The cry of the curlew rang our across Stronsay as we cycled its roads. Other islands appeared to be favoured by lapwing or oystercatcher but on Stronsay it was curlew.
We’d arrived on the early morning ferry from Kirkwall and dropped our bag at the Fishmart Hostel at the end of the pier. Here we discovered we could borrow bikes at the shop a few metres down the road so more of the island was opened up to us.
Whitehall Village is one of the few true villages out on the islands, it was once a busy fishing village with a large sheltered harbour between Stronsay and its small neighbour, Papa Stronsay. The climb out to the main spine road was a surprisingly steep one, not helped by limited gear options on one of the bikes. From the top were views west over the other islands.
Our destination was Kirbuster (also spelled Kirbister) and a walk down to the rocky shoreline and the Vat of Kirbuster. It’s an impressive piece of rocky coast, a mini lesson on coastal features with an arch and sea stacks, precipitous edges and complex patterns of erosion. Shags and fulmar nested on inaccessible ledges and disappeared through the arch into the sheltered world behind.
Elsewhere were sweeping and deserted sandy beaches, the sands of Rothiesholm a quiet rest spot on what turned out to be a longer cycle ride than expected. The Stronsay Hotel provided a different type of resting place in the evening.
Our morning walk the following day took us around Grice Ness to the east of the village with views to Papa Stronsay. Ringed plover, oystercatcher and lapwing took it in turns to parade in our path as we returned across sheep grazed fields back to the village. On the water a great northern diver hunted while back in the harbour black guillemots displayed in pairs beneath the harbour wall.