Churchill Barriers, Beaches, and The Covenanters

Night 29/2018 living in my caravan. This is the second night at the Pickaquoy Caravan Park in Dingwall.

Got up around 0600. Early considering that I'd been woken at 0400 by Hamish who needed out 'in a hurry'. I walked round the Peerie Sea near the site and incredibly, I met another dog walker even that early in the morning!

After taking the dogs out again, I used the excellent facilities here. Instead of having cubicle showers as you see on all campsites, it was corridor of small private toilet rooms. Each room was like new, and had a WC, sink, and shower in each unit. Very impressed.

Decided that to cover the 5 days I am in Orkney I'd split the mainland and visit a different area, at least for the first few days. I headed south towards Burray and South Ronaldsay, both connected to the mainland by the Churchill Barriers.

Barrier no.1, which connects St Marys to Lamb Holm Island. This is the channel where the U boat entered Scapa Flow to sink HMS Royal Oak. 

Lamb Holm is the island where the Italian Chapel is located.

This is barrier No.2, where the mast of one of the WW I Blockships is clearly visible.

This is Barrier No.3 which has the most impressive Blockships. There are massive pieces of wrecks on both sides of the barrier.

Parked here and walked the excellent beach. The construction of the barriers led to huge sand deposits in areas like this, but disrupted the distribution of sand throughout the Islands.

As I walked along the beach, I was overflown by the first Skua I've seen on this trip.

Drove on south over the 4th barrier, and headed down to St Margarets Hope on South Ronaldsay. That's where the ferry from Gills Bay arrives. Lovely little village where I bought a map and guidebook to Orkney.

Next stop was north onto Holm towards Deerness where we stopped at a cracking beach called Sandi Sand (honest!).

The sand is a unusual slate/sand colour.

Dogs loved it. Chilly wind though.

From here, headed to the north of Deerness to walk the coastal trail, taking in the Covenanters Memorial. Covenanters Memorial

An impressive and tall monument for such a remote location.

Continued past the Memorial onto the Mull Head coastal path. Impressive series of landforms. Lots of Eider Duck, Fulmar, Oystercatcher, and Cormorant. Strangely, the farmland to my right had a number of Lapwing. It's the first time I've heard them in years.

Good path most of the way. Headed on a circular route, arriving back at the car in around an hour.

Unfortunately, the forecast rain came on around 1400. To make the most of the weather, I drove into Kirkwall town centre and visited a shop I'd walked past last night, 'The Orcadian'. An excellent bookshop and a huge selection of books on or about Orkney. Really impressed.

Noticed also that there was a large cruise ship tied up, and the town was very busy. There is a sign warning of crowds when large boats arrive, ships a lot bigger than the one which is here.


  1. Hope hamish was alright!!!!!! Can’t beat a good book shop! Great photos xxx

  2. Great commentary, Iain, and I'm pleased to sense your enjoyment. I looked into that Covenanters story a little more. Gets more shocking the more you read. Basically, 1,500 were captured at the battle and taken to Edinburgh. Most were jailed, executed or died but the residual 250 were a "problem". The solution was to ship them to the new colonies in America. The boat (The Crown) set sail in December (!) and, in an odd choice of course, rounded Orkney where it hit a huge storm and ended up on the rocks just metres offshore. The captain and crew cut the mast and used that as a bridge to escape but - as they were paid per head of lost "slaves" - locked the 250 Covenanters below deck. One heroic guy managed to axe the side of the ship and 50 followers got off board (hence the memorial to 200 and not 250) to safety. They stayed in Orkney or sailed to Holland. For over 300years, the real truth has never emerged about whether the ship really was heading to the US or was always intended as a scuttling case. Orkney and scuttling seem to go together. Great story. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

    1. Hadn't heard of it either. The ferry's bad enough, to be trapped in the hold of a sailing ship in the 17th century must have been brutal!!


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