In 2017 I had a wild idea; I was going to walk the entire coast of the Orkney island of Westray in the summer of 2018. I chose what turned out to be an inspired option to do it over five days rather than attempting it in just one, partly because I wanted to enjoy the experience and savour it. Westray is like a fine meal; good when you’re hungry for it, but better if you can taste it properly. Partly it was better to do it over five days because I wanted to spend much of my time taking photographs, reading maps, enjoying place names, exploring coves and caves and lounging with lunches on beaches. Partly it was because I’m not up to all that walking and had a horribly sore toe.
On Day One I walked from Mae Sands to Noup Head Farm. It’s definitely the best stretch of the coast. Here are just some of the wonderful views and fascinating things I saw (click to enlarge any of the photos if you’d like to take a proper look):
You can read all my adventures and see many more photos from Day One here:
On Day Two I was up late and walked from Noup Head Farm to Gill Pier, arriving just as it got dark. Here are a few of the sights. The stars of Day Two were definitely the tiny hidden beaches:
You can read all my adventures and see more photographs from Day Two here:
On Day Three I walked from Gill Pier to Rapness Mill.
It was a day of young seals and rainbows. Despite the amazing scenery and fabulous wildlife, the fish and chips was definitely the highlight. Don’t you think it tastes so much better when you feel you’ve earned it? You can read all my adventures from Day Three here, where I asked myself, “If you fall when no-one is looking, do you still look a fool?”:
On Day Four my progress was hampered by a seriously sore toe, so it was cut short (the day, not my toe). The doctor told me I may have to have my toe off, when what she meant to say was I may have to have my toe nail off. It’s an important distinction. I only walked from Rapness Mill to Rapness Ferry Terminal, but was able to take in some bird photography as well as admiring the scenery:
You can read all my adventures from Day Four and see many more photos here:
A five day walk became four days with two half-days (does that make a total of five days or is it six for the purists amongst you?) Day Four and a Half was as eventful as any, if mercifully short. It started with getting a high resolution photograph of a Swallow in flight which was so clear that I could identify the species of day-flying moth it had caught:
You can read all my adventures and see more photographs along the way from Day Four and a Half here:
Then it was Day Five and the finishing straight, although it definitely wasn’t straight:
You can read all the stories from Day Five and see many more photographs of the wonderful coastline here:
And to finish, here are some portrait photographs of a few of the Islanders. Handsome beasts, aren’t they?
Thanks once again to all the people who followed my journey, sent me encouragement and sympathy, and marvelled along with me at the diversity of views and wildlife Westray offers. It was a pleasure to have your company. The walk was thrilling, painful, hilarious and sad and I really felt like I was fully, vitally alive.
I know that other people could have walked it in a day, but would they have really been able to taste it?
And for all those wondering about my toe being sore while I walked, here’s something I didn’t share on my original blog posts, so look away now:
Who would like to walk the Westray Coast 50 in 2019?