The Sand of Essonquoy…………

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

A map and waterproof footwear is strongly advised for this walk!

It sounds like the title of a romantic novel – the cover would have a lady with long, dark, tangled locks and a heaving bosom, looking out to sea, while holding her cloak about her.  It is, however, an Orkney beach, not far from Kirkwall.

There are some advantages to being a Friend of Dogs, one is, that when out walking, dogs recognize you as such, and come over to say hello. You then get talking with their human, and those humans, often tell you of other good places to walk. That’s what happened for us, with the Sand of Essonquoy.   Months ago, we were at the Sand of Wideford – which we tend to think of as Inganess  – , and got talking with a bloke, who told us of the next bay along, and that we could either walk along, over the cliffs, or drive round and park there.

So, last Sunday morning, wondering where to go for a walk, needing to get out and about  after a few days solid rain, and we went for it – The Sand of Essonquoy!

We parked at the end of the road, by the shore, near to a milestone which is marked on the OS map, and which has ‘4’ carved on one side, and ‘2’ carved on the other side…

We wondered, is it 4 miles to Kirkwall? and 2 to ….Tankerness?  And we wondered, was this an old main road to Kirkwall, which needed to go along the coast, as inland there is quite marshy, and might have been more so, in the past?

This is all conjecture, as I’ve had a go, but can’t find out anything about it!  Are there any historians out there, with an answer?  It was good to see an old milestone – a very solid piece of the past – with all it associations of people arranging to meet, and folk on a long journey, reaching that point, and knowing how much farther they had to go to reach their destination.

We set off along a track, looking across to the Head of Holland, where some of the stone for  St. Magnus Cathedral was sourced….

Passing a pleasing grouping of creels and fishing floats …….

Why pleasing? I like fishing floats, and I like spirals!

And views of the Bay…..

The track becomes a grassy path, which skirts the fence around Kirkwall airport and has lots of signs telling you to steer clear – or are they saying ‘NO JAZZ HANDS’?

Some parts of  the path are a bit up-and-down, and, on this occasion, very muddy and slippy – I managed it OK.  It would be fine for soople people, maybe a bit hard going if you’re not too spry.

Approaching the Sand of Wideford, we could see the rusting hulk of the ‘Juniata’, as mentioned in my previous piece about Inganess…

We crossed the little old bridge, wondering was it part of the old road, too? 

And onto the beach, with a nice stretch of sand to walk on, where, believe it or not, we met the same bloke that we met last time, with his dog, who had told us about the walk which we had just done!

Then back along the way we had come, to the car, and sandwiches.

And now I’ll tell you a tale….

As we sat in the car, by the milestone, it came to me that this is a haunted place – the area around and just behind the milestone.

A young woman agreed to meet someone there.  He didn’t turn up.  In despair, she threw herself into a nearby pool, and drowned.  She didn’t know why he didn’t turn up – his horse might have thrown a shoe. This was the second half of the 18 hundreds, and any number of things could have delayed or prevented him from getting there at the time arranged.  There were no mobile phones then – in fact, no phones at all.

It’s never a good idea to despair, if you can help it.  Sometimes, a person can’t help it, but, if possible, it can be a good thing to try to pause for thought, and talk yourself through the positive possibilities of your situation, and, if you can, remember that ‘Tomorrow is another day.’

I was reminded of Betty Corrigall… and her deep despair.

I hope that the young woman of Essonquoy finds peace. Life, is hope.

Driving home, the daylight had gone, and the Christmas lights were on in Finstown – the first time I’ve seen them this year – and, suddenly, it does feel like Christmas is near.

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6 replies »

  1. Good morning Sarah Ingram on Facebook! And thank you for looking into this. I am very bad about new technology and t’Internet – it never occurred to me to look at maps on the web and all that. I did try Googling things like ‘Old coast road East of Kirkwall’ and ’Milestone at Essonquoy’, but came up with nothing.
    I’m equally feckless about going into archives to look things up – I have ideas, and wonder about things, but, I’m afraid, rarely go into the details. It’s a good thing that other folk do!

    What you say, all helps to add to the picture, and the tale of that area, at that time.

    • Thank you, and I just learned how to post a url link to the maps! Really enjoyed your piece, a fine “armchair walk” from sunny Leicester this morning, and one to remember next time we are up (… Whenever that may be…). I always enjoy a good ghost story too… Several years ago I enquired about any Orkney ghost story books in Stromness, Tam McPhail replied, deadpan, “Well I think maybe Orkney is too windy for ghosts” 😉

  2. If you like tales about the Spirit folk, here are some…….

    An Extra-ordinary Orkney Holiday – Part Two – The Orkney News

    An Extra-ordinary Orkney Holiday – Part Three – The Orkney News

    An Extra-ordinary Orkney Holiday – Part Four – The Orkney News

    There are more, scattered through The Orkney News – try my tales of Cuween, and Wideford, and …….there are others, that I can’t remember!

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