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Groatie buckie hunting

Thursday was Olly’s Birthday and we had a lot of fun with a Harry Potter themed treasure hunt that I had prepared for him. It wasn’t a spectacular day outside so it was mostly based in the house, with a wee foray into the garden and then up to Westness for cake!

I rather optimistically tried lighting candles, but it was far too windy, so we had them in the evening (another excuse to sing and eat lots fo cake!). Rather fortuously the sun came out just as we finished lunch for our swim at Hangy rock, which was glorious.

I stayed up until the wee hours to make this cheesecake - it was worth it!

Earlier in the week we explored Green Skerry for the first time. I had heard that you could walk over at low tide. It took a bit of route finding not to get wet, but it was a fine walk over the rocks, investigating the rockpools as we went. Green skerry sits off the peninsula at Westness, and is named presumably because it’s quite green with algae!

Before going over to Green Skerry there is a beach filled with shells, a pefect spot for hunting groatie buckies. This may sound like I’m trying to catch an animal, and at one point it was. Buckie is a Scottish term for shell - and a groatie buckie refer to a small cowrie shell which can be found around Orkney. Trivia arctica are a species of small sea snail which occur from the Mediterranean Sea , all across the UK and to Norway. Their shells grow to around the width of your pinky fingernail (or 6 to 12mm) in size and are pale pink/white in colour.

They are considered to bring good luck to those who find them and its a popular activity among Orcadians to go searching for them on the beaches. I love that elderly islanders still go for a stroll along the shores to find them. Since arriving I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled, picking up a fair amount of sea glass in the process but never being lucky enough to have spied a groatie buckie.

Olly was collecting limpets shells and I was grabbing handfuls of shell fragments, seiving them through my fingers, hoping to find some treasure. It was such a mindful and relaxing activity, and I was rewarded with my first groatie buckie! I was so happy and excited to have finally found one!

The rockpools were full of other interesting finds - a mermaids purse (ie an egg case from a shark or ray) with the egg inside. This is from a smallspotted catshark - how cool!

We also found the small button-like thalli of thongweed which look like underwater mushrooms to me. From these long strap-like reproductive fronds are formed in autumn.


This week was the first time Ive left the island in 5 months! I hadn’t felt desperate for a long time, quite the opposite in fact, but I kind of felt like I should get off for a day. Olly needed a second driver to collect our “new” car, which we were going to have on North Ronaldsay.

When we arrived we were pretty set on not needing a car while we were here. The island is small and very flat. But since having our car over during lockdown, I honestly have no idea how we did it over winter without one. The wind and weather in general is brutal, and I think having a car meant we would get out more, nip down to the beach for a bonfire, or have a warm refuge after sea swimming. So we settled on finding a cheap car to have here.

We spent the day racing around as usual, trying to hit all the shops and find everything we needed before having to fly home. We wanted to fill the car up before sending it onto the island so we didn’t have to pay Orkney Ferries charges for freight.

Tea break by the sea

Am I in a rush to get back to the 'concrete jungle' again? Definitely not. It was such a shock to the system. The mask wearing. The constant vigilence. “Am I too close to anyone? What have I touched”. Not only that but I’ve been spoilt by our green surroundings. What was so apparent to me now was the concrete, the man-made envrironment, all around. I’m very aware that Kirkwall is a tiny town on an otherwise very green island, but being in it doesn’t appeal to me at all. I was all too happy to get back to North Ronaldsay, with the fresh sea air whipping around me. Exhausted from the rushing around, I was back on island time. Where there’s no hurry to be anywhere, sometimes moving only as fast as the wind blows me.

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