A beautifully situated working farm with glamping and self-catering accommodation – perfect for discovering Orkney!
Not for nothing did the poet and novelist George Mackay Brown say that the Orkney imagination was haunted by time. It's certainly true that there’s something otherworldly about the Orkney Islands. The land here has been smoothed over by the prevailing winds, and the resulting views are of rolling hills and water, water everywhere between the 70 islands that make up the archipelago. The dun hills are like the patternless tweed of a geography teacher’s jacket and the sky can do everything from broody to menthol-clear.
Many visitors arrive on the short ferry hop from Gills Bay, between Thurso and John O'Groats, to the charming port village of St Margaret's Hope, from where it's a couple of miles to Wheems Organic Farm, a 6-hectare smallholding owned by Mike Roberts, though now largely run by his daughter Islay. It has a simple and fitting ethos; to keep things small, simple and eco-friendly but, most of all, to share the beauty of this ethereal setting, which is a five-minute walk from the sea.
Wheems is in part a campsite, with pitches for campers and caravanners in the grassy meadows, but for those seeking creature comforts there are also four solid wooden bothies or pods, insulated with sheeps’ fleece and with long double-glazed doors that open onto a deck overlooking the bay, and a Mongolian-style yurt, with beautiful latticework walls and a toasty log-burning stove in its centre. They also have two bell tents for those too lazy to put up their own, each equipped with a wood-burning stove and space for 3 on a double futon and single futon, and a small traditional cottage, renovated like the rest of the farm buildings with local, traditional and sustainable materials, and equipped with solar and ground source heating. Connected to the main farmhouse, it has sliding doors onto its own sea-view patio and terrace, one double bedroom, a living room with sofa bed, a well-equipped kitchen and a small bathroom with a shower.
If the hens are playing ball, fresh eggs are available on the farm, along with other homegrown produce and fresh bread – and you can help yourself to the herbs and salad leaves in the garden (they even provide a watering can for budding gardeners). Dogs on leads are welcome in the cottage (and camping), but not in the yurts, bothies or bell tents.
As for Orkney, it's a great and not surprisingly relatively undiscovered destination – and one that has been settled for a long time. You can visit the stone-age village of Skara Brae or the neolithic burial chamber of Maes Howe, whose entry shaft is perfectly aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice. Try also if you can to stop at the small Italian chapel on Lamb Holm, built by and for the POWs here during the war. Like most things in the Orkneys, it’s a simple and unassuming place, but beautifully done – just like Wheems Farm!
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Things to see & do nearby
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World's Shortest Flight
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Experience the shortest scheduled flight in the world.
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Each pod sleeps 2 people, the yurt can sleep 3 adults (or a couple with 2 small children), and the bell tents sleep x. The cottage comfortably sleeps 2 people.
Find a bed in a place to sleep near you
Bell tents £30 a night, £180 a week; pods £40 a night, £240 a week; yurt £50 . night, £300 a week; cottage £65 a night, £360 a week.
The easiest way to reach Wheems Farm is to take the ferry from Gills Bay on Mainland Scotland to St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay, which just a couple of miles from the farm. There are also summer passenger ferries from John O'Groats to Berwick on South Ronaldsay, and from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, a half an hour drive away. It takes about the same amount of time to drive from Kirkwall airport.