South Ronaldsay is reached from the mainland of Scotland via a 45-minute ferry service between John O'Groats and Burwick. The island is linked to the Orkney Mainland via a series of causeways called the Churchill Barriers, which pass through Burray, Lambs Holm and Glimps Holm on the way between the two points. The Churchill Barriers were created during World War I when the navy needed the ability to counter a Baltic-based German fleet. Further details for those interested can be found on the Undiscovered Scotland website. Although no longer needed for combat purposes, the roads which have been constructed on the barriers provide a useful link between the little islands of this Scottish "atoll", which forms the eastern edge of Scapa Flow, one of the largest natural harbours in the world.
The main town on South Ronaldsay, St Margaret's Hope, got its name from a royal tragedy. Margaret, also known as "Maid of Norway", lost her grandfather at under three years old in 1286, and succeeded to the title of Queen of Scotland, and a few years later was betrothed to the future King Edward II. She was still only 7 when she made the voyage to Scotland to start her new life, but she became terribly seasick and died near the Orkneys. The town nestles in a sheltered bay on the north side of the island, and is connected to Gills Bay on the mainland of Scotland by a ferry service. Visitor attractions in the town include the William Hourston Smiddy Museum, which explains the role of the blacksmith in the local communities, and the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery. A short distance to the east of the town is Pool Farmhouse, which houses an aquarium displaying the marine life of the area. Widewall Bay on the west coast, with its unusual "hammerhead" shape, was once a sheltered haven for nordic invaders. At Liddel in the southeast of the island, the remains of an ancient settlement have been found, and Liddel Farm has a museum devoted to the nearby Tomb of the Eagles, a large burial chamber dating from around 3000BC, so named because of the large number of sea eagles' talons and bones found there.
Map of the area.
Herson, Widewall Bay © 2006 Lis Burke, via Wikimedia Commons