Map Orkney Month final contributions: Pict’s houses, Little Pete and feeding the Flotta penguins

Nic Thake: Shapinsay – Stromness 21/03


Sometimes the best trails make use of an opportunity to combine lots of elements.

This trail brought together Shapinsay’s electric car, a return crossing on the ferry from Shapinsay to Kirkwall, a return drive to Stromness pier head (via Tesco in Kirkwall and Orkney Fisheries in Stromness), an unlikely meeting with a man from Bute (who was supposed to be somewhere else) and attendance at Dan’s mapping workshop at the Pier Arts Centre.

Lois joined me for my journey but chose to take a sunny walk at Ness and watch the ferry arrive rather than learn about GIS, GPS and the open source software options available to budding map makers.

All in all it was fine day out from which we returned with some new knowledge, cans of dog food and a fine selection of excellent fish for the freezer. That evening was spent learning to use QGIS which Dan had introduced me to during the afternoon session.


Maureen Flaws: Wyre 22/03

I marked the Wyre Heritage Centre as it really is a lovely place to visit.  Looking onto Cubbie Roo’s Castle and St. Mary’s Chapel you step into deep history of Viking times. Of the more recent generations on the island, you will find interesting tales, facts and pictures aplenty, whilst the colourful displays of wildlife and seabed fauna are fabulous to look at. Displays from the recent archaeological excavation at the “Braes of Ha’Breck” Early Neolithic settlement are on show.

I continued on from the Heritage Centre, down Testaquoys’ footpath to the Back Shore, around the Taing, and on to the Pier, from where I headed home to Heldie. Was it windy and rainy?  Probably … but I fairly enjoyed the walk and took a few pics.

Linda Heath: Hoy 25/03

A ferry from Stromness to Hoy and climbed Cuilags – the second highest hill in Orkney. I do this regularly for photography, wildlife, & fitness.

Hazel Moore: Westray – Kirkwall 26/03

A trip on the ferry from Westray to town and back with my dad: a photographic journey.



Mary Harris, Laura Johnston and Trish Avis: Hoy 28/03

We were a bit late but we had decided to go to Rackwick to celebrate the spring equinox. A small group of us try to salute the Orkney seasons by making a pilgrimage to this beautiful bay at the Equinox and Solstice times of the year. We have a walk, pick up beach bruck and finish off with a picnic and a wee dram in the bothy. However, today we had other tasks to do including contributing to Map Orkney Month, check for Skate egg cases, photograph some war time buildings at Lyness for an Orkney web site and take Little Pete* on an adventure.

Our journey started at Longhope – first stop at Lyness. The weather couldn’t have been more hostile with lashing rain and low cloud. Therefore I went back the next day to photograph the Naval Headquarters and Communication Centre on Wea Fea and the Recreation Centre, above. Lyness was the former Royal Navy base during WWII and many buildings from this time still haunt the landscape today.

Leaving Lyness we drove north to Moaness pier and the rain eased enough to tempt us out of the car and have a quick walk along the Bay of Creekland. Trish and I walk this and other beaches on Hoy once a month for the RSPB to record any stranded dead birds. We also look for and record Skate egg cases (mermaids purses) and notify the Orkney Skate Trust of our findings. Today we found 4 and also came across a small stone cist/box structure that is often buried under a bank of beach debris.

As the heavens opened once again we sped back to the car and took the magnificent road to Rackwick. However, today the tops of the hills were veiled in mist and the grey skies seemed to sink into the sodden surrounding moorland. We felt cocooned in cloud.

The Rackwick burn that meanders through the valley had burst its banks and we stared in wonder at the new landscape of silvery pools. And the rain…. rained on and on and we got thoroughly soaked walking down to the bothy on the shore.


We sat at the table with the water dripping from us and steam rising from our heads. Some young lads had lit the fire. We shivered through our picnic and, just as we raised our glasses to the vernal equinox, cursed the weather, Map Orkney Month and all and sundry, a shaft of sunlight split the smoky room in half. We are known as the Witches of Rackwick and it looked like our cursing had done the trick. We hurriedly sploshed and squelched outside to the sea. Part of our ritual is to admire and stroke a few of the amazing boulders before we start picking up bruck from the shore. See above for some of the rubbish we’ve removed from the beach over the last few months,

Some of the rubbish we’ve removed from the beach over the last few months, but before we left we introduced *Little Pete to Orkney.

Copy of email sent to me about Little Pete:

Little Pete was recently found at Carbis Bay in Cornwall with an extremely poignant message in a bottle.

He was discovered twice in fact, the second time by Jacob Brain, grandson of retired Newquay fisherman Bill Brain, who brought Little Pete to me. With the family’s permission, we are bringing you Little Pete’s story.

We already have several adventures lined up for him, and have set up a facebook page to record his journey.

Nigel Palmer, Archie and Albie’s dad, told us: “Pete was a sailor at heart having served nearly eight years in the Royal Navy and loved everything about the sea. So as a family we decided to combine two of his loves to say goodbye to him – Cornwall and the sea. As a surprise to all the family my wife Sarah and her mum came up with the idea of knitting a little sailor man to leave behind in Cornwall as a little token of our love and to let Archie & Albie say goodbye in a way they may remember.

We decided to travel to Cornwall for the August bank holiday as a family. Sarah and I told everyone about Little Pete on the Sunday morning and we decided to find a suitable place to leave him and the note at Carbis Bay. We had spent many a family holiday there as kids and it has a very special place in our hearts. We left Little Pete and the note on a little path onto the beach and moved down to the water’s edge to scatter my dad’s ashes. As we were doing so we saw that Little Pete had been found by a couple and their young boys. It was so nice to see this from afar and not be interfering in his next journey. We cannot wait to know what he will get up to in the future. It would be just in my dad’s character this story and something he would have loved to be a part of.”

That is the story of Little (for now…. Peedie…) Pete. He was part of our life the day we did Map Orkney and we thought yes, Rackwick Bay is a special place. Daylight was fading fast and it was time to leave.

On the way home we stopped to look and wave at the Dwarfie Stane and the final stop to pay our respects to poor old Betty Corrigall’s sad little grave. A quick warm up and some Guinness beside a roaring fire in The Royal Hotel, Longhope and job done.

I found this an interesting and challenging day. We often head off to Rackwick and not really think much about the journey or the things we do at the beach. It’s normally a question of lets get there and now we’re here, let’s get on with it. But on this day I looked at what we were doing from a different perspective. I asked myself would other people find this interesting even though we do it time after time? Should we stop here or over there to take a photo? Will we break our journey to look at that and what does it mean to us.

I also know we wouldn’t have bothered going there today with the weather being so awful if it wasn’t for this task. I’m so pleased we went although we got drenched and chilled to the bone. We did stuff that’s important to us, strengthened our friendship bond, finished Trish’s rhubarb vodka and we enjoyed our beautiful island once again. So thank you Map Orkney Month.


Doris Shearer: Stronsay 29/03

My husband and I drove from Airy to the end of Housebay road, then started our walk to Lamb Head. On the right-hand side, the farm of Housebay is in the distance. Below is the ‘Dane’s Pier’ – natural or man-made? We made our way to Hell’s Mouth, well named when it is blowing a hurricane. Seals lying on the ledge. Looking to the left is Burgh Head.

Housebay Dane's Pier

Hell's Mouth Pict's House / broch

This is one of the Pict’s Houses (above right). I can remember being in this many years ago and it was quite a job to get back out again, but it has been filled in with stones since then. Pity, because it’s a very interesting place.

Pict's House cell Auskerry

Whaligeo at the other side of Lamb Head with Auskerry in the distance. Copinsay in the background, but a bit hazy for a good photo. We came home via Cleat Cottage and had a welcome cup of coffee. Then we had a drive around the island.

Mill Bay Old Manse

On the left, is Mill Bay with community hall and school on top of the brae. Definitely a spring-like sign at the school with lots of daffodils out when we passed. On the right, old Manse in the foreground, recently renovated, with pier and Whitehall village in the background.

Kenny Gee: Flotta 29/03

West Hill penguins

The day turned out quite well as the sun shone for us, we had our first stop at the West Hill road which comes up from Gibraltar Pier we travelled past it to the south/west, passing Flotta airport and stopped to feed the penguins, then onwards to the south side looking across to the island of Switha then upwards to the highest point called the Witter.

View video panorama from the Witter here

Top of the North road Witter

Stanger Head Stanger Head view west

Finally, on to Stanger Head with loads of relics left by WW1 and WW2.

Lydia Harris: Westray 31/03

A walk around the bay.

Sandquoy houses Sandquoy pier


Jennifer Foley: Papa Westray 31/03

Day starts from Hundland at north end of Papay. Hens and dogs fed, pick up Papay Co-op co-worker at ‘The Y’ and head south to Papa Westray Hostel to prepare for new arrivals. Slow down to help divert escaped sheep at Rossigar and Holland. Mornings work at the hostel then back north to drop off colleague. Walk dogs down through the Ness Park, round the Kelp Green, past Neil’s Helly (no groatie buckies today) and Leapers Geo and on to Fowl Craig returning past the Hundland sheepie shelters – snow showers and strong winds en-route. Drive back south to Beltane to deliver drawing board to visiting artists and back north to Kimbland for home help work. Back south to drop off library box to the Steamer, on to Papay School for Crafty afternoon then pick up visitors from the airfield for the hostel and return home via Whitelooms. Walk back south via the North & South Wicks and the Old Pier at Nouster to use photocopier at the kirk then and cadge a lift home along the Top Road to Rose Cottage and return home to Hundland in time to feed hens and dogs again.


See my non-digital map of Papay on a normal working Tuesday.


Well, we made it! That’s the last contribution from Map Orkney Month to be included in the blog. Sorry to those few who were not included, it has ended up being quite epic! Many thanks to all involved in Orkney and Elsewhere for an amazing month, it has surpassed all my expectations. I’ll be posting soon with a follow-up for the project and the final map. Watch this space … (and map it if you like).



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