The next two days of our mini-holiday in Orkney were spent exploring the island of Westray. We walked between two pastures to a path along the cliffs to see the strange rock formations there.
We had a sticky moment at a stile that just had a small flat top, and two pieces of board nailed flat against the posts for steps. I had a hard time getting over it, and we quickly discovered it was too high for Roscoe to jump.
He doesn’t like being picked up yet and snapped at me the one time I tried it. But there was nothing for it, and he was desperate to get over to where I was, so Graham bravely scooped him up and deposited him on top, where he jumped down. He seemed quite proud of himself, and we were relieved that he might learn that being picked up isn’t a bad thing.
Then my favourite part of our trip – visiting the Noup Head lighthouse and cliffs. It’s a bumpy road out to the lighthouse, not recommended for vehicles that sit low, but we made it eventually.
We walked along the cliffs, with Roscoe sticking his head in the now-empty puffin burrows. While most species of seabird have gone by this time in the summer, there were still hundreds of gannets nesting on the cliffs, with chicks at all stages of development. Bonxies, or great skuas, cruised around looking for opportunities for an easy meal.
On the way back to Pierowall we stopped to explore Noltland Castle, originally built to house Mary Queen of Scots if she managed to escape from imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle. This wasn’t to be, and the castle was never finished, though much of it is intact.
Roscoe was clearly delighted by his newly-discovered ability to climb, and had a great time romping through the castle, climbing the stairs and jumping up on windowsills.
I liked the creepy vaulted kitchen in the lower storey, which was dark and damp and had the most amazing acoustics. I sang a bit and it rang for ages.
On our last morning we visited the Westray Heritage Centre, which has an excellent exhibition about the astonishing finds from the Links of Noltland archaeological dig nearby. This is where they found the diminutive Westray Wife, thought to be the oldest object representing a human ever found in Scotland. There is more information here: http://www.westrayheritage.co.uk/
Afterwards, we drove out to the Links to see the actual site. People aren’t allowed on the site as it’s a very fragile area of dunes, but we could see through the fence the beautifully-built stone walls.
Roscoe then had fun digging in the sand, while we soaked up the sun and watched the seals that had swum in close to keep an eye on three boys who were body-boarding in the sea with their dad.
Later we visited the Castle of Burrian, a large sea stack very near the shore that, earlier in the summer, would have been covered in puffins. But even at this time of year there were many fulmars cruising along the cliff edge to have a look at us.
We drove to the furthest point south on the island, visited another beach, then got on the ferry, the Varagen, and headed back to Kirkwall. It really was an enjoyable few days, and we will definitely be back.