Good Things in Deerness & Tankerness

By Bernie Bell

walking boots F DriverWe’ve lived on Orkney for over 11 years, and were here on holiday before that, but there are still many places we haven’t yet explored.  In fact, I have a list  – ‘New Walks’ – and the idea is that, every now and then, we attempt the un-known.

Last Sunday we went to two places we hadn’t been before, no, three, if you include where we went for lunch.  First, we headed for a bay in Deerness,  just up from Deer Sound.  I can’t find a name for it, but a rocky bit in the middle is labelled Cullya Blet on the OS map. This is a wide sweep of sandy bay – peaceful  – got a lovely ‘air’ about it. We strolled along as far as we could comfortably walk before it got too stony, then, on the way back, had a look at a small lake, the Loch of Ouse, around which were fields full of Buttercups and Ladies Smock – Summer.

We then drove back down the road and turned off to another bay, which, again, I can’t find a name for, but it could be called Eves Bay, as it has Eves Howe and Eves Loch by it.  I do wonder who Eve is/was?

You get to the bay by walking along a path to the right of a small burn. The path was a bit over-grown, but passable. We turned left to walk along the bay which contrasts strongly with the first one we had visited that day, though it is only ‘round the corner’ from it.

The first one, was a clear sweep of sand.  This one,  is more stony and rocky, and the water’s edge is full of little mounds produced by ( as Mike informs me) a burrowing marine worm. A place of much interest – good stones, bits of old crockery, sea-smoothed pieces of glass,  critters living in the sand.

Just up from the beach, is a “Peedie Seat”, placed there by Ros and Eric, with their names carved, and a request to “Have a Rest” – so we did.  Folk have started to place heart-shaped stones on the bench, with one, a particular beauty…

What a nice, friendly thing to do, to place a bench there, in just the right spot.  One kind act, often  leads to another, and, as people recognize the good intent, they want to take part in it, and do so, by adding the heart-shaped stones.

Name that broch?

Broch and Loch Deerness B Bell

Well, I did give a clue – it’s Eves Howe, by Eves Loch, on which there were twenty-five baby Shelduck – a couple of adults keeping any eye on the crèche of twenty-five ducklings.  What a sight to see!

As I tend to do, I thought of the people living in the broch – farming, fishing(?), travelling, trading, exchanging with neighbours.  And now it’s a green mound – I wonder has it been excavated? Or is it one of the many Orkney sites which are known of, and recognized as being….something, but, where is the funding and the time to excavate them all?

And then it was time to eat, so we thought we’d try the new café which Sheila Fleet  has opened as an extension to her jewellery gallery in the renovated St. Andrews Church not far from Mill Sands in Tankerness.

Sheila Fleet Gallery and Cafe B Bell

What a good choice that was!  The gallery, in the old Kirk, is light, airy, just right. It takes a while to realise that the theme here, is light and coloured glass.  Or, that’s how I see it.  The space is high-ceilinged, with subtle stained glass windows at the side, and a magnificent stained glass window at the end.  On the window sills, are large glass vases, with rich, swirling colours. And, of course, in the display cases, the jewellery glitters and shines.  Light, and coloured glass, and coloured precious and semi-precious stones.   It could be said to be a just a very pretty shop, but it’s more than that – it has something about it, which makes a person feel….well….just……zingy!  Light, glass, colours, shining, sparkling. I like it.  Didn’t buy anything though – I have ten fingers, two ears and one neck, and enough jewellery to cover those for the rest of my time here. Thoughts of mortality? Well, it is/was a Kirk.

Sheila Fleet has conserved and retained as much as she could of the original church and its contents, whilst also managing to turn it into an Aladdin’s cave of jewellery and lovely things.

There’s a gallery upstairs, too, selling other Orkney made items.

Sheila Fleet Gallery upstairs B Bell

While I was up there I noticed the ceiling bosses in the original wooden roof, and asked about them.  Two of them have Celtic whirly designs, are new, and fill the spaces where there used to be ceiling fans.  The central ceiling boss is part of the original church, and contains the text  ‘Nec Tamen Consumabatur’.  This is the motto of the Church of Scotland, and, translated, means ‘Yet it was not consumed’, as in the bible story of the burning bush.  This may resonate with anyone who has come through hard times – burnt, but not consumed by them.

Then there’s the café.  Attention to detail, doesn’t cover it – it’s a delight.  The pieces of glass in the backs of the chairs, are from the old church windows, which are now internal doorways through from the gallery, to the café area, which is in a glass extension to the old building. The backs of these chairs are shaped as arches, reflecting the windows which the glass used to be part of.  Everything just fits with feel of the place – even the centre-pieces on the tables include stones, shells and beach-glass.

And the food is yumptious, which is a mixture of yummy and scrumptious. We both had Veggie chickpea and lentil dhal.  I was expecting a bowl of …..dhal, in a vaguely spicy sauce.  It was exceptional – chick peas, lentils, tomatoes, peppers, carrots – all in a very tasty sauce.  One of those sauces where you get the flavour, then, as you carry on eating, other little flavours keep turning up.  Truly, yumptious.

I have to mention the tea-pots – they’re made of glass too! Like something from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Tea is such a lovely, rich colour, yet, mostly, we don’t see it.  ‘Coloured’ glass, again – this time produced by the light shining through the warm, dark amber colour of the tea.

These tea-pots are elegant, and each sits in its own little wooden stand.  It makes having a simple cup of tea, feel like you’re taking part in a proper tea ceremony.

We seem to be finding Saltires in un-expected places recently. There’s one in the doorway to the church/gallery.

Sheila Fleet Gallery saltire B Bell

I know, it’s St. Andrew’s Church, and the Saltire is St. Andrews cross, but, I wonder……….. are The Fates telling us something?

Sheila Fleet Gallery fountain B BellOutside, there’s what must be one of the most groovy fountains I’ve ever  seen – a bit mad – but very groovy


It’s full of those pebbles which you find on the beach, which look great when wet, but not so good when dry.  This way, they’re always wet!

I could see this in ‘Alice’ too, in the Red Queen’s garden, with the White Rabbit hurrying by “Oh! My fur and whiskers!”

You can see why I called this piece ‘Good things in Deerness and Tankerness’ – we came across a lot of good things that day, and good things of all kinds – natural, crafted, crafted from nature.  Divine – secular – magical – yumptious!

I hope it’s going to be open in the winter, as we go for walks in the winter, too!  And – imagine – coming up to Christmas – that space – with lights and the smell of evergreens – I’m going into Wonderland again!

All photos taken By Bernie Bell

6 replies »

  1. Lovely piece, Bernie. Made me want to visit there, and I will!!!
    I must stock up on OS maps too.

  2. Thank you Eamonn! appreciation is always…appreciated!
    And, do go there – it honestly is an unusual experience, or combination of experiences.
    I say again – what a place to live.

  3. Nearby Mill Sands is a good place to go too – much of interest – interestingly shaped stones and bits and pieces of crockery and glass – we found a whole, old bottle there, with P C FLETT & Co on it. A bank of honeysuckle, backing the beach at one point – how does it manage, in that situation? The mill is now being renovated, and there’s another walk along near a lake, if you go past the renovated mill house, which is now a private residence, so – eyes left! OS maps pretty much essential.

  4. I was back in Orkney in June and of course visited the converted church.
    Last year, everything was still under construction, now finished and very nice
    A nice idea and a win in any case: live in the old walls.

    Eves Howe is a very beautiful place, especially in the evening just before sunset.
    and Deerness a fine spot to relax

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