As I sit here in the middle of Storm Ciara, well protected (I hope) by several walls and a roof, my thoughts turn to Westray, in the Orkney islands, where there are no trees.
Admittedly, that does avoid the possibility of one falling on you, but it also means that the wind sweeps across with virtually nothing in its way, which can be annoying. Apparently you get used to it – or so I was told when I was there last summer.
We went by air – in a very small plane which held eight moderately sized people – and we were deposited fairly early in the morning on a very small airstrip at the north of the island, from where we were transported to our B&B some miles away, the other side of the main village, Pierowall.
Unfortunately the B&B was not ready to accept us until 4pm, which meant that we had about six hours to kill. We had no car and no provisions. There were no buses. The weather was not exactly warm, and there were very few people, but at least it didn’t rain much.
Nothing much happened, but it was one of the most memorable days of my life.
We took in a castle, a white beach, some links, a number of tracks and the only café on the island, which served me some absolutely stunning raspberry and rhubarb cake. We then found an ancient church and a hotel that served the only evening meal on Westray.
We booked, and then found that we had to walk over a mile to the B&B, back for the meal, then back to the B&B again. If there had been a choice I would not have contemplated this. There was no choice. We did it. It was amazing.
It is often said that Westray is beautiful, and it is. But I’m not sure why. A lot of it is quite ordinary, with abandoned farm vehicles, wire fences, uncared for tracks and no hills to speak of. The coast is something else, but it was not so much the view that entranced us as being thrown on our own resources, with nothing to do but walk.
Sometimes not having a choice can turn out to be the best choice possible.