Mooching About At The Bu

By Bernie Bell

I’m recovering from the  first cold of the season – clocks have changed, colds have arrived. I didn’t feel like a big walk, so we went to the Bu, in Orphir, to mooch about a bit, on the beach there.

First of all, we had a look the most recent addition to the way-marker stones and interpretation boards, for the St. Magnus Way, which have been placed on the side of the Orkneyinga Saga Visitor Centre at the Bu.

I have previously admired Frances Pelly’s carvings, which are placed in Happy Valley

….and was interested to see her most recent piece.  The theme of this section of the St. Magnus Way is hospitality, and Frances’ carving shows fishes, loaves, and a bowl of fruit, with the symbol of the St Magnus Way,  carved into the apple.

The lowest section of the carving, asks  “How have I ….of all men…deserved a feast.”

St Magnus waymarker Orphir France Pelly Bell

And I ask – isn’t everyone deserving of, if not a feast, at least enough to eat?

The interpretation board, designed by Iain Ashman, provides background information, and a map of this section of The  Way

St Magnus Way information board Orphir BellThere are so many meanings to hospitality – there is the  “If we only have one egg, the guest will have that egg”, kind. There’s the  “We have nothing, but we have open arms”,  kind. The “Come in, I’ll give you shelter” kind. The “Sit yourself down and have a drink” kind.  With the Vikings, sometimes it was the – get them drunk then burn the house down around them – kind.

At one time, the drinking hall at this site will have been a place of rousing hospitality. The remains of the hall are still there, tucked in by the wall of the kirkyard

We then mooched on the beach, looking back towards the remains of the round kirk, which I wrote of here

This beach always has pleasing stones, with lines and patterns on them, and, this time, we found an interesting bit of metal chain, looking very much like it was ready for a boat to tie up at any time…

beach at Bu Orphir Bell

Is this a flooded quarry? Or a little pool, in among the rocks?

beach at Bu Orphir Bell

And, a very fine lichen – shows how clean the air is.

lichen Orphir beach Bell

Then back to the Visitor Centre to avail ourselves of what Paddington Bear would refer to as ‘The Facilities’, and have a look at the exhibition about the Orkney Viking Sagas, where we noticed a genealogy of the Viking Earls of Orkney, some of whom looked strangely familiar…….

Einar ‘Wry Mouth’ – Jeremy Paxman?

Orphir visitor Centre Nell

Sigurd ‘The Stout’ – Robbie Coltrane?

Orphir Visitor Centre Bell

Guthorm – has Mr Spock been time travelling?

Orphir visitor Centre Bell

And  – that Joanna Lumley gets everywhere!

Orphir visitor centre Bell

You could go along, and see if you can recognize any more familiar faces!

The exhibition includes a drawing by Iain Ashman of what the settlement there might have looked like, back in the day. I particularly like this, as, for me, it gives such a strong idea of how that little bay may have been – it’s not all that different today, and there is still a working farm there. I can’t help thinking that, whenever the folk at that farm, dig the land there, they’re likely to find links with the past?

The Bu Orphir Iain Ashman drawing Bell

The Orkneyinga Saga Visitor Centre, is a community-run project, so if you have visited there, and appreciated the facilities and hospitality of the local community, your Danegeld will be welcome!

The Bur visitor centre Orphir Bell

On the way home, we called by Leigh’s fast food van in the Finstown car park, for some very yummy vegeburgers……

Leighs burger van Bell

….and I realised that the St Magnus way-marker stone and interpretive board for the section leading to Orphir, are there, in the Finstown car park – again designed and made by Frances Pelley and Iain Ashman


We realised that, inadvertently, we’re walking the St. Magnus way. We go for a walk, we notice the symbols – bit by bit, they will connect up…………..

Related stories:

Hospitality:St Magnus Way Final Section Inaugurated in Orphir

St Magnus Way Marker Stone and Display Board Unveiled at Finstown

Visit Norse Orkney: The Earl’s Bu Orphir

Categories: Uncategorized

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

6 replies »

  1. I love it Bernie, I can’t remember the last time I heard or read anyone using the word, ‘mooch’ – it’s so atmospheric and descriptive. You keep surprising me, keep it up.

    Charlie G

Leave a Reply