Natural Magic on the Orkney Islands: Part One

The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.” – George Mackay Brown

A few short weeks ago we were immersed in the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s summer festivals.  As I type now, we are 300 miles north, on the Mainland of the Orkney Isles – it could not be more different!

We arrived by ferry just over 24 hours ago and already it feels like we have been transported to the magical, distant place described by Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown.  This was the view from our holiday property early this morning (click on any image to enlarge):

The bay you can see in the distance is Skaill Bay. We took an early trip before breakfast:

We spent a lovely hour or so in the company of some of my favourite birds, including oystercatchers, red shank and sanderlings.

This bay is best known for being the site of the ‘blockbuster’, must-see attraction of Skara Brae. This is a Neolithic village dating back over 5,000 years. We visited the site a few years ago – it was a memorable and moving experience, and inspired this post.  I was pleased to be back communing with a part of the world where humans have lived for so many years.

After breakfast, we took a short drive to the Brough of Birsay:

This is a tidal island linked to the mainland by a causeway and it has an incredible history, including as a site from which Vikings ruled Orkney in the 10th and 11th centuries, and where there is evidence of Pictish settlements.

In today’s September sunshine, it was breathtaking, showcasing Orkney’s fascinating geology and beautiful clear waters:

We climbed up to the lighthouse and walked around the Brough, admiring the views and the many Kittiwakes nesting in the cliffs:

This afternoon we visited another bay, marveling again at the geology.  This time, we also had an unexpected surprise – you can see the Old Man of Hoy in the far distance (enlarging this photo is definitely recommended!):


We’ll be visiting the island of Hoy some time during our trip so hopefully I will be able to post some pictures from a slightly nearer vantage point!  Meanwhile, here are a couple of shots of the stack, and the incredible Devonian cliffs of Hoy taken during our ferry crossing yesterday – rather different weather then! 😀


23 thoughts on “Natural Magic on the Orkney Islands: Part One

  1. It all looks stunningly beautiful and spiritual, Liz. Clear, clean waters, fascinating history, favourite see birds and intriguing geology all make for a perfect package. Have a wonderful time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Liz! Orkney is a place of solitude, mystery and beauty. I feel the September breeze through my WIFI. Thank you for sharing your brilliant captures. You always excite me when you write Part 1 in your title because I know that there will be a Part 2 and dare I ask a Part 3. Many hugs coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What amazing country with its old history and beauty. I remember long ago passing the old man of Hoy and visiting Skara Brae, Apparently you cannot go inside anymore. ( we walked right inside the ‘houses’) – now it is more protected,… from the many tourists. The Orkneys are such beauty spots. Enjoy your time there!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SO fantastic! Your photos are great–and how lucky you were with the weather! You know how I long to visit this place and see the things you’e describing. I’ll be waiting for the sequels to this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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