The west coast of the island of Westray lies completely open to the Atlantic Ocean The island of Westray is the most north-westerly of the Orkneys, totally exposed to the winds from the north Atlantic, so that even on calm days the high seas and breakers crash into the western seaboard. These pictures were taken within a few hours, and a personal note has been included showing the tent and bike used by the photographer for the visit. The great attraction of the island are the extensive cliffs which stretch south-wards from Noup Head, reminiscent... A glimpse of Westray from the ferry The harbour on Westray is at the entrance to the intriguingly named Bay of Pierowall. The bay forms a protected enclosing circle on the island's east side ...although on a smaller scale, of the massive five mile wall at Latrabjorg in north west Iceland. Key to the attraction are the tens of thousands of sea birds that nest on these cliffs. Passengers watch the ferry being guided into position by ropes Utterly unprotected is the Noup Head lighthouse. It stands on the headland that projects out into the Atlantic on the north west corner of Westray Above, approaching Noup Head - part of the area is now owned by the RSPB (their website for this reserve merits a prize for inanity)
Left, the cliffs wrap around the headland and then march off to the south. In late June the windswept bare rock is vibrant with thrift
The cliffs, constantly beaten by the Atlantic swell, are eaten into giant elaborate sculptures - with a delicate icing of thrift
...probably a northern lace orchid
While thrift abundantly carpets the cliff tops, this is a much rarer plant...
And so to the birds. This flock of terns are over the lower rocks, but I hope they give a sense of the way the air is filled with their raucous calls and ceaseless movement
Above, three arctic terns glide to a standstill in the wind over their nesting site.
Right, the ledges of the cliff faces provide nest sites safe from ground predators...
...Left, a stack that has become detached from the main cliff - idilic nesting sites!
And below, the restless wheeling mass of arctic terns above the grass where they nest
Hopefully, if you enlarge this photo, you will see that the air above the waves
is alive with hundreds of birds
But Westray is not all sea cliffs, much of the island offers fertile farming ground, and places that arctic terns can nest. And not just terns. Both they and nesting great skuas attack anyone approaching their nest sites, and while the brave but diminutive terns (weighing about 100 gr) seem noble in their attacks, great skuas by comparison can inflict real damage on the unweary human
This great skua (locally aptly called 'bonxies') has spotted me near its nest site - leaving no time for petty matters of focusing the camera!....
...Diving in to attack - hatless heads may bleed
Westray's interest extends to human history; here is the ruin of Noltland Castle dating from the 1500s, but remaining largely...
...unfinished, the need for such strong defences having passed. It looks out over the Loch of Burness
Bike park with a view...
And of course there is the share of white sand beaches and translucent waters
...just above the tent
That said, it is the churning crashing waters of the Atlantic Ocean that continuously draws the photographer
Not such a delight for fishermen who have to net these waters; and not just in the calm weather pictured here
Broiling seas provide an appropriate last look at Westray
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