Marwick Head and Birsay

Marwick Bay
Marwick Bay

On a beautiful sunny morning, we set off on a circular walk from Marwick Bay up to the cliff tops of Marwick Head.

In the background of one of the pictures above you can see an island – that’s the Brough of Birsay, our afternoon destination. However, on this walk we were heading for the Kitchener Memorial. Minister of War Lord Kitchener died with more than 600 others when HMS Hampshire struck a mine and sank just off Marwick Head in 1916. (Click the image below to enlarge if you want to read more.)

Kitchener Memorial
Kitchener Memorial

The monument was under restoration and surrounded by scaffolding, so we didn’t see it at its best – but it’s good to know it’s being looked after. One of the guns from the ship sits, incongruously, at the bottom of the farm track on the way back to the carpark.

After lunch, we set off for Birsay. We stopped first at the Earl’s Palace, built by Earl Robert Stewart in the late 16th century. Now we’ve met Robert’s son, Patrick, before – he built Scalloway Castle and the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall.  He was a nasty piece of work, and obviously a chip off the old block. Both Earls used the islanders as forced labour to create their sumptuous dwellings.

As we looked round the castle in the brilliant sunshine, several coaches and mini-buses drew up to the church across the road and disgorged their passengers – men in kilts and women in bright dresses for a lovely summer wedding. We didn’t see the bride, but as we set off on our walk we surmised that she and her new husband would be using the palace as a backdrop to their photographs.

Remember the island in the first gallery? It’s tidal, and we had carefully timed our walk so that we could cross the causeway on foot. You can see the Brough of Birsay, its lighthouse, the causeway and a view back to Marwick Head (with the Kitchener Memorial just visible) in the pictures below.

However, it had started to rain just as we arrived – and it rained, and rained, and rained. We did our best to enjoy looking at the small Pictish settlement, and even walked all round the island, but in the end we gave up and went back to the car. This was the wettest (and coldest) we got all holiday and I just kept thinking of that poor wedding party! As we got back to the car, the coaches were pulling away, no doubt to find somewhere drier for the photos.

And that’s the end of my Orkney Saga – but not quite the end of the holiday. Once back on the mainland we spent a few days in the Highlands. More on that soon. In the meantime, Jo has very kindly included this post in her Monday Walks series – a visit to RestlessJo is highly recommended.

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28 thoughts on “Marwick Head and Birsay

  1. anotherday2paradise October 2, 2015 / 19:24

    Love the lighthouse photo, Anabel. It sounds like a wonderful walk. I envy you those cliffs and the fresh sea air. 🙂

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 2, 2015 / 19:46

      Thank you. It was just a shame that the wether changed so dramatically in the afternoon – the air was a little too fresh then! But it was all still beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jazzfeathers October 2, 2015 / 21:23

    Still more beautiful photos. I love these cliffs.
    Did I hear rain? You’ll like my diary of my day at the Cliffs of Moher… when I manage to post it 😉
    And the Highlands!!! I’ve been there once. I will go back one day 🙂

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 2, 2015 / 21:48

      Yes, rain! I’ll await the Cliffs of Moher with pleasure. Glad WordPress is behaving now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Birgit October 3, 2015 / 06:29

    I was wondering if you could walk over to that island due to tides. At least you got some walking in but I do feel bad for the wedding party who must have also been cold

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 3, 2015 / 09:29

      Yes, it went from warm to bitter cold as soon as it started to rain.

      Like

  4. Nadine Feldman (@Nadine_Feldman) October 3, 2015 / 19:11

    Ah, that poor wedding party! My stepson is getting married in two weeks, and the wedding is in an outdoor venue. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

    Like

  5. Sarah Ferguson October 4, 2015 / 00:40

    I’ve always wanted to walk somewhere that is only walkable during the low tide. Still haven’t had the chance, but I will add this to the list of possibilities!

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    • Anabel Marsh October 4, 2015 / 09:10

      Have done it in several places around the UK coast. Not got caught out by the tide yet but I always have that little frisson of doubt!

      Like

  6. restlessjo October 4, 2015 / 08:07

    Stunning scenery, Anabel! Can I pinch this one for my walks? 🙂 There’s something really exciting about a causeway like this, isn’t there, and that ‘island’ looks a long way out. I always have one eye on the tide 🙂

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 4, 2015 / 09:17

      Of course! I hadn’t thought of making it a Monday Walk because I was just rushing to get my holiday diary finished but I suppose it is set out as a walk. It is stunning scenery – and I know what you mean about the tide! I always feel a bit anxious too, but there was a good big window here so we had plenty of time.

      Like

      • restlessjo October 4, 2015 / 09:20

        Thanks- knew you wouldn’t mind. Happy Sunday to you! I’m just off to put the meat in the oven. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. clicksclan October 4, 2015 / 15:07

    Those cliffs look spectacular!

    I love how quickly the weather can change. I know it happens everywhere but Scotland seems to get extra practice in it. You can be admiring lovely blue skies and white fluffy clouds one minute and then all of a sudden it’s blowing a gale and bucketing down!

    Like

  8. thatssojacob October 5, 2015 / 06:44

    Hey there Anabel! I found you through a friend (or a friend of a friend) and your blog looked interesting so I thought I’d tell you. It’s October, and in honor of my birthday month I’m hoping to find 10 fun and exciting bloggers a day and strike up a conversation with them; who knows, maybe you’ll come visit me and join in the fun, maybe even follow? Have a good one!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 5, 2015 / 07:50

      Thank’s for visiting Jacob! That’s a great idea to celebrate your birthday month – happy birthday when it comes! I’ll pop over and visit you later.

      Like

  9. ledrakenoir October 5, 2015 / 09:19

    Indeed an inspiring walk, enjoyed it much… 🙂

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  10. njmagas October 11, 2015 / 11:10

    I keep thinking what would have happened if the tide had come in and anyone got trapped on that island! Are their boats that can be taken back across?

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh October 11, 2015 / 12:02

      I didn’t see any boats! But the tide tables are well posted and there is a custodian on the island so I think he would make sure everyone left in good time. Otherwise – sleep with the sheep till low-tide the next day! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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