Friday, December 21, 2012

Island Paradise: Ward Hill, South Ronaldsay

On Saturday, after various other adventures previously discussed, I decided to head as far south as I could, to the southern tip of South Ronaldsay - as one person termed it, "the furthest point south in Orkney without getting your feet wet".

The tip of South Ronaldsay is home to a little boat landing and the Tomb of the Eagles, as well as an old, seemingly abandoned kirk and kirkyard. As I was driving away, I saw a location that looked like South Ronaldsay's answer to Wideford Hill: Ward Hill.

As I mentioned in that post about Wideford Hill, many of the hills in Orkney - notably the tallest point in Orkney, located on the southwest island of Hoy - are called Ward Hill because they hosted warning beacons, as noted in the Orkneyinga Saga. South Ronaldsay's Ward Hill offers a stunning panorama of South Ronaldsay, and even on a fairly drab day you can see out to Flotta and Hoy. It also features a "trig point" like Wideford Hill. At some point I'd like to get to the top of a few more of Orkney's hills and see how common these actually are. this website has some of them, but the list obviously isn't comprehensive because it doesn't include Wideford Hill. (That said, it appears to be a good website to have accidentally found while working on this post.) The grid for Ward Hill is:

30V WL 03268 15787

The top of Ward Hill includes some transmitters like Ward Hill, and what appears to be a bunch of farm junk that's sort of endearing. It appeared to be adjacent to a couple of active farms. To be quite honest, South Ronaldsay strikes me as the kind of place where I could see myself retiring, and hiking up to the top of Ward Hill with my trusty Scottish Terrier or Labrador (or both?) each day. In fact, there's a busted up settlement down near that southern tip, near the boat landing and abandoned kirk, that would make a great remote cottage. It's not hard to imagine rugged Viking warriors standing watch on a cold, windy Orkney night, hunched over a fire and singing songs about Odin and Thor.

At any rate, Ward Hill also became the site of another self portrait, along the same lines of the ones I took at the top of Wideford Hill earlier in the day. My Orcadian hosts were repeatedly apologetic about the weather, but I couldn't have been more thrilled to be pelted with rain, swept by the wind, and chilled to the bone. Maybe it's because I'm from a comparably cold and rainy part of the States - in fact, it's definitely because I'm from a comparably cold and rainy part of the States - but as far as I'm concerned, inclement Orcadian weather is definitely one of the elements of an island paradise.


  1. Yes we do Wideford Hill is here...