Enquiries for holiday accommodation at Annie’s Place are starting early this year, including five repeat visits from last summer’s guests. People have been asking us about what they can find in our patch of Orkney Mainland: History, archaeology, bird watching, fishing, walking, relaxing!
Well…….history is on your doorstep, as the Earls 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 the Orkneys, 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 nearby 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. (see video on Utube.com – posted 16 Sep. 2012).
If archaeology interests you, Annie’s Place is just 15 minutes by car from Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar, and Ness of Brodgar excavations. We are even closer 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.
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) while puffins, guillemots and razor bills can easily be viewed on the tidal Brough of Birsay Island across the causeway.
Gannets dive into the sea above seals and the occasional passing dolphin or whale. If you come in the spring, up to 30 swans surf the waves in the Bay. Boardhouse River flows into the sea 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.
If you just want to walk on the flat, 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, but I expect more often than not you will find yourself heading 100 yards further up a short incline to the award winning Birsay Bay Tearoom.
Or 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.