The Bay of Tafts

The Bay of Tafts is not quite, but almost, my nearest beach. It’s a five minute cycle ride away, although the time it takes to get there is wind-dependent and often not the same as the time it takes to get back. The beach at Twiness is closer but not quite as magnificent. That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by perfect beaches; you start being picky about them.

Tafts is where I took one of my favourite photographs, which, forgive me for mentioning it, is available in my shop:

It’s hard to explain Orkney and particularly Westray to people from the south. I often find that pictures give a clearer impression than words, except when it comes to temperatures. Here’s the view south-east from Skelwick with my house, Einar, visible. Einar is the one with the reflection off the new roof in the middle distance. The Castle o’ Burrian, where the Puffins breed, is next to the cliffs to the left, while the beaches of Tafts and Twiness are to the right.

Westray - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s the North Sea to the left and the Atlantic Ocean to the right. They have very different moods and it’s an entertaining walk from one to the other and then, generally, back again.

Here’s the view the other way from the same spot, looking north-west with the Loch of Swartmill and the Bay of Tuquoy:

Westray - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The Loch of Swartmill is full of Dunlin at the moment, with a few Knot and the occasional group of Icelandic Black-Tailed Godwits, still in impressive breeding plumage.

Today’s the perfect day for kayaking in my new kayak, although the wind direction is the wrong way for the Bay of Tafts. It’s such a light breeze it won’t matter, though. With a stronger wind I might get blown out into the Atlantic no matter how hard I paddle. The only weather that ever matters in Orkney is the wind strength and direction. If you want to be fussy, which naturally I do, then it’s also important to know what the maximum gust is going to be. Every other weather indicator, sun, cloud, rain, hail is mere decoration. The structure, the very fabric of the weather here is the wind.

Someone else has had the same idea about going to the Bay of Tafts but they have moored their yacht there, with a 4×4 driving down to meet them on the beach. What a fabulous place to meet your family for a picnic. White shell sand, turquoise seas, fresh air and 360 degrees of horizon. I would even describe it as warm. Warm for Orkney.

Westray - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Time to get the kayak out.

David - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The Puffin Whisperer arrives just in time from an epic cycle around the island to take some photos.

David - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
David - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There are small Sandeels in beautiful shoals in the water here. When I was here last week it was an entirely grey world of mist and an Arctic Tern flew up to my kayak and picked a Sandeel out of the water three metres in front of me and then few airily away with the fish plump and rigid in its beak. Today all I can see are distant Gannets and the occasional Fulmar in the blue.

It’s time for a shower. I’ve finally fixed the shower after fourteen years, which proves that there was no need for anyone to nag me about it. Now if only I’d remembered to turn the water heating on. Suddenly, temperature is important.

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