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Orkney Walks: Yesnaby – T’other Way

By Bernie Bell

Arriving at the cliff-top war buildings at Yesnaby, you can either go to the right, as described in my previous piece for TON Orkney Walks: Yesnaby, or go  left.

 dangerous cliffs sign B BellThis time,  we’ll go left, towards the Brough of Bigging.  The path is a bit squishy in places, and a bit up-and-downy, too – not particularly difficult, but not all that easy either, especially after wet weather.

A word of warning though – the cliffs are high, and the path can be slippy  – do take care, and – there are rabbits, so maybe keep your dog on a lead, as even the best behaved dog can lose its head, when on a scent!

Around this area, if you look across to the Brough, you can see the first of the sea-arches which are to be found along this coast.

Sea Arch Yesnaby B Bell

The next places of interest  you’ll come to, are two  small, stony bays. If you are passing here in the spring,  you might catch a delicious smell, like honey.  This is Scurvygrass, a small, white flower with a wonderful scent, which I think deserves a better name!  Why Scurvygrass?  Vitamin C in the leaves, which is good for…scurvy!

scurvy grass at Yesnaby B Bell

Rather than using a photo of the larger bay, I’m using a painting by local artist, Liz Small, who used this image on her Christmas card a few years ago. It captures the atmosphere of the place and the balance between the inlet and the Brough.

Yesnaby painting by Liz Small

Painting by Liz Small

 Then,  as you walk up toward the Brough, there is a convenient heap of stones  at a corner of the fence, which is a good place to sit for a while and just ….take in the place – the sights and sounds – it’s very peaceful – the sea in the bay, the birds.  A good opportunity to just sit, for a bit.

Then onto the Brough, passing what I consider to be a magicy little pool on the way. There’s just something about it – a still pool, in a cleft in the rocks, leading the eye out to sea………….

Pool at Yesnaby B Bell

The Brough is somewhere to spend some time –  wander about a bit, with great views and a general air of expansiveness – clears the head. You can look back up the coast, with its multiple head-lands,

Yesnaby multiple headlands B Bell

or down the coast towards Hoy…………..

Yesnaby looking towards Hoy B Bell

Coming down off the Brough, we carry on along the path, and this is where you will encounter the second of the  Yesnaby sea arches,  and a magnificent beast of a sea-stack!. Very dramatic  – waves crashing, sea birds screeching – brilliant.

You can also find some more Stromatolites  by the  stream which flows over the edge near  here.

This area was important for the production of millstones at one time – as the rocks are particularly hard.  As you walk along the path, if you keep your eyes peeled, you can still see sections of millstone, lying in the grass.

Yesnaby mill stone B Bell

In 1755, an earthquake near Lisbon, in Portugal, created a tsunami which nearly caused a disaster – washing away tools, equipment, and millstones, but, thankfully not people. Quarrying was resumed, and continued until the Second  World War, when the industry declined, partly through lack of demand for millstones

We usually carry on this path up to a kissing–gate in the fence, then turn back, but, once again, it is possible, if you so wish, to carry on along the coast, all the way to Stromness!  Via Black Craig and Warbeth, passing the renewable energy devices off Billia Croo.  This area is a good place to find fossil fish from Lake Orcadia,   examples of which can be seen in the museum, when you get to Stromness!

[Eds Note: This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and removal of fossils is not permitted]

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