If there’s ever a place that charms you into going back to basics, back to the land, to nature, to life round the campfire, it’s Orkney. Blistering sea views, tales of Neolithic man at multiple cairns, chambers, stone circles and settlements, it’s a mystical land, yet in the capital of Kirkwall it’s easy enough to stock up on supplies for any forthcoming adventures.
Wheem’s Organic Farm, on the island of South Ronaldsay, encapsulates the good life. An organic six hectare horticulture and animal smallholding, it’s a stunning destination. You cannot beat waking up to views like this. Wheems, run by a farmer/architect Mike and his daughter Islay, is manned by volunteers (often from WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) who work the land in return for food and lodging.
When we booked, out of a selection of glamping pods, yurts and bell tents, only the self-catering cottage was available, so I had no choice but to avoid a night under canvas. With one double bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen/living area, the cottage was compact and quaint. Mr Child was to spend the night on the sofa covered in blankets, and Mr Toddler had his trusty travel cot. This is how we got on.
CHECK IN – We arrived early, as the cottage was still being cleaned, but we were kindly allowed to dump our suitcases and give the boys lunch in the kitchen. After about 40 minutes we headed off sightseeing (to the hugely family friendly Tomb of the Eagles which I’d thoroughly recommend) and the final touches of the cleaning were completed in our absence. This was really helpful and considerate of the owners.
THE ACCOMMODATION – Despite being relatively small our cottage was perfectly formed, cosy and felt like home. There were various random oils, herbs, spices and teabags in the kitchen so it was easy to add flavour to basic ingredients. It also helped that the site has an honesty shop selling, amongst other things, its own organic vege. Buying fresh vegetables and eggs, straight from the farm, was an added bonus. For campers there’s a shower block as well as a quirky and inviting kitchen and dining area. The interior of the pods is basic, whereas the yurts may provide a family with more space, so it’s best to phone Islay to talk through your requirements. Although it looks wild and beautifully remote the cottage also had excellent wifi. Again, it looks like kids are exploring the edge of a cliff, but it’s actually safe and enclosed, yet simultaneously wild and free for mini travellers.
Wheems also has a small art gallery onsite. Farmer Mike initially moved here with his artist wife Christina Sargent, a felt and print artist, who passed away in 2013. Her work is still on display and for sale in the gallery, and it gloriously celebrates the wildlife, seabirds and seals that clearly inspired her. It’s an unexpected and colourful corner of the farm.
It’s also possible to spot the free range chickens pecking around and organic crops being tended. Put simply, it’s a breath of fresh air, with a very chilled out atmosphere.
LOCATION – South Ronaldsay is three islands away from mainland Orkney. This sounds seriously remote but it’s a simple 25 minute drive, across the Churchill Barriers (key historical sites in themselves), crossing Lamb Holm (home of the Italian Chapel), Glims Holm and Burray before reaching South Ronaldsay. This is how joined up and easy travelling in Orkney can be. Our boys blinked and they’d covered three islands and were ready for a new start.
After checking in we continued South to visit the staggering Tomb of the Eagles then, the morning after staying at Wheems, we’d booked a visitor slot at the serene Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, on our way back to the mainland to catch our ferry home from Stromness. Lamb Holm is also home to Orkney Wine, so for a handful of small islands there’s a lot to see and do. Whilst we opted for self-catering dining at Wheems, the Skerries bistro was also been recommended to us though I didn’t personally try it myself.
Our stay at Wheems was informal, friendly, fresh, the kids felt at home, and the scenery was unbeatable. It took me to Orkney islands I hadn’t visited before and introduced me to the memorable historic sites that moved me. A simple but special place.
OUR STORY – We sailed from Aberdeen direct to Kirkwall with Northlink Ferries taking our car with us. After spending 3 nights at Ayres Hotel in Kirkwall as a base for Orkney mainland sightseeing we drove to South Ronaldsay to spend one night at Wheems in order to explore what the southern Orkney islands had to offer. Click here for top things to do in Orkney with kids.
If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the ‘Follow’ box then click ‘Follow’ or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We ventured to Orkney courtesy of Northlink Ferries. We stayed at Wheems Organic Farm for one complimentary night for review purposes. Discover more at orkney.com. All images copyright of Tots2Travel.