Posted by: brendaintheboro | July 19, 2017

Cycling in the Orkney Isles – part 3


Westray and Papa Westray


We were up very early and while I dried off the tent DH packed all the sleeping stuff and then a fine mist came down to wet the tent again. So then we had first breakfast but the sun came out to dry off the tent.

We left the Pickaquoy site in Kirkwall just after 8.00am and did some last minute shopping before going to the ferry terminal in the centre of town, which is having renovation work performed. This is t try to prevent flooding.

There is a one and a half hour sail across to Westray and the ferry docks at the southern end of the island. This means a nice ride of 7 miles up ad down  the long hills to reach the Barn campsite on the outskirts of the main village Pierowall. The campsite is well equipped with  laundry and a nice well equipped kitchen . This meant we didn’t have to cook at the tent or use our own utensils or crockery. At £14 a night for 2 people this was great value and  probably the best site of the lot.

After getting pitched up, we cycled off up to Noup head passing Noltland 16th century castle on the way.

I was fascinated by the stonework which reminded me of churches we had seen in Norway.

Then it was a climb up to Noup head. We pulled off the  single track road to let a campervan pass – well I wanted a breather anyway – and the people were still at the lighthouse when we got there.



P1000323We walked across to the cliffs to look at the birds nesting there.

I have to admit to being scared of heights but did my best to take some photos.  DH thought it best to show how I got down to get these photos.


I was fascinated to get these close ups but felt sick being so close to the edge. I could hear a sound from inside the cliffs that I thought might be puffins but never saw any but here are some others.

I am fairly sure these are gannets.

Now I am unsure of these but think they might be Razorbills or Guillemots. Any bird buffs please help.

I have to say the ride down was lovely and there are 2 shops in the village which we made use of. They don’t just sell food but probably anything you might want from a sewing needle to a rope.  Fabulous.

Tuesday 11th July 2017

We got up early enough to catch the 9.00am ferry across to Papa Westray, alos known as Papay to the locals. This involved lifting out bikes down onto the little passenger ferry and they got lashed down on the bow well.

Then we had a 45 minute crossing in glorious weather.

Then it is only a 4 mile ride to the end of the road at the top of the island. I was hoping to see some textiles but the lady wasn’t there, so had a walk to look at a geo ( pronounced Gheeo) which is where a cave has fallen in and left a long inlet.


I also took more bird photos. I am really liking the telephoto lens – can you tell?

We were also lucky enough to see the aeroplane landing. This is the shortest flight in the world between Westray and Papay at about 2 mins.

Then it was back down to look at the Knap of Howar dating back to 3500BC.

There were a number of people there including a man called Nicholas Cope who has written a book about the geometry of the place ( and he was due to give a talk that evening but we couldn’t stay.



This lady was also grinding razor shells on a quern stone as they think that is what the ancients might have used as a good source as it is high in calcium. Conjecture yes but possible.


Once back at the ferry landing we had a short wait and watched cars and vans being unloaded from a Kirkwall ferry. This is the old fashioned way of using a crane to get the vehicles on and off. I remember this about 50 years ago on the Hull to Rotterdam ferry, long before RORO ferries.


Once back across we rode up to try to find a natural arch and walked a few miles  across fields and along the shore.


We actually didn’t find it until we turned back so I just managed to get the top of it.


There is also a very nice gallery, the Wheeling Steen gallery,  which also sells frozen yogurt and inside has the top of an old sailing ship which ahs been preserved as a studio for painting by Edwin Rendall and his wife and daughter who makes the yogurt and makes some textile items.

I bought a couple of bookmarks of Edwin’s photography and poetry.  Cant take much when cycle camping.

In the evening there was a concert at the Barn but I wasn’t able to go in due to my throat condition as the perfumes were just too overwhelming  for me. So we sat int he kitchen and listened to the performance of country and western and folk music by Michael and Tinnie and guests. We had a wonderful time here and I can well recommend the place.


  1. Just managed to find the time to read all your Orkney blogs, Brenda. Very interesting and informative – thank you! I admire the way you were determined to photograph the birds on the cliffs. Rather you than me – my tummy flipped just looking at Jozef’s photo of you lying on the clifftop!!

    • Oh Chris, you have no idea how scared I was . I crawled along on all fours and then slithered back as I was too terrified to get back onto all fours – stupid I know but that’s me and has been since I first saw the Sound of Music. That scene flying in over the mountains made my tummy flip – that was just a film!! So pleased I could get them. At the geo sites my head was swimming too.

  2. I read and enjoyed this post. Congratulations. All this work is excellent.

  3. Your photo shoot over the cliff is a classic Brenda 😀 It’s fun pointing the camera, pressing the button and hoping for the best. I can’t help with the bird ID though. They remind me of noddy terns but I know they’re distinctly tropical birds. It must be wonderful cycling around these islands. I saw a documentary about the Orkney Islands some years ago. I think it might have been in the series “Coast”. Their history is fascinating. I remember the doco had something about knitting Orkney jumpers.

  4. Hi Gail, did see some craft work and talked with a couple of knitters and felters. There is a healthy craft fair going on with people taking turns manning the stalls. I was tempted to buy some hand spun yarn or some North Ronaldsay wool but couldn’t bring it home.

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