‘A birdwatcher’s paradise’
From my cold, grey desk under a cold grey sky, I might wonder “Why travel out to an island like Rousay in the Orkneys?” What with the rain and the cold here in Derbyshire – surely an island in the North Sea will be even worse? I’m sure the Rousay Hostel will offer warmth, comfort and shelter.
And then I remember the landscape, the wildlife. Epitomised by the nature reserve at Trumland. Managed by the RSPB it covers nearly 10% of the island including rich and rare wet bog and heath. A brisk walk on a day like today will take me to the heights of Knitchen Hill or Rousay’s loftiest point, Blotchnie field. From here I can enjoy spectacular views on all sides including much of the Orkney archipelago scattered across the sea – looking tiny and precious. Is that, way off on the horizon, Fair Isle?
The big views are impressive, but if I refocus closer to home, there are all the tiny jewels of the moorlands to enjoy. I wish I could put a name to the micro flowers and the carnivorous plants in the bogs. Overhead and nesting close to the ground are phenomenal riches of birdlife. Here in Derbyshire we don’t see hen harriers anymore but on Rousay they perform their ‘skydance’. Great skua too – I will watch out for their nests as they can be jealously territorial.
The hostel on Rousay, like Rousay itself is small, hospitable and friendly. They describe the island as ‘a birdwatcher’s paradise’. I would never call myself a hardcore birder but I’m tempted by it. Go on, tempt yourself.
“The Egypt of the North”
Rousay is a middle-sized Orcadian island. In a compact building in the heart of an organic farm beneath the purple heather of the hill behind, overlooking a narrow channel to Wyre, Rousay Hostel is almost the platonic ideal of ‘hidden gem’. It is just a hop, a skip and a jump from shops, restaurant, pub, bike hire and the pier. The pier will give you the chance to take a ferry to explore the other nearby islands. Just down the road is RSPB Trumland for their ‘star species’ great skuas, merlins and hen harriers. Hen harriers – a rare and precious opportunity these days.
But you might be wondering why I chose the headline “Egypt of the North”. The name is a reference to its rich, rich archaeological history. There’s a Neolithic settlement, Bronze Age burial mounds, Iron age buildings, viking boat burials and ancient churches. The Scottish Islands are replete with fascinating reminders of our tough seafaring ancestors, but Rousay wears the crown, an embarrassment of archaeological riches crammed into this small island.
I wonder if Egypt ever refers to itself as ‘The Rousay of the desert’?
“The Egypt of the North” Rousay contains ancient archaeological sites set in spectacular scenery rich in wildlife, plants and flowers.
Rousay Hostel is situated on a working orqanic farm within easy walking distance of shops, restaurant, pub, bike hire and the pier. Modern, purpose built and well equipped, the hostel has two dormitories and one single room, showers, kitchen and laundry facilities. The island of Rousay is a walker’s and birdwatcher’s paradise with many footpaths and a nearby bird reserve. Often called “the Egypt of the North” Rousay contains some of the best preserved archaelogical sites in the north of Scotland, set in spectacular scenery rich in wildlife, plants and flowers. Thanks to Paul Tompson and VisitScotland for the use of the photo.