Orkney wild life and nature watching whilst on tour

The past 24 hours have been good – watching seals, a whale, cattle in the fields, oystercatchers on the lawn and a mouse squeeking its last gasping breath at my cat’s behest. And lots of clean air!!!

Cattle watching in Orkney fields

Cattle watching in Orkney fields

I took guests on a Five Senses tour of the West Mainland, here in Orkney, and in addition to all the ancient sites and World Heritage (Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, etc), we managed to lie in the heather sunbathing – delighting in the twittering antics of the skylarks.

We explored Stromness and out at Ness Point we watched the seals at close range, within 20 feet of us, diving and entertaining us. However, we were really treated to a glimpse of whales off the Yesnaby cliffs in the late evening, when no one else was around. That is the fun with my tours – going out at the times best to see wild life and avoid the crowds – instead of boring old stones, unmoving and silent.

friction fire lighting

friction fire lighting

Earlier in the day we made fire by friction, cordage from stinging nettles and lamp wicks from soft rush – so bringing the past to life and history blending with environmental issues.

We called in at Andrew’s pottery and he kindly threw a few pots for us, there and then, demonstrating his mastery of the skill, making it look so easy. We ate delicious Orkney ice cream outside St Magnus Cathedral, we sampled local cheeses, salmon and oatcakes and had a tasty home made soup (lentil).

We crawled inside Cuween Hill chambered cairn (tomb) in the dark and waited until our eyes adjusted to the light – just this side of being scared! We told stories of skulls and nasty things, to tease ourselves more. We listed to local music, we laughed, we paddled barefoot in the Atlantic ocean, we smelt the meadowsweet and currant leaves and generally explored Orkney using all our senses!

Stenness Standing Stones - Over 5,000 years old

Stenness Standing Stones - Over 5,000 years old

This morning I was awoken by the oystercathers going crazy on the lawn and the cattle bellowing in the field beside our house – it is full of yellow buttercups and maybe something was hiding in the grass – like one of our cats – cos certainly nature was agitated – and I could only get up and watch it all from the window – better than any hide – I didn’t even have to put on clothes, let alone a jacket!

The Hamnavoe ferry steamed (well, powered, as it is diesel) out of Stromness and the sun burned its brightest so far this year. Summer solstice has been and gone again, so with each day now the time of the sun is depleted a minute or two, and we gently decend into the long draw down for winter.

In the distance a neighbour hammers nails into the roof he is building, as the casual tap of summer rain announces the coming new air. There is always new air here in Orkney, always clean and fresh. How can you ever have too much of a good thing? Thankfully this is still free. Humans have for a long time had to buy food instead of harvesting it from nature (though some are still lucky enough to produce some for their needs) and water is gradually being priced (supposedly for pipes and purification but always with a healthy profit for shareholders). Only the air is still free – as it should be – yet still many people find their air polluted and impure. It is so easy to take this purity for granted, here in Orkney, and to bemoan the lack of heat or the cost of fuel – but I’d rather this any day than a life of breathing fumes. That is like a prison with no escape – unless you escape to here, I suppose!

lichen loves the clean air of Orkney

lichen loves the clean air of Orkney


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