I called in the community shop in the village of Lady (great name for a village) to stock up on muesli and ask if anyone knew where I could find tidal times for Start Point as I wanted to walk across to the island and lighthouse. No-one knew but a customer googled on her phone and was able to tell me the times for Kettletoft pier which is fairly close and so probably similar.
The low tide was happening right now so I jumped in the van and headed north. I squeezed between 2 cars and set off down the track just as it started raining. At the end of track I met an older couple and presumably their son on the beach making their way back to the track. They’d tried to get out to the lighthouse but given up because of how slippery it was.
I picked my way over the beach and soon reached the slippery rocks. Several times I thought I was going to have to give up and turn back but perseverance paid off and I managed to find a way through the rocks, seaweed and slime to get to a stretch of water that I waded through getting my sandals and the bottoms of my trousers completely soaked.
Reaching the island, I headed to the right round some derelict buildings and almost made it to the lighthouse. Unfortunately I was stopped by a wall and an electric fence. I was dubious over whether the fence was electric or not, as there were no warning notices and no sign of anything to power the fence. I gingerly touched it and it was fine. ‘Great’, I thought and touched it again to make sure. Ouch! The shock went right to my upper arm. I’ve never felt an electric fence shock so strongly and I wondered if it had anything to do with my rubber soled shoes being so completely water-logged.
I back-tracked and then tried to walk round the other side of the island. This seemed more do-able but I came to a gate that was seriously tied up and would have needed climbing over. I was about to do this, but couldn’t really see if the way was passable up ahead and I was concerned about the tide and how long it might take me to pick my way back through the slime.
I decided I was happy with what I’d done – I’d made it across to a tidal island and had a good wander round, and I could see the lighthouse, looking like a gigantic Everton mint, from where I was anyway.
I turned round and slipped and slid my way back to the beach and the track leading back to my car.
A few facts
Start Point was built in 1806 by engineer Robert Stevenson, grandfather of writer Robert Louis Stevenson. It was the first Scottish lighthouse to have revolving light. At the time this meant it was easily distinguishable from other lighthouses. It’s still just as distinguishable today due to it having been painted with vertical black and white stripes in 1915, thus giving it its current elongated Everton mint appearance.
I rinsed my walking sandals out thoroughly with fresh water to get rid of the salt. As they dried they began to really stink. The smell got so bad I had to seal them in a plastic bag. I’ve since put them through the washing machine and they smell slightly better, but not much. They’ve been wet before and it hasn’t been a problem so I think it must be from whatever was in that water I waded through. So if you are intending to do this walk, wear either wellies or shoes you don’t care about!
Start Point Lighthouse is on the island of Sanday in Orkney.