We offer free WiFi. Please be aware that our internet access is in a remote, rural part of the UK and isn't particularly fast (4 -6 mps). It is fine for email, Facebook and web browsing but not for video on demand (if you try to view streamed videos, you will simply get the little rotating ikon as well as screwing up internet access to the rest of the area at the same time - it's called low bandwidth, we are not in a town!).
The Cottage is in the grounds of Kierfiold House. Kierfiold House was built in 1852 by the eighth laird of Skaill as a house for the Breckness estate. The cottage was originally the coach house and was converted some 20 years ago. It has very thick stone walls and has a good atmosphere.
The main window of the living room faces south east, so you get the early morning sun streaming in as you gaze over Loch Harray; in the foreground there is the smaller loch of the Mill of Rango. In the evening, as the sun sets in the west, it shines in through the window as you sit at the dining table.
Our daughter Fiona and her husband Euan fell in love with the Orkney Islands and decided to work and live there. Kierfiold House is something of a family affair, in 2005 they bought the house and we bought the cottage with old age in mind; somewhere to enjoy whilst we remain fit and able but somewhere to go when we are reliant upon our zimmer frames. We couldn’t keep the cottage just for ourselves; it needs to be shared with others and the income helps to keep it warm and in good repair. In 2006 we fitted a completely new kitchen and undertook further tasteful refurbishment over the winter of 2007/8. The winter before last winter (2012/13) we redecorated and re-carpeted the double bedroom with an entirely new colour scheme. Over this last winter (2015/16)we have been redecorating and refurnishing the smaller bedroom. We are trying to create a very special experience for two people who enjoy the unique nature of the Orkney Islands.
From the visitor book in 2016.
'A beautiful cottage, so quiet and with stunning news, we loved the visits from the neighbour's cat. We had originally booked for September of last year but, at the last minute, we were unable to come. When I informed Bob that we were having to forego our holiday, he insisted on giving us this week instead. A very kind and thoughtful gesture much appreciated by both of us. We have adored the holiday - a wonderful fully equipped cottage and the most stunning island. We will certainly be back asap. Thanks again Bob for making this happen. All the best, Stephen and Carol.'
'We join your growing list of very happy guests! Many thanks for providing such a comfortable, well equipped place to come back to at the end of some very wet and windy days! Orkney is delightful - we loved the art, the archeology and the friendliness of everyone that we met. The Merkister Hotel near Dounby does good bar meals but the local Co-op provides everything that you need to cook in the kitchen here. I defy anyone to identify a utensil that isn't provided.' Rob and Anna.
'A great cottage on a lovely island - and sunshine for a whole week!' David and Helen.
'The cottage is a very comfortable and well-appointed base from which to explore Orkney. We have been lucky with the weather and have enjoyed wonderful coastal walks - can recommend Stromness to Skaill Bay and the trip across to the Old Man of Hoy. Great local produce and the Hamnavoe restaurant in Stromness is excellent (booking essential).' Jo and John.
'Our second stay here - another great week, thank you.' Pat and Mike.
'We have had a lovely two week holiday in Orkney and have found the cottage warm, bright and comfortable. We have wanted for nothing apart from a garden to sit in. However we have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the island and would certainly like to return sometime in the future.' Linda and Jon.
'We have enjoyed a fabulous week after wending our way through the North West coast of the Scottish mainland. The cottage was so cosy and the changing Orkney weather meant that we have enjoyed sitting outside in blazing sunshine and then, in the evening, cosying up by the log burning stove! Many enjoyable coastal walks and mainland walks in the plethora of RSPB reserves; from Skara Brae to Yesnaby (stunning coastal scenery); the walk to the Brough of Birsay; in quirky Stromness and on Rousay, a short trip on the ferry from Tingwall. Hope to return and also delighted to see a puffin.' Jenny and Paul.
The islands are well populated with a diverse economy. The total population(2014)of all the islands is 21,600; some 17,000 live of the ‘mainland’ and the population of Kirkwall is 9500. In Kirkwall, you must visit St Magnus’s cathedral built in 1137 when the Orkneys were under Nordic rule, they didn’t become part of Scotland until 1468. May 17th is a good day to be in Kirkwall, celebrating Constitution Day with a big parade with lots of flag waving. (Norwegian constitution day and Norwegian flags.)
Unlike many of the western isles, there is a wide variety of local produce available especially fish, beef, lamb and cheese and the supermarkets stock most of the ingredients for serious cuisine. Our Butcher in Dounby won the 'Best Butcher in Scotland' award for 2014. Some produce costs more than on the mainland, but other items are surprisingly less expensive (Please note that you DO NOT need to come loaded down with basic provision!). In addition to well stocked local stores especially the Brig Larder in Bridge street which has the best selection of meat and fish that I have ever seen, also try Shearers at the other end of town. Also try Jolly's fish shop on the Hatston site, in addition, there is a Tesco, a Co-op and a Lidl in Kirwall, Tesco in particular stocks local produce. As I write this, my wife has just bought the ingredients for a tapas evening including the quails eggs for Amdoldiga Espana and Panko breadcrumps for Migas. There is an extensive range of craft products, exquisite jewellery for which the islands are famous and many woven products from clothing to tapestry. Do visit Judith Glue's cafe opposite St Magnus's cathedral, seriously good coffee and great for food.
If you enjoy eating out at the top of the range, then there is Foveran House near Kirkwall. In addition, there are many restaurants and eating houses catering for people like me with a more modest income, try the Merkister near Dounby, the Stromness Hotel or the Smithfield in Dounby. The Kirkwall Hotel offers a very traditional hotel dining room as they always used to be - thoroughly recommended.
There are masses of things to see and do on the islands. My favourite sites are Skara Brae and Skaill Bay, Maes Howe, St Magnus’s cathedral (the roof tour is amazing if you are relatively fit), the Ring and Ness of Brodgar, the Brough of Birsay, Marwick Head, the Italian Chapel, the Churchill Barriers, the Fossil Museum at Burray, Balfour Castle on Shapinsay, the Tomb of the Eagles and Rackwick Bay on Hoy. This is just a limited list, there are lots more wonderful places to visit.
If you would like to see some more pictures of the area, go to Google Earth and enter our postcode KW16 3JE, then double click on any of the little blue squares. There are some great pictures of Skara Brae and the beach.
Most mobile phone providers offer good 2G reception at the cottage, test the coverage for yourself using their on line coverage charts for KW16 3JE. We offer free WiFi but please be aware that our internet access is in a remote, rural part of the UK and isn't particularly fast (currently about 4 -6 mps). It is fine for email, facebook and web browsing but not for video on demand (if you try to view streamed videos, you will simply get the little rotating ikon as well as screwing up internet access to the rest of the area at the same time - it's called low bandwidth, we are not in a town!). There is now 4G on the mobile phone network in Kirkwall.
Prospective guests occasionally ask how big is the cottage. The ground area is just over ten metres by five metres and with two floors that gives a total floor area of 100 square metres. The dimensions of the living room are 5.73 by 4.75 metres (19ft x 16ft), the main bedroom 4.75 by 3.95 metres (16ft x 13ft) and the second bedroom room is smaller and we are redecorating and refurnishing it over this winter (2015/6), in order that both rooms are equally desirable since we are getting an increasing number of companions as opposed to couples staying in the cottage. I was much amused to find that we had a recommendation in the 2012 'Bad Back Sufferer's Guide' for the comfort of our king sized bed!
From North America?
If you are from North America and planning to the visit the Orkney Islands, I hope that you will find the following information to be useful.
The Orkneys are a group of islands located some 50 miles off the north coast of Scotland. They lie at latitude of 59 degrees north which is roughly the same as Juneau, Alaska. Fortunately they are not as cold as Alaska due to the presence of the North Atlantic Drift, a relatively warm ocean current that flows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic in the region of Greenland. Summer temperatures are around 65 degrees F and it rarely drops below freezing in the winter (Not true for the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11!).
However, like Alaska, the Orkneys experience very long nights in the winter and short ones in the summer, not quite the land of the midnight sun, but getting on that way. As a consequence, there is very much an Orkney tourist season, this extends from May through to the end of September. You are, of course, very welcome in the islands out of season during the winter but you may find it to be wet and cold, not to mention the Orkney winds which blow at that time of year. Out of season, you will also find that much of the tourist infrastructure has closed down.
The cottage (a small house) is what we call ‘self catering’, that is to say that you buy and prepare your own food. The cottage is not part of a hotel complex. I understand that the term in North America for this type of accommodation is called ‘vacation home rental’or 'owner home rental'. We provide bedding linen, which is sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels as well as washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets and toilet paper. The house is fully equipped for self catering with a full range of kitchen utensils, plates, mugs, pans and skillets etc. etc. The cottage will have been serviced prior to your arrival and will be serviced after you leave. However, cleaning materials are provided and we would appreciate it, if you would leave the cottage in a reasonable state of cleanliness.
Getting to the Orkney Islands.
By Sea. Car and passenger ferries go from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, Scrabster (near Thurso) to Stromness and Gill’s Bay (near John O’Groats) to St Margaret’s Hope. The first two routes are operated by Serco/Northlink Ferries and the route to St Margaret’s Hope by Pentland Ferries. In addition, there is a passenger-only ferry from John O’Groats to South Ronaldsay.
The most convenient car ferry for the cottage is the Scrabster to Stromness route simply because we are located only 7 miles from Stromness. Serco Northlink operate three crossings per day each way in the high season (weather permitting) and the crossing time is 1½ hours. Some of our guests prefer the Gill’s Bay to St Margaret’s Hope route because the crossing is shorter and some of the route is more protected from the rougher storms. The disadvantage is that St Margaret’s Hope to the cottage is some 40 miles, but there is lots to see on the way including the Churchill Barriers and you may want to do a big shop in Tesco, Lidl or the Co-op in Kirkwall. Due to the shorter crossing time, Pentland Ferries run four crossings each day during July and August. The Aberdeen to Kirkwall route cuts out a lot of the driving to the North coast of Scotland and can save you a night in a hotel, the disadvantage is that the Saturday boat leaves at 5pm and arrives at Kirkwall at 11pm, so you get to the cottage very late. The return boat on the Aberdeen route leaves at 11.45pm on Fridays arriving at Aberdeen at 7am on the following morning, it can be a bit miserable if you don’t book a cabin. For those of you like me, who suffer from seasickness, the Aberdeen route is best done in good weather only; otherwise the six hours at sea can seem like a lifetime of misery. Interestingly, there is no price advantage in booking return journeys with any of the operators, so you can mix and match your routes without any financial disadvantage.
If you wish to stay in a hotel or other accommodation en route, there are low cost providers in Perth and Inverness (Travelodge and Premier Inns etc). If you book early these can be as little as £25 per night. I stayed at the Inverness Travelodge (A96, not Inverness Fairway) in January, this has very recently been upgraded and is to be recommended. For food, there is a really good pub/eatery next door called the Snowgoose, we had a very pleasant evening there (January, 2016). For breakfast you can go to the Tesco cafe (open from 7.30am) or Howden's garden centre just up the road (opens at 9 am). The low cost hotel options run out North of Inverness but there are many good small hotels and B & Bs on the way. My favourite B & B is at the Inver House Caravan site at Dunbeath, this is a new superior custom built property designed for bed and breakfast guests. If you stay at the Inver House, there is a restaurant nearby called the Bay Owl, despite the somewhat unappealing exterior it provides very good food at reasonable prices, but you will have to book during the season because it is very popular with the locals especially at the weekend. The Portland Arms at Lybster has just re-opened and is well worth a visit. If you want to overnight near the Scrabster Ferry terminal then the Weigh Inn and the Park Hotel at Thurso are the ones that I have tried. The Weigh Inn provides a good Scottish breakfast early enough to catch the first sailing without rushing, the Park also does so but not on Saturday and Sunday mornings. In place the Park offers a continental breakfast at 7am or a picnic to take with you. Both hotels have plenty of on-site parking. My favourite is the Park Hotel, if you choose the Weigh Inn avoid the 'lodges' unless you are on a low budget. (I stayed in a 'lodge' in July 2012, much improved since last time, but still budget accommodation, their main customers in the lodges are visiting workmen and contractors). The breakfast at the Weigh Inn is really good, they served me at 6.30am back in May after an all night drive from the south, and at £7.50, it was real value for money. My suggestion for an overnight stop near Gill’s Bay is the Castle Arms Hotel at Mey.
A good stop for food on the A9 25 miles north of Inverness is the Skiach Services. It's an up-market transport cafe and offers good food at affordable prices. Skaich cafe is open from 7am to 9pm on weekdays, 8am to 9pm on Sundays. Just south of Skaich services, on the opposite side of the road is the Storehouse of Foulis, this is a more upmarket establishment serving very good food from 9am to 6pm (Sundays 10am to 5pm. A remarkable feature of the Storehouse of Foulis is its amazing selection of bottles of gin for sale, at least 50 different varieties often very small batches of production, Another great food and coffee stop just south of Inverness is Simpson's Garden Centre on the B9006 Culloden Road. Best price for petrol/diesel are the Tesco stores at Inverness(choice of two)and also the Asda Store at Tain, on the Eastern side of the A9 just south of Tain, visible from the A9 (diesel at 108.7pence per litre on 16th July, 2016).
By Air. You can fly to Kirkwall from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Wick. The schedules can be found on the Loganair website but you will be re-directed to the Fly-Be website. Hire cars are available in Orkney and can be delivered to the airport for you. Try Orkney Car Hire. As a matter of idle chatter, in 1939 you could fly from Stromness Airport to Croydon Airport (London’s major airport of the day) leaving Stromness in the early morning and arriving at Croydon just after lunch courtesy of Allied Airlines.
Please do come and enjoy the Orkney Islands.
The Cottage at Kierfiold House – Terms and Conditions for Holiday Lets.
It is our aim to make your visit to our cottage an experience that you will very much enjoy and that you will wish to come again in the future. However we must ask that you accept the following terms and conditions which enable us to maintain our standards, to assist in proper management and ensure your safety as well as establishing a clear legal contract for cancellation, damage and exceptional circumstances.
Contractually the cottage will be available from 4pm on day of arrival and should be left in a clean condition not later than 10am on the Saturday of your departure. In practice we can usually accommodate earlier entry into the cottage and we normally contact our guests regarding their travel arrangements so that we may agree a time at which our staff can meet you at the cottage. The cottage will have been serviced prior to your arrival and will be serviced after you leave. However, cleaning materials are provided and it would be appreciated if you would leave the cottage in a reasonable state of cleanliness.
We do have to be able to undertake the changeover between guests and it would be appreciated, if you could leave the cottage by 10am, otherwise we cannot prepare it for the guests that follow you.
When you make a booking and payment a letter or email confirming the dates and times of your holiday will be sent to you. Booking and payment is considered to be the establishment of a legal contract. We do not accept bookings from third parties including agencies. If you sign a contract with us, you must be staying at the cottage for each night booked (unless all members of your party are staying overnight on, for instance, another island, and for ensuring and accepting responsibility for all members of your party additionally ensuring that they comply with these terms and conditions. Your booking is valid for the period that you have booked and you agree to vacate the cottage at the end of the period booked. We cannot accept bookings from anyone under the age of 18.
Cancellation by You
We understand that circumstances change and emergencies occur. If you are unable to come and have to cancel, we will do our best to let the cottage for the week of your booking. If you cancel more than 30 days from the start date of your holiday, we will not bill you for the balance of your payment, but you will forfeit your deposit unless we can re-let. If you cancel within 30 days, you will be liable for the full amount of the holiday; we will, however attempt to re-let. If we are successful, we will make a full refund.
Cancellation by Us
For conditions beyond our control, we reserve the right to cancel a booking in the event of extreme weather conditions, fire damage, repossession, terrorism, war or any other extenuating circumstance, or if we cannot provide safe accommodation for you for any reason. In any of these very unlikely circumstances your full payment will be returned to you. We cannot accept liability or responsibility for any form of loss, including consequential loss, caused by our cancellation.
Breakages and Damage
You must agree to make good and breakages or damage that you incur during your stay at the cottage.
We cannot accommodate pets
The cottage is a strictly ‘No Smoking’ area
When you book the cottage, it is for an agreed number of people.
Electricity is included in the price.
What we provide:
We provide bed linen and towels in the standard rental price for two guests, if we agree to any additional guests there is a charge of £10 per guest to cover the cost of the additional laundry.
Please bring your own beach towels if you wish to swim in the sea (Brrrrh!)
In addition, we provide electricity as detailed above and one 25kg sack of coal per week and adequate kindling for the stove, should you wish to supplement the heating.
We provide toilet paper and dishwasher tablets.