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Marwick Head (Orkney)

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Address: Stromness / Orkney / Scotland / Tel: 0845 6000449

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      28.07.2010 16:09
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      A nice spot in north of Orkney

      Marwick Head is an RSPB reserve in the north west of mainland Orkney. It is a seabird reserve, with paths along the clifftops. The Kitchener Memorial is within the reserve.

      My parents and I decided to visit one day while we were in the area, with one main objective - to see puffins. I love puffins but have never seen one. The RSPB leaflet we had said we might see some at Marwick Head around teatime, so one day around 5pm, off we went.

      On arriving at the car park, my mum decided not to come to the cliff tops - the path to the cliffs is a steady slope and quite long, and would be a struggle for those with reduced mobility.

      My dad and I walked up, and were buffeted by heavy winds on the cliffs. There are paths to follow which keep you away from the edges, but care is still needed of course.

      As we walked along the paths, we moved off every so often to sit down and have a look through the binoculars. The ground slopes down to the cliff edge from the path, so by moving a little closer to the edge (but still staying far away from it!) we were able to sit down and get a bit of shelter while we had a look around.

      Marwick Head is a beautiful spot. We visited on a sunny yet windy day, so visibility was good and the sea was a deep blue. The cliffs are covered in that satisfyingly spring grass you find on cliffs, and some beautiful cliff top flowers added some lovely colour.

      We saw all types of seabirds while we were there. I'm glad my dad was there, as I think a lot look very similar, and we had forgotten the bird book - he was able to recognise much more than me. We saw kittiwakes, various gulls, lots of guillemots on the cliffs all with their backs to the sea, and also a huge number of starlings.

      We also saw fulmars, which were of great interest to my dad, and great skuas, known locally in Orkney as bonxies. We did not, however, see any puffins.

      Marwick was a beautiful place to visit anyway. We had great views of the Brough of Birsay and the isle of Westray, and south to Hoy which was quite special as we saw the Old Man of Hoy - we weren't going to the island so it was good to see, even from afar.

      Definitely worth a visit if you like a nice walk or birdwatching, but I would recommend trying to go on a dry day - we were lucky, and I can't imagine it would very nice up there with wind and rain!


      A note on puffins: Orkney has around 70,000 nesting pairs and 60,000 of these are on the small uninhabited island of Sule Skerry, far to the north and expensive to reach. Hoy has larger numbers than the mainland, but again not easy to reach. Marwick Head and Yesnaby Stacks are the best places to try for puffins on the mainland, but they are only there in small numbers.

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