ROUSAY ORKNEY ISLANDS – ROUSAY TOURS
On my last trip to Rousay Orkney Islands, I arranged to take a guided tour of the island through Rousay Tours, run by Patrick Maguire. The tour was one of the best I have been on (and I have been on a few). Rousay has been nicknamed ‘The Egypt of the North’ due to the amount of archaeological sites on the island, including Midhowe Broch and Cairn. I asked Patrick to answer 10 questions on Rousay Tours and about his life on Rousay.
1 – How and when was Rousay tours started (and by whom)?
I took over a business called Traveller Guide (run by Rosie and Andy Beskaby) in 2009 and renamed it Rousay Tours.
2 – How did you come to live on Rousay and what were the main difference from living on the mainland?
My wife moved to Orkney about eight years ago to work for a small pharmacy group, based in Kirkwall, with shops in Thurso on mainland Scotland, Kirkwall, Stromness and Lerwick in Shetland. She loved it and we (wife and daughter) relocated from North Derbyshire to Rousay.
Differences between island life and mainland life include pace of life, volume of people and road traffic, you have to plan activities more accurately, cannot just dash off and do something spur of the moment.
3 – What tours do you offer and when are the tours available?
Rousay Tours provides a fully escorted tour of the island, picking guests up at Rousay pier off the 1040 hrs ferry from Tingwall, usually returning them on the 1730 hrs ferry from Rousay; earlier departure at 1320 hrs also possible.
Tours are available all year round, seven days a week.
We tour Rousay in a nine seater minibus stopping at numerous places to see spectacular views, lots of wildlife, visit the major archaeological sites, have a picnic hamper lunch (available by pre-order if required) and cover the history of the islands and people spanning a period of 5500 years.
4 – What wildlife could be seen on your tours?
A huge variety of birds including several species of gull, terns, gannets, oyster catchers, owls, curlews, lapwings, greylag geese, eider ducks, plovers, puffins (May to August), seals and sometimes hen harriers, buzzards, kestrels, sea eagles, red throated divers, otters and obviously a wide selection of shrubs, flowers and the odd tree!
5 – What is your favourite place on Rousay and why?
It has to be the area of Westness on the south west side which includes the Midhowe site. Along a mile stretch of coast are the remains of settlements by people covering Neolithic, Pictish, Viking, Middle Ages, Medieval, up to late Victorian periods. In summary, the history of over five millennia of continuous settlement clearly visible and walkable. Truly amazing!
Worth noting that the Midhowe site and three others on Rousay managed by Historic Scotland are free entry.
6 – What are the best things about living on a remote island?
Very little traffic, quietness, safe place for adults and children, sense of community. There is not a word here that sums up the urgency of manana!
7 – Have you visited any other islands around Orkney or Scotland? If so, which was your favourite and why?
Have visited a number of islands, but my favourite is the small island between Rousay and Mainland Orkney, namely Eynhallow meaning Holy Island. When we have the ‘haar’ sea mist the island disappears and re-appears sometimes in a matter of minutes.
There is a regular ferry service to it, one evening a year, when the Orkney Heritage Society organise a visit to walk around it looking at wildlife including a big tern colony and some now derelict buildings of historical interest. There is a feeling of mystery, mystique and legend about the island.
8 – How do you see the next 5-10 years for yourselves on the island?
Hopefully I will still be here, currently in my late 60’s, and doing tours for as long as I am fit and healthy.
9 – Do you have any other jobs as an islander on Rousay?
I have a part time job with Orkney Islands Council as a fitness adviser in their Healthy Living Centre situated within the Community School; also a volunteer First Person On Scene for the Scottish Ambulance Service; also chief bottle washer and potato peeler (unpaid) for my daughter who owns The Taversoe, a little inn, bar and restaurant on the south side about two miles from the pier. She does a mean fish and chips and wonderful steaks amongst other things, plus stunning views of Eynhallow Sound.
10 – Where can I find out more information about Rousay Tours?
I have a web site www.rousaytours.co.uk and have some advertising space in publications such as Orkney Islands by Visit Scotland, the free Islander Magazine, and bedroom folders by the Orkney Tourism Group in hotels and B&Bs.