In June we headed to Orkney to visit Kris’s side of the family, and were lucky to be able to spend a few nights in North Ronaldsay, in a gorgeous self catering cottage called Verracott.
Recently I’ve felt a real need to disconnect. Turn off my phone, switch off the laptop, unplug the landline. There’s something about the relentlessness of modern communications that, after a while, leaves me feeling claustrophobic and anxious. Especially now that Soren is older I really want to try and slow down and be more present – every parent does, I’m sure. I was really craving a holiday and some proper quality time together.
But heading off on holiday abroad in what is arguably the best time of year to be in the north isles seems and odd choice: the long light nights and (frequent, lately!) sunny days make me reluctant to travel too far. Fortunately, Kris and I come from very lovely parts of the world, so combining a holiday with some extended family visiting time usually isn’t a drag: in fact, it’s an absolute winner.
North Ronaldsay is Orkney’s most northerly isle, and is tiny, at around 3 miles long. As well as the population of approx. 70, it is home to some unique seaweed eating sheep, and a bird observatory, and seemed the perfect place to go and disconnect for a weekend.
The day we arrived was basically the dictionary definition of dreich: chilly, wet and grey. But we arrived to crackling fires in both stoves – there is one in the living room (the “ben” end of the house) and the kitchen (the “but” end), and suddenly I didn’t care about the weather. We had food, we had books and toys for Soren, and we had cosy fires!
Verracott is said to be the oldest house on the island, but has been lovingly renovated by its owners who bought it around 20 years ago. It has lots of beautiful traditional details, interesting local artwork, and absolutely everything a family could need – including a giant blackboard wall in the kitchen, which Soren (ok, and I) was delighted by!
There’s a great selection of fiction and reference books to cosy up with, and the house is also home to a few free range chickens, which wander around happily. (Unless when trying to escape the friendly, if enthusiastic, clutches of Soren).
Thankfully the weather cleared up and we spent a lot of time outside exploring the island’s beautiful sandy beaches and visiting the lighthouse, and then eating lunch at the bird observatory. (Thought I’d save those pictures for another post, because this one is getting a bit ridiculous as it is).
I also got a pile of time to myself so sat without my phone and just read and wrote and thought. It was bliss.
One of the original features of the house is this box bed – you can’t see the full thing here because, um, I forgot to take a picture of it, but if you’ve never heard of this before it’s a bed surrounded on three sides by wooden panelling. Traditionally they had shutters or curtains to keep the cold out.
It was midsummer when we visited, so after Soren was asleep Kris and I went for a wander around the house, before coming back in to enjoy some wine, a burning fire, and books. Perfection.
As you can probably tell I absolutely fell in love with the place. You will too. If you want to try it for yourself, you can book through Airbnb, and I urge you to (though, actually, don’t. There’ll be no dates free for me! And I can’t wait to go back.)
*This post is in collaboration with Verracott’s owners who kindly gave us a free stay in exchange for some photos on the blog, but I’d gladly pay to stay here!