Our guests at Annie's Place all tell us why they love staying here. Their list includes history, archaeology, walking, bird watching, natural history, festival attendance, island hopping, fishing.... and just relaxing in the peace and calm! In personal comments and in online reviews our guests highlight why they have so enjoyed Annie's Place and the hospitality we provide. They also detail their favourite places and activities easily available from Annie's Place.
History is on your doorstep, as the Earl's Palace, built by First Earl of Orkney, James Stewart (half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots) is the view from your sitting room window, while The St. Magnus Kirk (founded 1064) is just next door………yes, Palace, Birsay, the ancient capital of Orkney, pre-dates the Norman Conquest.
If you seek Orcadian Heritage, Barony Mill ….. the only water powered working mill in the UK which still grinds “bere”, an ancient form of barley…..is a short walk up the road from Annie’s Place, and a short drive away is Kirbuster Firehoose, the last unrestored example of a 16th century crofthouse in Europe, with a stone neuk bed and a central, open hearth, with smouldering peat fire. Wonderful to experience the atmosphere for itself, but also gives insght into the living arrangements at Skara Brae.
If archaeology interests you, Annie’s Place is just 15 minutes by car from the World Heritage sites of Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar, and the ongoing excavations of Ness of Brodgar. We are also close to Skara Brae, if you choose our scenic minor road from Palace village to Skaill Bay. Ah….. but our own favourite neolithic site is the Broch of Gurness near Evie, similar to Skara Brae, except that visitors can still walk right into that ancient village structure with lovely views to the island of Rousay.
The RSPB has several hides in the West Mainland, including…closest to Birsay…The Loons at Twatt for marshland birds, geese and ducks (and we have seen otters there).
Marwick Head, a cliff walk to the south of Birsay Beach, teems with nesting birds, with fulmars gliding past your vantage point. Arctic Terns nest on geos to the north of Birsay Bay, in full view of the sight-seeing visitors (but they will dive-bomb you fiercely). Puffins, guillemots and razor bills can easily be viewed on the tenement cliffs of the tidal Brough of Birsay Island across the causeway. Whilst flocks of oyster catchers, curlews, plovers and many breeds of wading birds thrive on the shoreline and surrounding fields.
Gannets dive into the sea above seals and the occasional passing dolphin or whale. If you come in the spring, up to 50 swans surf the waves in the Bay. Boardhouse River flows into the bay next to Annie’s Place, attracting birds of all varieties to its feeding grounds. Boardhouse Loch is home to many birds on its grassy banks and calm waters. It is also a fisherman’s paradise: free trout fishing from the shore or by boat for hire at the water’s edge.
Wonderful cliff walks can be enjoyed from your doorstep. The St Magnus Way, a 55 mile pilgrimage route, goes through Palace village and you can pick this up and walk for as long or as short a distance as suits you.There is a smartphone app which gives you all the information you need to follow roadside markers going north or south from the village.
If you just want to walk on the seashore, explore rock pools or let your dog free to run on the beach, Birsay Bay is just 50 yards down the garden path from Annie’s Place. Standing above the shore at high tide is an exciting experience as flocks of sea birds rise and fall with the waves to gobble up insects washed into the sea by the turbulent water. Large flocks of starlings regularly congregate on the shoreline. They join this feeding frenzy above the tideline, before rushing into the sky, creating amazing murmurations as they go.
And what if you too begin to feel a bit peckish and in need of refreshment? Don't worry.....you can easily head 100 yards up the road from Annie's Place, over the historic road bridge and into the award winning Birsay Bay Tearoom at the top of the road. It too has wonderful views, over fields of peaceful, grazing cows, to the wide expanse of Birsay Bay.
But, if something more bubbly tickles your fancy, then like previous guests, you can sit on our shoreline bench, perhaps as the sun sets, drinking prosecco, watching the (wildlife) world go by and being stunned by the amazing sunsets.