Ness of Burgi

Graham has gone to Orkney for a week, guiding a group over there, so it’s just Bert and me at home for the next seven days. Well, and the chickens too, of course.

We dropped Graham off at the airport and then, undecided about what to do with such a lovely afternoon, went first for a stroll along West Beach, where I came across a small group of very confiding sanderling, running up and down in front of the tide like little clockwork toys.

Sanderling at West Beach

Sanderling at West Beach

I was thinking about going to St Ninian’s Isle, so Bert could have a run around there, but really, without a ball the beach isn’t so much fun. No rabbits, you see. He was clearly a bit bored at West Beach, and finding the sand hard going, so I decided we’d go to Ness of Burgi instead.

I hadn’t been there since a visit to Shetland very early on in our relationship – probably getting on for 10 years ago, in fact – and I had completely forgotten how stunning it is. The aim of the walk is to get to the Iron Age block house, out on a tiny peninsula, with just a few feet of land around it, almost cut off from the mainland except for a slightly precarious walk over a rocky link, made safer by the powers that be with a chain rail.

Bertie being very intrepid on the chain walk

Bertie being very intrepid on the chain walk

But really it’s the scenery and views that make it, looking across to Sumburgh Head and miles and miles of open ocean to the south, with Fitful Head behind. Underfoot there are contorted rock formations and sudden drops all around, rocky coves full of smashed boulders, and the sea crashing against the unexpected cliffs.

The block house itself is pretty fine, too, though, with high walls still standing and low doorways and rooms to explore. How short, really, were the people who lived here? Bert was a bit disgusted at having to be on his lead for this part of the walk. There were rabbits everywhere and I didn’t trust him not to hurl himself off a cliff in pursuit.

To add to the day, on the way back, we came across an Arctic Skua having a bath in a small loch. It seemed most unconcerned at our presence and I was thanking goodness that (for once) I’d gone to the trouble of carrying the 400mm lens as well as my wide angle. The skua generously posed for a few shots, and even when he did decide to fly away, it was at a lazy and leisurely enough pace for me to get a couple of shots of him in flight too.

That was the highlight of the day for me. For Bert, though, I think it was the slowly dawning realisation that he gets to sleep on the bed for the next seven nights.

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