It’s a long climb up to the top of Fitty Hill. As we walk there are two fences where the ground changes slope to be even steeper and the flora becomes more and more like maritime heathland. There are three species of heathers and dozens of rare species of tiny plants. We’re on the trail of one of the rarest plants in the whole of Scotland; the elusive Scottish Primrose.
I’ve never seen it before, yet the shops and guidebooks are full of photographs of it. There are apparently only a few hundred plants on Westray yet it is one of the most important sites for Primula scotica. I’m feeling hopeful but we can see nothing. I’m looking for a plant with tiny leaves the size of small fingernails.
Then we see one. It’s tiny, delicate and beautiful with five intensely-coloured heart-shaped petals. I try to photograph it but it’s true what they say; you just can’t get the colour right. Then we see another and my friend begins to count them. There are over a thousand plants here.
“Primula scotica – SCOTTISH PRIMROSE, native, maritime heath, machair and links. On Westray, can be found on the western maritime heath, especially to the west of Fitty Hill and on the Aikerness Hill. Formerly common on the Hill of Noup. Two flowering seasons from mid-May to mid-June and again from mid-July to mid-August. The first period typically produces many long-stemmed, multi-headed blooms.”