One recurring feature of the coast that I have noticed while writing this blog is that ferocious storms, while scary at the time, can throw up hitherto unknown treasures. This was the case on Sanday in 1985 when a local farmer was walking along the beach at Scar on the northwest coast after a particularly bad storm and noticed some bones sticking out of a sandbank which had been partially stripped away by the storm. The bones turned out to be part of a Viking boat burial, and the find was hailed as one of Orkney's most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century. The burial has been dated at around 875 to 950 AD. Other ancient remains on the island include a burial chamber at Quoyness, a Neolithic settlement at Pool and the Styes of Brough, where a 29" Viking sword was found. For nature lovers, there are plenty of opportunities to view birds and seals, while walkers can enjoy long stretches of sandy beach.
North Ronaldsay, 4 Km north of Sanday, is the most northerly of the Orkney islands. The island featured heavily in the Orkneyinga Saga with much warring and bloodshed. There are a number of ancient sites on the island, but from the more recent past there is Holland House, built in the 1700s; the gardens next to the house attract large numbers of migrating birds. There is a bird observatory on North Ronaldsay where bird migrations are monitored. An old stone lighthouse stands in the northeast of the island known as the Old Beacon, or Dennis Head Beacon, which was built in 1789 by Thomas Smith. The lighthouse, which is in a state of ruin, achieved third place in the BBC Restoration Village series in 2006. It has since been replaced by a newer lighthouse which stands nearby.
Map of the area.
© 2004 Peter Ward, via Wikimedia Commons