room visit, before heading back down the island to catch the return ferry to Kirkwall. Again, much of the journey was spent on deck, watching islands slowly slipping by and trying to spot L and C's house through the haze, some 10km distant. After all that fresh air, not to mention the early start, I, for one, slept well.


Spadger said...

reminds of the visit with you a few years back in the day when it was a holiday too.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Oops, sorry for all the cliff photos!