Notes From An Even Smaller Island

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.


Stromness by the sea

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.



Panoramic of Graemsay lighthouse and Hoy hills


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.


Being lifted on to the boat




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.


Two shorties and a lavender shortie

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.  🙂


A walled garden with the sea and Hoy hills in view



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.

FullSizeRender 55
Stromness from Graemsay

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.

The ‘short dumpy’ Graemsay lighthouse
Returning home and the Hamnavoe making her way through Hoy Sound

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


6 thoughts on “Notes From An Even Smaller Island

  1. Very nice post, Sarah! I really love reading your island stories with all the great pics! Again I lucked out finally seeing THE ORKNEYS 😉😎 from above last Monday on my way to Portland, initially it looked like a direct flyover but then we passed a tad too north to see anything 😡. Enjoy your mini vacation ! Marcus


  2. Looks like your island hopping at the moment ,pity the weather was no better .Sounds like you enjoyed in spite o that .Its always people and scenery that makes it Anyhow

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.