South Ronaldsay West Coast Walks – Part Two – Or ‘A Walk Between Two Cairns’

walking boots F DriverBy Bernie Bell

For this walk, it will help to have an Ordnance Survey map, and good boots.

Pics by B&M Bell

It was a sunny, breezy day, so we thought to avoid the cold East wind, by walking on the West coast – of South Ronaldsay.  I wrote of the first section of this walk, here  , where we started from Burwick – for the second part, we headed for Sandwick.  We drove down through South Ronaldsay on the A961, then turned right at a sign for Sandwick and Hoston.  If you keep an eye out along this stretch of road, on your left, you’ll see a fine Standing Stone

standing stone South Ronaldsay Bell

Just past the Standing Stone, take a little road to your left, towards the shore.  We then parked in a small parking space near a sign for Mucklehouse, and an information board for the walk

south west walk Bell

If you look at your OS map, you’ll see that there was a lot of activity in this area in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, and, according to our map, there is a chambered cairn, above the cliff to right of the bay.

South Ronaldsay walk 2 Bell

We tried to locate it, but couldn’t.

On the bank at the side of the bay here, we encountered the first of the little, wild, ‘gardens’ which are to be found on this walk at this time of year – a bank of violets – vivid blue – beautiful.

We then continued back down the track, towards the beach.  You follow the track until you reach a wooden post, directing you to the beach, signing the way for the walk, and thereby avoiding intruding on the people who live at Mucklehouse.  It’s a fine little beach,

beach south ronaldsay walk Bell

with lots of birds on the water – Eiders and Common Gulls, being common, making a racket. Walking along the beach, you’ll see a metal gate which leads to the rest of the walk, on which the first point of interest is a broch, which, on the map, is labelled ‘Weems Castle’ – which could be an addition to ‘Name That Broch’    Weems Castle, stands out clear against the sky and sea

Weems Castle South Ron Bell

As always, I pictured the walls and spaces still inside that mound, and people living their lives there.

We then continued on, down coast

South Ron coast Bell

And started to come across more little, seasonal, wild ‘gardens’ and flowers – Marsh Marigolds, Campion, and Squill

wild flowers Bell

As well as flowers, there are dwarf willows, which fascinate me. They are willows, which are trees, complete with their seasonal fuzzy little ‘pussies’, yet they are tiny, tiny, tiny, growing by the path.

dwarf willows Bell

We clambered down into Hune Bay  ( with a ‘Burnt Mound’ marked on the map) to eat our sandwiches, where we saw a Wheatear – a sign that the year is moving on, and the migrants are returning to the welcoming shores of Scotland!

And also,  some interesting stones…….

………..including one with its own little moss garden

stone and moss Bell

We then carried on, to Hoston Head, and the second ’cairn’, though, actually, it’s marked  ‘tumulus’ on the map – I just liked the idea of a walk between two ….cairns.

Hoston Head South Ron Bell

Here we witnessed a bit of avian interaction. There was a Raven, nicking eggs from the nests of the Fulmars, nesting on the cliffs here.  Just one Raven, boldly facing a lot of Fulmars, and nicking their eggs – all making a right old racket about it, too.

We decided to turn back at this point. For strong, soople people, the walk could continue to Burwick, but I’m a slightly knackered old person, and it’s not just a matter of getting to a point on a walk (unless it’s a circular walk), it’s also a matter of going back the way you came!

This is quite a strenuous walk, with quite a lot of uppy–downy bits – nothing I couldn’t actually manage, with my stick in one hand, and Mike’s hand, in my  other hand, but it’s not for any-one who might have more serious difficulties dealing with rough ground or steep bits.  A great walk, though, with lots of interest – Pre-historical, Natural-historical, and Stroma’s bit of more recent history, right there across the sea, all the way. No pics. this time, though, as it was a bit too hazy.

We got back to the car, and went to the Sands at Burray for us teas.  I’ve sung the praises of The Sands, previously, and it never disappoints.  Haddock, chips and peas for two – can’t beat it.

There was a man in the bar, an Orcadian, who was telling some tales. He was telling of how his Granny used to get the flower buds of fuchsias, and suck the nectar out of them – I had heard of that, before.  Also, he’d spent some time in Australia, and said that……..if you lick a Cane Toad, they have some kind of amphetamine in their skin, which means that you’ll end up ‘speeding’!  I don’t recommend folk trying this –  who wants to lick a Cane Toad, anyway?  Another bloke there, asked if any of them had ever tuned into a Princess!

His other tale, was………. that there are no rats on Westray.  He said that, even when they were washed ashore from shipwrecks, whether brown rats or black rats, they never survived, and that there are no rats to be found, anywhere on Westray – and no-one knows why.

I hadn’t heard that one before – is it true?  Or was he just telling a tale, as tale-tellers do?  Can any Orkney News readers, confirm or deny this – no rats on Westray?  Hmmmmmm.

We noticed that Mike’s beer glass had a quote from  Hunter S. Thompson …… “It’s your world …… attention.” We thought that was a good sentiment, for our times, and, as my wine was the wine of angels, we took a photo of the two, together

beer and wine Bell

And then we – went home.

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Bernie Bell has written about many walks in Orkney. Use the search facility on the main page to find them.

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3 replies »

  1. Fuchsias, aye remember sucking the nectar, the technique is to hold the flower and gently pull out the stamen and low-and-behold you’ve got a tiny drop of nectar. Again thank you for the memory.

  2. NB The “It’s your world….pay attention” glasses, are available on in the brewery’s online shop section.
    I do think that’s a good one – “It’s your world….PAY ATTENTION!”
    To the point – ‘nuff said.

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