A Walk On Bu Sand, Burray – If You Can Get to It!

By Bernie Bell

Not to be confused with the Earl’s Bu, at Orphir – https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/05/01/visit-norse-orkney-the-earls-bu-orphir/ –

Isn’t it odd, how a beach can change? And how memory can play tricks with you?  We parked in quite a large car park, by a Kirkyard which contains what remains of St. Lawrence’s Kirk. 

Then walked along to the right, by the cemetery wall, where I saw an Orkney Vole scurrying into its vole hole – I know it’s an Orkney Vole, because I’ve seen them in our meadow, and they are unmistakable – not a rat – not a mouse – small, round, dark brown, short tail – cute as can be.  We then followed a, quite rough, path until turning at the end, we were at the beach, looking over the sea to Rose Ness and the isle of Copinsay.

And this is where my memory had played tricks with me. We hadn’t been on this walk for some years, and  I had a memory of it being a sweep of clear sand – so did Mike. Maybe it is, at very low tide.  On this day, the tide was going out (we’d checked tide times before setting out), but it never went out far and, to get to some sand to walk on, we had to negotiate a lot of quite big stones.  I’m not good with stony ground, or un-even, rough terrain of any kind, and this walk turned out to not to be a good one for me!

There were some good things to be seen among the stones – an outcrop of some kind of rock –  maybe volcanic?  Dark stone, with quartz veins through it, which looks for all the world like water, running down the shore – or, I thought so –

And the inside of a crab shell – showing that nature’s palette, equals anything we can produce.

On a previous walk at Bu Sand, we found a perfectly round, white stone – I think it’s chalk, but I’m not sure.  It’s now in pride of place on top of our book-case, in front of ‘April’ ( aka ‘The Lady of Hoy’) by Orkney artist Anna Charlotta Gardiner.

I wonder was this near-perfect sphere  shaped by the sea, or by human hands – ancient, or modern?  Whether man-made or sea-formed – this is a much prized find.

The Neolithic peoples of Orkney, and the rest of Scotland, did have a liking for carving stone balls, both complex and plain. https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_108/108_040_072.pdf

One such plain carved ball, was found at the archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/trust/  in 2011,  prompting these musings, to a couple of chums of mine….

“And then, there’s the perfect stone ball, which was found at the Ness last year, and which I was fortunate enough to see.

At the end of the tour of the site, the lad who was showing us the finds, said that it was probably going to be a carved stone ball.  I’m of the belief that it wasn’t.  It is – what it was meant to be – a clear stone ball.  I believe that it was meant to stay just as it is – clear, the Void – everything and nothing – in one, perfect, stone ball.  No carvings needed.  It tells the tale, by being what it is. If anything, something ‘bigger’ than the ones with shapes carved, to point you in directions of thought.

A clear stone ball. Clarity.  

But, that’s just my idea of it.”

And now, on with the walk!  We made it to the sandy bit, which was pleasant, but …..the sounds of motorbikes from the other side of the dunes, wasn’t welcome!

The bikes eventually stopped, and we cut through to walk back through the dunes and the area which is actually called the Bu of Burray.  It’s a bit grim. Some kind of extraction going on – all a bit…jumbly. It’s quite hard to work out how to get back to the car park.

Canmore has something to say about it, which indicates what that area might have been like before  the extraction started……


….and also gives a useful over-view of the area, which can help with working out the best way to negotiate it.

Mike tells me that, at the right time of year, it’s possible to see a butterfly which has its only Orkney colony here, A Dark Green Fritillary. I’ll take his word for it.

Fact is, I don’t particularly want to go on this walk again. It was heavy going, for me – would be fine for someone more soople, but, not for me. And – it wasn’t as good as I remembered it being, which is always a bit grumble-making.

You can’t win ‘em all!

Another good ’find’, from  among the dunes last time we were there,  was what we thought was an old propeller – we got very excited, thinking it might be from a torpedo.  We propped it by the house,  someone had a look at it, and told us it’s a fan from an old piece of farm machinery.  Never mind – we like it anyway.

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  1. I loved that walk and the seals popped their heads up to look at our dogs. It is only for the very mobile though and I haven’t been able to do it for many a year. I have to content myself with looking over the wall from the cemetery,

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