Posts Tagged ‘Orkney’

Authentic Weather

November 26, 2014

We have a habit of going to wilder parts of the UK for holidays. Cornwall often features. It isn’t that far from home, it is utterly beautiful, has a north and south coast only a few miles apart but often with quite different weather and if it is bad we can do a spot of genealogy for my wife has Cornish blood in her.

On one occasion, many years ago, we stopped for a stroll on Bodmin Moor. It was very misty – almost heavy enough to call it drizzle. The ground under foot was very wet and giant slugs were out in force. We stopped to ‘admire’ one of those big orange ones. At this point a fellow traveller loomed out of the mist and stopped. It turned out she was an American lady.

‘Gee! This is so authentic’, she declared.

For a while we didn’t know if she meant the slug or the weather but we deemed it was probably the weather. I surmise that she might have been a Daphne Du Maurier fan. We weren’t all that far from Jamaica Inn.

But that phrase of authentic weather (or slugs) has stuck with us.

I note in my diary for August 12th 2004 that I described the weather as authentic. Mind you, this wasn’t in Cornwall by a long shot. This was on the wonderful Orkney Islands. We were looking at some of the ancient standing stones.


This is a part of the Ring of Brodgar. It probably dates from around 2000BC so is around 4000 or more years old.

The photo makes it clear that it was a tad misty – perfect authentic weather for this kind of place.

We moved on to the Stones of Stenness


It was still very authentic!

This monument is at least 5000 years old and needs a person in it to give it some scale.


Yes, that’s a mighty stone.

This is another monument where we have an improved image painted by our daughter.


She’s able to make it seem less misty but it still retains an authentic look.



The Italian Chapel

May 27, 2014

I’m not much of a lad, as a rule, for what I call ‘over the top’ religious buildings. It always seems to me that religious buildings out to reflect some kind of humility. So here’s one that, Whilst OTT in some ways, certainly also reflects humility. This chapel is on the island called Lamb Holm which is one of the Orkneys. It was constructed by Italian prisoners during World War II and is based around what looks like a Nissan hut.


It’s easy to get to if you are on mainland Orkney for causeways were built to link islands and to prevent foreign shipping from slipping through. These causeways were built by the Italian prisoners – that’s why they were on Orkney.

The chapel, built by Italians was, of course, for the Catholic tradition of the Christian faith. You expect it to be very ornate and in that sense it doesn’t disappoint.


In truth, I thought the interior was stunningly beautiful.


What an amazing piece of work from those Italian prisoners. And it is essentially two Nissan huts and whatever scrap the prisoners could find. I like the fact that the chapel now stands as a link of friendship.

My photos date from August 2004.

Rendall Doocot

March 24, 2014

There can be no doubt that I rather like oddities. Dovecotes come into that category and back in 2004 I came across one on the mainland of Orkney. For those that don’t know, that’s the island group just off the North Coast of Scotland. And in that part of the world they call these structures Doocots Here is the one at Rendall.

image002This structure was to house pigeons. This wasn’t because they looked pretty, but rather because they tasted good. In England laws governing who was allowed to have a dovecote were strict and stringent. Unless you were a lord of the manor you could forget it. I do not know if the same law applied in Scotland. This doocot dates from 1648. This was before the union between the two countries in 1707 so although by the time this doocot was built England had a Scottish King, the two countries remained separate.

Inside the dovecote there are ledges in the wall for birds to nest.


There’s a hole in the top for birds to gain access.


Back in 2004 I was trying out one of those pairs of binoculars with inbuilt camera. It really wasn’t all that good but here’s a photo of the doocot taken with it.


Should you wish to go Doocot hunting on Orkney to find this one you take the A965 from the ferry terminal at Stromness and then turn left onto the A966 near Finstown. The last bit of the journey involves minor roads through places such as Isbister and Gorseness.

Dounby Click Mill

February 3, 2013

Dounby Click Mill

I looked at mills the other day and said I liked them, whether wind or water powered. But I showed only wind mills

Once, on our travels, we found a very simple water mill. It is called a click mill. The water drives a horizontal wheel which drives the mill stones without any gearing. This mill is on the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland.

To find it – let’s imagine you have taken a car on the ferry and have arrived at Stromness. You’ll have to take the A987  heading north, around an area known, delightfully, as The Loons. After about 6 miles you turn right on the B9057. Go straight through Dounby, past ‘Wilderness’ and soon after you go over the Burn of Hillside (that’s a stream) you’ll be near the mill. You need to walk to find it. The total journey is about ten miles.

By the way, we are well away from the main centres of UK population so don’t expect classified roads to be big and fast.  And when you get there, this is what you see.


What a delightful little building. The walls are of dry construction. There’s no mortar between the stones for gravity does a wonderful job holding these heavy rocks in place. The roof is covered in turf. It’s locally available and does a stirling job in keeping the wild weather out. How wonderful that wild flowers have colonised the roof. The mill building is simplicity itself and fit for purpose. Who could ask for anything more?

Well I could. I’d like access to the inside please.

That’s no problem; just walk around until you find the door.


We are in a world of trust. The key is there. You can open up and go in.

There isn’t much within. Up under the roof there’s a grain hopper which can feed the seed directly to the stones.


Obviously, the interior has been restored and updated. Down below there’s a place to collect the meal produced.

And that is basically it for the inside.

But from outside you can see that horizontal wheel for the mill was not in use the day we were there (August 13th 2004) and the stream was not running through the mill leat.


This is the outflow side and we can see what a simple idea it is.

These notes come from

(Location cited as HY 325 228). Click Mill, Dounby, built c. 1825. A small roughly rectangular dry flagstone rubble building, with a flagstone roof covered in turf. The tirl has two rows, each of six paddles. The stones have a wooden casing and a chute leading to a meal box. The hopper is supported on a wooden gantry. Now a Guardianship ancient monument.
J R Hume 1977.

Let’s finish with another view of the outside of the Dounby Click Mill


Ferries – 1954 and 2004

November 28, 2012

During my early life ferries were something you watched. They departed from Newhaven in Sussex and vanished beyond the horizon. I knew the destination was Dieppe. It meant nothing to me. The ships mattered, or more to the point the names of them did – particularly if they were named after a French place. My favourite was the Lisieux.

And there is Lisieux, leaving Newhaven in August 1954. That looks like my brother on the left. The open public decks on the vessel are crowded with waving people, saying farewell to England for a while. Lisieux was new then, for she had only entered service the year before. She operated the route until 1964 which meant she was there for most of my childhood.

We often watched these ferries from some miles away on top of the South Downs near Firle. They always sounded a hooter before entering harbour and we’d watch out for the puff of steam from the hooter and then time how long it was until we heard it.

‘It’s a mile for every 5 seconds’, my dad told us. It was over 4 miles, so we counted up our seconds for quite some time.

And now we’ll slip forward 50 years to 2004. By now I was a fairly regular ferry user (but only once on the Newhaven to Dieppe route). I was still was happy to watch them.

In 2004 my wife and I camped at Stromness on Orkney – a fabulous island group off the north coast of Scotland. At that time the ferry was the Hamnavoe – or Hammy as we called it. It plied back and forth on the hour and a half crossing from Scrabster on the mainland to Stromness. On its final approach to the dock it can’t have been much more than 250 yards from our tent. She woke us on her night sailings but still we loved her.

That’s Hamnavoe in Hamnavoe – the stretch of water by Stromness is what the ship is named after.

There may be more from Scottish or further flung islands in the future. They seem to have been part of life for some time.