Frequently Asked Questions

I've booked self-catered accommodation, where do I get my food from?

There is a small, but well stocked, grocery shop at the Bird Observatory. However I recommend doing the bulk of your food shopping in Kirkwall. There is a Co-op, Lidl and Tesco, as well as lots of lovely local suppliers You can take food shopping with you on the plane (15kg luggage allowance) or the ferry. Remember to bring your re-usable shopping bags with you! Your accommodation provider may offer to get groceries ordered in advance from Kirkwall and sent out on the freight plane or ferry. Contact them for details.

What is there to do on the island when I'm not volunteering?

The New Lighthouse is the tallest land-based lighthouse in Britain, rising to a height of over 100ft. Walk up the 176 steps to the top where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the island, South over the Orkney archipelago, North to Fair Isle, Foula, and Mainland Shetland. Take a tour at the wool mill, see the North Ronaldsay fleeces being processed into gorgeous yarn. Coming in a variety of natural colours from white through various shades of grey, brown and black. High quality yarns, batts, rovings, and felt can be purchased directly from the mill. Read about the islands rich history through the ages in the island archives at the New Kirk. The archives contain records regarding the many ship wrecks, fishing, and commercial farming of the North Ronaldsay sheep, one of the last remaining examples of communal farming in Western Europe. Call upon the "Stan Stane" - a dialect term simply meaning "standing stone"standing stone. The Standing Stone goes back 5000 years to Neolithic times. Over 13 feet high and three feet wide, the stone tapers from its base, narrowing slightly towards the top. The stone is the focal point for a centuries-old North Ronaldsay New Year custom that has seen the island's inhabitants gathering around it and singing. Or visit Burrian Broch on the southern tip of the island which dates from the Iron Age, more than 2000 years ago. A number of pictish artefacts have been found here, the star of which was a carved stone cross (know as the Burrian Cross), further decorated with am inscription in the Ogham writing of the Pictish people. The original is now in the National Museum in Edinburgh. Though only a small island with a low profile North Ronaldsay supports an extremely rich and diverse population of wild flowers, mammals and birds. For anyone with an interest in birds, whether a casual enjoyment of observing wild creatures in their natural surroundings or a compulsive fanaticism for rare vagrants, North Ronaldsay offers as spectacularly varied a birdwatching experience. The island’s exposed position and rich wildlife habitats make it ideally placed to receive a diverse array of migrant birds as they arrive in Britain from their journeys over the North Sea. Harbour and grey seals are numerous, both breed around the island and are easily seen on the beaches and skerries. Orca are occassionally spotted around the island, as well as other marine mammals. Admire the colourful wildlfowers in the summer, and the beautiful lichens colonising the dyke, which is a nature reserve itself.

What do I need to bring with me?

For volunteering you will need: Waterproofs Sturdy boots Warm layers (including hat and gloves) Clothes you don't mind getting dirty Backpack for packed lunch and extra layers Please bring your own gloves (gardening type gloves are good) and steel toe cap boots if you have them.

Do I need to bring a car to the island?

No, the island is very small, ~5km long, and flat. I don’t have a car on the island, I cycle or walk everywhere. The Trust's cycle hire is offering discounted rates for volunteers - £2 a day! More information on hire bicycles

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