Famous for its seaweed-eating sheep and the drystone wall that encircles the island, North Ronaldsay is the most northerly of Orkney’s islands.
Ask an Islander
Retaining a distinct and proud culture, we caught up with islander Siân Tarrant to find out more about island life.
Siân, who worked as the Sheep Dyke Warden, says that volunteering on the drystone wall that keeps the sheep to the shore is the best way to spend a fine day on the island. “Volunteer to do some dry stone dyke building! Help rebuild the unique Grade A listed dry stone wall to protect the infamous seaweed-eating sheep. Since 1832, the Sheep Dyke has confined the semi-feral communal flock of North Ronaldsay sheep to the shore, where they have survived solely on seaweed. Learn more about the history of this fascinating breed and the dyke that preserves them with instruction from the sheep dyke warden. By the end of your volunteering, you’ll never look at a pile of ‘stanes’ on the beach in the same way again!”
Of course, an island famed for its sheep is bound to be famous for its mutton, as Siân tells us. “North Ronaldsay Sheep have a good life out in nature all year round, with minimal human contact. Their meat has a distinct gamey, spicy flavour owing to their seaweed diet, rich in minerals and vitamins. By eating North Ronaldsay mutton you will be supporting the unique island heritage and native rare breed – North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory serves it roasted with all the trimmings.” Delicious!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to work in the rain when you visit – there’s plenty to do on North Ronaldsay besides volunteering on the drystone wall! “Take a tour of the wool mill,” Siân suggests. “See the North Ronaldsay fleeces being processed into gorgeous yarn in a beautiful variety of natural colours from white through various shades of grey, brown and black. North Ronaldsay’s sheep wool fibre is finer than Merino and this makes for a beautiful yarn to knit and crochet with, and very warm to wear. High-quality yarns, batts, rovings, and felt can be purchased directly from the mill.”
Orkney Ferries sails from Kirkwall on Mainland Orkney to North Ronaldsay up to three times a week in the summer, and once a week in the winter.
Loganair operates daily flights to North Ronaldsay from Kirkwall on Mainland Orkney. Some flights go via other islands.
Find out more about getting to Mainland Orkney.
Want to find out more about North Ronaldsay and explore more of our amazing islands?
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