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Arriving on North Ronaldsay

After weeks of planning, gathering furniture and packing, we were finally on our way. Logistically it had been quite the headache, organising van pick up and drop off points, ferries, containers, and travelling with a fluffy black cat (Hagrid). Keen to save money, the three of us slept in the Citreon Berlingo, surprisingly well!

I had been fretting for weeks that all of our belongings wouldn't fit into the Luton van. Friends came round to help with packing the van, fuelled by mini pizza parcels and pumpkin soup (see below for recipe) that my mum made. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief as the door was closed and everything was inside.

Playing tetris with our belongings

The first day of driving went well, we left late but still managed to meet up with my friend Jo on the way, who gave us a microwave and lots of lovely goodies for our cupboards!

On the second day we were looking forward to making it to Wick early to enjoy a walk along the coast followed by a Hagrid-free sleep (he would be in a cattery). Unfortunately, it hit the fan when somewhere outside Perth I was pulled over by the police in the Luton van. They couldn't see one of the rear indicators, which had been bent but was still visible. They then decided they were happy with it, but were concerned about the weight of the van, so off we went to the weighing bridge. Long story short, it was a whopping 1300kg overweight. We had no idea! Commence speed unpacking our carefully packed belongings into a self storage unit.... back for a reweigh... another few hundred kilos to go... another storage unit ... until finally we were on our way again. Exhausted, 6 hours behind schedule, and with another logistical headache to sort out: how we get our things from Perth to North Ronaldsay!

Leaving that for future Siân and Olly to worry about we headed up to Scrabster for the ferry to Stromness. We then drove over to Kirkwall to unload our remaining belongings (fridge, sofa cushions and kitchen things!) into a container and van borrowed from an islander.

The next day or so we to and fro'ed between Scotland and mainland Orkney, taking the rented van back to Wick, picking up our car, Hagrid and food, before returning to The Mainland to catch the ferry to North Ronaldsay.

Approaching North Ronaldsay on the ferry

Upon arriving we were welcomed at the pier by a group of friendly islanders. With everyone commenting on what a good sailing day it was (although Olly and I disagreed - we had needed a lie down on the way over).

Wanda (the Berlingo) being craned off the ferry

That evening we went to our first social event - a film showing at the Birds Observatory. I was worried I was going to fall asleep during (I was so tired after all the travelling and stress!) but the film was very good and it kept me interested. Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð) is a 2018 Icelandic-Ukrainian comedy-drama about a woman fighting to save the planet and adopt a child at the same time. Keen to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle on the island, the main character Halla is inspiring in her commitment as an eco-warrior battling big industries. Though I think my eco-warrior journey on North Ronaldsay will begin at home.


Pumpkin Soup

This is great for making use of the flesh when pumpkin carving at Halloween

Pumpkin picking at Green Lane, Sevington, Kent

🕓 50 minutes 👤 Serves 4


1 large pumpkin, seeds and stringy bits removed, flesh scooped out

2 cloves of garlic, pressed

1 red chilli, chopped

1 tin coconut milk

Small bunch coriander, chopped

Salt and pepper


Step 1

Cook the pumpkin flesh in boiling water until soft

Step 2

When the pumpkin is soft drain the cooking water but reserve in a bowl

Step 3

Add the chilli, garlic, coconut milk and half the coriander to the pumpkin and blend

Step 4

Simmer, if it is too thick add some of the reserved cooking water. Season with salt and pepper, to taste

Step 5

Serve in large bowls with crusty bread, and add the remaining coriander for garnish

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