cave of birds

North Ronaldsay

posted on: 2022-02-17 19:02

I went back to North Ronaldsay at the weekend. I had a really enjoyable time becuaes this time, I went there with my friend C.

The easiest way to get there is by plane. The Britten-Norman Islander can carry eight passengers and is very noisy once the engines are running. It’s cramped, it’s bumpy but it’s an enormous amount of fun. I think a plane flies from Kirkwall to North Ron at least 3 times a day, depending on the weather.

When we landed on North Ron, we got a taxi, driven by Tommy, to deliver us to the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory. The time was about 16:40 by now, not much daylight remaining, but we headed out for a look down at the pier. We went south, to the dyke, looked over and saw the sheep. They are a bit smaller than normal sheep, but come with nice colours of wool: white, grey, brown, black. We went back to the bird observatory to eat fish and chips. I narrowly lost in our game of scrabble.

The next day, we left at about 10:00, went back to the pier and walked along the west coast. The sky was cloudy, the wind was reasonably gusty, and it wasn’t raining. I liked how grey everything looked, no green plants at this time of year, the little grass there was was withered. It took a lot longer to walk to the lighthouse than I thought it would. I was stopping often to take photos of rocks, and I was worried about pushing C too far. There was little signs of human activity, we saw three folks in a field putting in fence posts, and three men working on a small wind turbine before the lighthouse.

The island has two lighthouses, one is operational and was built by one of the Stephenson guys in 1852. It’s about 40 metres high, and is an impressive structure. The second is much older, looks a bit like a giant pawn chess piece. The ruins of the old lighthouse keepers home lies below. There is scaffolding erected around the lighthouse, it’s been there for a few years, but I’m not sure of the reason. I remember this once featured on a tv show called Restoration done by the BBC about 15 years ago, maybe that’s got something to do with it.

The last time I was here, this was the area I saw the most sheep, and that was the case this time too. The stone dyke comes quite far away from the shore, and there’s short grass the sheep have access to, though they don’t eat it. At the old lighthouse, we saw a flock of sheep running past. Behind them was a ram and walked up to us, checking us out. He came towards me, then checked out C before walking off, around the corner. I told C this was “moment of the weekend”. The time was about 15:30 now, the sun was shining on us for the first time that day, but it was low in the sky. We progressed around the coast to get back to the road and saw another flock of sheep. This flock was also followed by a ram, that walked right up to me and I got some nice photos. He posed in the low golden sunlight, before walking up the road towards the lighthouse. This was the second “moment of the weekend”. I absolutely love these sheep.

The road home was a lot longer than I thought it was, it rained for the 30 or 40 minutes. We were glad to get back indoors. That night was roast chicken and tatties for dinner. I lost again in our scrabble rematch.