A Couple of Orkney Doocots

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

As far as I know, there are a few doocots ( dovecots) on Orkney, but I’ve only visited a couple of them.  There’s the very appealing one by Woodwick House, which, for some reason, I don’t have a photo of – but there is a picture of it, included in the ‘gallery’ on their website………. https://woodwickhouse.co.uk/.  Woodwick House is an hotel, but they are open for afternoon teas during the summer season, and so, the doocot becomes accessible to the general public.  The gardens are lovely to walk in, too.

The interior of the Woodwick Doocot features on the cover of ‘Beneath the Starry Sky’,  a C.D. by Jo Philby.  Jo placed lit candles in each of the spaces where the doves/pigeons used to roost and nest, then…had her picture taken.  It’s a gentle, magical, whimsical, image, and reflects the feel of Jo’s music.

Jo Philby

Jo will be performing at the Orkney Folk Festival this year, harmoniously accompanied by Elaine Grieve – you still have time to book tickets! https://www.orkneyfolkfestival.com/

A doocott which I do have pictures of, is the Rendall Doocot, just over the hill from us. http://www.spirit-of-orkney.com/contents1a/2009/10/rendall-doocot/  If you drive along the Gorseness Road, heading towards Tingwall,  you’ll see a sign for a turning on the right,  to the Hall of Rendall/Rendall Doocot. Unfortunately, the original Hall is long gone, but the doocot is still there, placed in what is now a bit of marshy ground, which has a fine display of  Butterbur, growing profusely.

Rendall Doocot Bell

There is a book called ‘The Orkney Book of Wildflowers – wildflowers by habitat – from shore to hilltop’ by Tim Dean and Anne Bignall

Orkney book of wild flowers Bell

The illustration for Butterbur, includes a drawing of …The Rendall Doocot. It’s a lovely book, and would make a perfect memory of wildflower walks on Orkney.

There is a small parking space, before you get to the farm, and a boardwalk to the doocot, so you don’t get your feet wet.  It is possible to go into the doocot, but, I warn you, it is still lived in by many pigeons, and has a lot of pigeon poo in it. The smell……clears your head!

If you wish, you can then take a walk, from the doocot, turning right, past the Hall of Rendall farm, and follow a track which will lead you to an excellent viewpoint, looking over to Rousay, Gairsay, Shapinsay, and – all around!

Gairsay Bell


Carrying on down this track, you come to an old Kirk yard https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/07/the-old-kirks-of-orkney-part-one/   and the Bay of Hinderayre, a peaceful place, with, by the side of the path, an old tattie shed for the Ayre holiday cottage, and an old boat shed.  Something I like here, is that there is an old boat in the shed, not functional, but recognizable as a boat. On the right hand side of the shed, there’s the last remnants of an old boat, in a noust, and next to that, an empty noust.   On the left hand side of the shed, you can just about make out that there was a boat there, in a noust – there’s a bit of wood with a metal ring, sticking up, by the wall. I like this, this sequence from nearly useable, to absolutely defunct, to …an empty noust.

Maybe I should explain noust? According to the dictionary – “A place where a boat can be hauled up and kept ashore; specifically a scooped-out trench at the edge of a beach surrounded by a shallow wall of stones.”

If you wish you can mooch about on this beach for a bit, then, continue along the tarmac road, turning right and up the hill.  You will pass a little cluster of houses, on the corner, and here you have two alternatives. You can turn right, up the rough track to the left hand side of the last of these houses (North Aittit), which will take you back to the viewpoint, and therefore back to the Doocott.

Or, you can carry on up the road, turning right when you get to the old fashioned red telephone box ( you don’t see many of those, these days). Then, you’ll have quite a walk along the road, with great views across to the islands and hills, until you reach the turning to the right which you originally took to get to the Doocot.

This started with Mike taking a good picture of the Rendall Doocot, which I wanted to use in some way, but, as always with Orkney, there are so many tales, and links and connections – it just grew and grew!

1 reply »

  1. the ‘Secret Garden’ at the KGS has a high old wall around it and one corner is a doocot

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