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. It is fine for email, Facebook and web browsing but not for video on demand.
NEW SERCO/NORTHLINK TIMETABLES
The new Serco/Northlink timetables do not have midday sailings except during the high season (Mid June to Mid August. However, Pentland Ferries using the Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope crossing offer many more crossings, this is because the route is much shorter and only takes a hour. From the 1st April until the end of June, Pentland Ferries offer three crossing per day except on Saturdays in May and June when they offer four crossings per day. During July and August, Pentland Ferries offer four crossing a day every day. Due to the shorter distance, the Pentland route is less expensive that the Serco/Northlink route,the disadvantage is the longer journey from St Margaret's Hope to the cottage.
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 bedroom with an entirely new colour scheme. We are trying to create a very special experience for two people who enjoy the unique nature of the Orkney Islands.
Guest comments for 2014
'Start of a new season. Weather variable, but walks in sunshine and rain showers are no hardship when you can come back to a cosy, well equipped cottage. Skaill is the perfect beach for an evening walk.'
'Marsh orchids down the drive to the cottage and lots of other places! Lovely new laid eggs from Kierfiold Cottage opposite. Jim did not actually do most of the walk from Skaill Bay to Yesnaby, he did the last bit backwards as he came to look for me in case I had fallen off the cliff while birdwatching in the rain. It is unbelievable up here if you are interested in birdwatching, oyster catchers, arctic terns, common gulls and also snipe, lapwings and curlews nesting in the fields and all within 2 miles of the cottage. Forget the FA Cup, even Sadlers Wells ballet - the sky drama was breathtaking to watch. To the north, there were guillemots, fulmars, razor bills, jackdaws and black backed gulls all nesting on the cliff tops. You need someone to hold your feet as you squirm towards the cliff edge to see the puffins! RSPB walks from Ring of Brodgar recommended.'
'Our first visit to Orkney and we seem to have landed on our feet with the choice of cottage and location - both superb. We love the view from the big window, but have managed to tear ourselves away from it (and the affections of Elan the cat) to visit the obvious attractions - Skara Brae, Maeshowe, Brodgar and Gurness, all absolutely excellent. Recommend the Kirbister Farm museum, a house with continuous occupation from 16th century to 1960, a window on the more recent past.'
'We had a lovely holiday despite very mixed weather - not too much rain but very little sun - but it hasn't mattered, we visited all of the sights we wanted to see, met some very interesting people, some planned, some by chance and have really slipped into 'Orkney time', so feel really relaxed and refreshed. It was a bonus to hear our son play in the St Magnus Festival and we enjoyed all of the music we heard whether classical, contemporary or folk, where we joined in at 'The Reel' (in Kirkwall, next to the cathedral). We will be back!'
'Excellent cottage - one of the best holiday cottages we have stayed in. Weather much better than we had steeled ourselves to expect. we sat out on the bench at the front of the cottage with a glass of beer on several occasions in the early evenings and enjoyed the stunning views.'
'A beautiful cottage with lovely views. Weather superb, thanks for a lovely stay.'
'Back in Australia now and I'm so sorry Michelle and I didn't write in your book. We both intended to but somehow our get away time went and we both forgot.
I just wanted to let you know we had the best time and the cottage was amazing. Such a beautiful setting and so comfortable and beautiful inside.
We both loved it - as we did Orkney, itself. The cottage and the Island surpassed all our expectations.
And can you believe it No WIND! How lucky we were with the weather. We were both worried we had booked to come a bit too late. it could not have been better.
We didn't even get to light the fire. It was such a lovely time.
We explored all the Mainland, visiting most of the archaeological sites, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Thank you, thank you from us both.'
Anne and Michelle.
The following entry was written by our guest for 'Trip Advisor', but since we don't subscribe (no need to!), he send it to me for our website.
'My wife booked The Cottage at Kierfiold House for our stay in Orkney in July. We came off the ferry at St Margaret’s Hope and drove north through some fairly depressing weather. When we arrived at the cottage it was so pleasant to feel the warmth and cosiness! We were met by the housekeeper who made us very welcome and gave us a comprehensive tour of the cottage facilities which were more than satisfactory. I have say that this is one of the most comfortable and well equipped cottages that we have had the pleasure to stay in.
We got into the habit of having breakfast at the small table in the window overlooking the driveway, a rather magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. There is a double wooden seat outside this window where we were actually able to sit in the early evening, it is fairly sheltered and out of the wind so it was very pleasant. We did have pretty good weather during our stay and this was helpful.
There is a wildflower meadow at the side of the cottage and my wife was quite entranced by it.
The cottage is in a most advantageous position with Skara Brae only a mile away, indeed, one evening we walked there at 10pm to photograph the sunset.
Most of the other archaeological sites are only 15 minutes away. Maes Howe, Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar and also the newest site of all, the Ness of Brodgar. When you visit these sites, do try and go on the tour provided free by the rangers, they are very informative and interesting.
The North Mainland is equally accessible for from Kierfiold. I recommend driving past the Loch of Skaill at the foot of the road and then North to Skaill Bay. You can visit Marwick Head and the Kitchener Monument on the way to the Brough of Birsay, we watched Great Skuas attacking seagulls off the cliffs at Marwick.
We were sorry to have to leave such a comfortable billet at the end of the week. As usual we managed to leave some of our belongings behind and Bob Henson, the owner, was kind enough to post them to us.
I can think of no negative comments about the cottage and I have no hesitation about recommending it to any potential visitors.'
If you are not familiar with the Orkney Islands then you have a treat in store. If you enjoy the sea, the incredible northern light, amazing views, archaeology, an immense variety of bird life and a strong sense of community then this is the place for you.
The islands are well populated with a diverse economy. The total population of all the islands is 20,000; some 17,000 live of the ‘mainland’ and the population of Kirkwall is 7500. 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 has just won the 'Best Butcher in Scotland' award for 2014. Some produce costs more than on the mainland, but other items are surprisingly less expensive. In addition to well stocked local stores, there is a Tesco, a Co-op and a Lidl in Kirwall. There is an extensive range of craft products, exquisite jewellery for which the islands are famous and many woven products from clothing to tapestry. Follow the ‘craft’ trail.
If you enjoy eating out at the top of the range, there are two excellent restaurants, the Creel at St Margaret’s Hope which has won many awards for a number of years and 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 Ring 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. It is fine for email, facebook and web browsing but not for video on demand.
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 spare/dressing room is small. The spare/dressing room is very much the 'spare room'for an occasional additional guest or to escape from a snoring partner. I was much amused this year 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. 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. 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 (Filled up with diesel here on 22nd January, 2015,at 110.7 per litre).
By Air. You can fly to Kirkwall from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness 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.