As many of you know, Orkney is made up of a collection of islands. (Incidentally, the collection is called Orkney NOT ‘The Orkneys’ which really sets my teeth on edge. Take note….) One of the smaller islands is called Graemsay and I was invited to go and visit recently. Lured there by the promise of lavender shortbread, I didn’t need much persuading, and I was excited to visit another island which is easy to get to and only a short boat ride away.
Having grown up in the Midlands, it’s still a novelty to see commuting by boat as the norm. I spent my life using cars, trains and buses but never boats. It almost feels like a mini holiday if you take a boat anywhere when it’s not for work purposes, and the trip to Graemsay is a mere 15 minutes from Stromness. Hardly enough time to pull out my holiday reading, and besides, I needed to capture the view. This is Stromness as seen from the Graemsay boat. I adore this little town.
We sailed past the hills of Hoy and I was reminded of a time when Orkney Beef and I walked (!) up to the highest one years ago. I only went because I was sweet on him and wanted to impress him that I could make it up and down without a rescue team. Maybe that story is for another time but I still smile when I think about it.
On arrival, I was immersed into the joy of small island life immediately. It was cargo day, and we couldn’t leave the pier until the cargo had been loaded on to the returining boat In this case the cargo was two cows that were lifted on by crane. There is no roll on roll off ferry in Graemsay so they still use the old methods of getting cars, animals etc from one place to another and it still works. For a city girl, this was a fascination to watch. The kye are moved from their trailer into containers and lifted by a crane onto the boat. I began to the whole story to Orkney Beef when I got home and he stopped me mid-story. ‘how do you think they get off the boat at the other end?’ he said with a smile. With him being the piermaster, and having been born and bred in Orkney, it appears I might have overlooked the fact he knows all about moving cattle from one place to the next and there’s little about boat life he doesn’t know. Nine years in Orkney and I’m still as green as the day I set foot on the place, clearly.
We had a short run in the car to my friend’s house where the lavender shorties were waiting patiently for me to sample. Sian is a tad shorter than me so she politely wished me good luck in getting us both in the photo and the shortbread too but after three attempts we got something that looks vaguely like us.
If I could bottle what Sian has, I would. And I’d sell it and make a killing. The views, the lifestyle, the sea air…. In the four hours I spent there we didn’t need to move far from the house to see the beauty of a quiet island everywhere you turned. In fact, I can honestly say I left green with envy. Although very sociable, I love my solitude and this would be an ideal spot. Far enough away from the world to enjoy peace and privacy and near enough to Stromness to hop on a boat and rejoin the rest of Orkney.
We had an enjoyable walk around her garden in the sunshine and I managed to snaffle some of her plants to relocate to mine. 🙂
Sian even has the choice of two private beaches and a walk to the lighthouse pier. You don’t feel lonely as Stromness is visible from her house.
The visit was over too soon and I need to
invite myself go back as we ran out of time for a drive around the island. I’d like to visit the old church for example. But the short time I was there was breathtaking. On the journey home the boat goes first to Hoy before returning to Stromness so I managed to see the other lighthouse (I’ m a big fan) and the boat was much fuller, presumably with many sightseers who make day trips in the summer months.
Maybe I’m romanticizing too much, but for me I think if I had a different set up from my current one, I’d love it. There are no shops in Graemsay, no restaurants, B&Bs and only 23 residents – 6 of them children. But with careful planning and thanks to a regular boat service, it’s manageable. I just need to find a way to boot Sian out of her house so I can move in. Sleep with one eye open Sian 😉
You can see Sian’s blog and more pictures and stories about Graemsay life if you click the link here