In case anyone wonders about the variety of language up here. To Orcadians, this bird is a bonxie. In the more proper language, it is a Skua --a Great Skua, I believe. I left the photo relatively uncropped because I want to give you a taste of how big and empty the hills are. This bonxie and a couple others were cruising low about our ears, presumably because they had nests near by. Even skuas--notoriously aggressive killing machines (Ask any gull!) can be fond parents, so I have dubbed this the "bonxie madonna."
Hoy is one of the smaller but still inhabited of the 60 or so Orkney Islands. We were part of a pre-season one-off excursion to Hoy. Some folks went to the cemetery there; others went to walk to the landward side of the Old Man of Hoy--a famous rock stack. We managed to get a last minute place on the peedy bus down to Rackwick, where we walked down to the beach. I say still inhabited because Rackwick currently has a year-round population of 6.
While Morris rested in the lee of a stone dyke, I tried to find a way to the beach that did not involve scrabbling over huge red and blue boulders jumbled on the beach. In that search I found this handmade bridge, which is even more rickety than it looks in the photo. It was not secured in any way other than habit to the jumble of rocks beneath it, but habits up here can be very enduring, so I gave it a chance and was rewarded first of all with a lovely view of the peat-coloured water in a hurry to get to the shore and then a graceful sandy slope down to the beach.
Even on the higher ground--a no man's land between the waves and the boulders and the cliffs beyond, there were small cousins of the boulders on the beach. I could have adopted each and every one of those lovely rocks, but I managed to pick up only one to come home with me. Rackwick blue I called the smooth dark blue stones. I had seen a few stones in this colour on the beach at Isauld, but here they seemed to predominate. A dense, smooth rock that slipped easily into my pocket though its weight pulled my jacket a kilter just to let me know it was still there.
It was hard to choose which of the beach shots to share. But the lovely colours of the sand here just kept coming up. I tried to imagine the billions of waves with their sometimes fierce intensity that had pummeled the coloured boulders into these coloured sands.