Another Bit Of Birsay

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

I’ve previously written of walks and days out at Birsay – it’s one of our favourite places – and so – here’s another one!

We parked in the car park by the Brough.  The tide was in, the causeway was covered with water, so, visiting the Brough was not to be – this time.

For folk who are keen on lighthouses, there’s an information board about the lighthouse on the Brough – both of which can be seen, behind the info board, in this picture…

Brough of Birsay lighthouse notice board Bell

An accompanying information board, provides a useful aerial view of the way to the Brough, a way which St. Magnus himself may have trod during time spent there, in his youth.  Stories about this can be found in ‘Magnus’ by George MacKay Brown – which is a good read, anyway.

Brough of Birsay notice board Bell

Birsay is on the route of the St. Magnus Way  – you can read more about the section which  includes Birsay, here –

Near the car park, are three sit-ooteries. Very useful for eating sandwiches, putting on boots – or declaring your love for someone!

We then walked along, heading to the right, towards Skipi Geo, seeing and passing other geos, as we go ……

Birsay Bell

Skipi Geo has an old fisherman’s hut, and nousts. The hut is presently undergoing repair and restoration  – it doesn’t usually look like this!  It’s looking worse, now, to look better later, and…to last longer.

Down the right hand side of the cliff by the geo, there is a flight of stone steps.  I don’t know how long they have been there, but someone, sometime, thought it was worth the time and effort to install this stairway………..

steps at Birsay Bell

Which leads to a small well, within a stone crevice.  The geo is accessible from the area where the nousts are.  Was this well a special place, to warrant its own, separate approach?  I’ve previously written of the ancient /holy wells and springs of Orkney

And I wonder was/is this one of them?

possible ancient well Birsay Bell

As Mike stepped down to visit the well, I stood and looked about me, and saw the light playing tricks – is that a road, a stream, a waterfall? Or ???

Birsay Sky Bell

We walked on to the whale bone, which is a long-standing Birsay landmark, and sometimes, as with us on this walk, a point to reach, before turning back.  The whale bone is a very familiar image.  As I took this close up – a raven flew over-head – Odin’s bird.

Birsay whalebone Bell

Closer still, I took pictures of the inside of one of the cavities in the bone, and found myself in a cave.  In your imagination, you could be in a cave, and what/who might you find there?

Heading back the way we came, we see a fine view of the Brough

Brough of Birsay Bell

And on, to the Birsay Bay Tearoom for lunch, where we found two time-pieces – one, a high-tech clock, on which letters light up to spell out the time ( which much intrigued this particular tech dinosaur) – and the other, a tide-times-tea-cup which tells you the times of low tide at Birsay. Very helpful for if you want to visit the Brough, as we had intended!

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