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Wheems Organic Farm

UK Scotland Scottish Isles Orkney

Wheems, Eastside, South Ronaldsay, Orkney KW17 2TJ

  • Bell Tents, Pods & A Yurt

  • Great Outdoors
An organic smallholding in Orkney with yurts, pods, bell tents – and a cosy cottage!

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 of course the water between the 70 islands that make up the archipelago. 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 six-hectare smallholding owned by Mike Roberts, though now largely run by his daughter Islay. It has a straightforward objective; to keep things small, simple and eco-friendly but, most of all, to share the beauty of this ethereal setting, which is just a five-minute walk from the sea.

Wheems is partly a campsite, with pitches for campers and caravans in the grassy meadows, but also has slightly more luxurious accommodation for those seeking a few creature comforts, with four solid wooden pods or bothies, insulated with sheeps' wool and with long double-glazed doors that open onto a deck overlooking the bay. There's also a Mongolian-style yurt, with beautiful latticework walls and a log-burning stove, plus two bell tents, each equipped with a wood-burning stove and space for three on a double futon and single futon. Finally, there's a small vintage 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. The loft is a new self-catering unit and the dining area was built last year from a friend's old conservatory – most things are up-cycled at Wheems!

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). There are geese and sheep, and a sandy beach five minutes' away. Dogs on leads are welcome in the cottage (and camping), but not in the yurts, pods or bell tents.

As for Orkney, it's a great and 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!

Details

Facilities

BBQs and small campfires allowed. There are 4 showers and 4 toilets in a wooden building by The Loft, a simple modern rustic style self catering apartment above the barn. The campers' kitchen has 2 small electric cookers and a kettle with lovely wooden surfaces, including tables, chairs and a little lawn with a stone bench, there is also roofed glass 'sit ooterie' to 'sit oot in' built using old conservatory windows. They also have a washing machine, large fridge, freezer and a hairdryer, plus books and games for the kids. Each bothy is provided with bedding, a heater, small kettle, water container, rechargeable lamp and hot water bottles. The yurt is more lavishly furnished, with a custom made wooden floor, beds, bedding, blankets, towels, candles, lamps, a log fire and firewood for your stay. The bell tents are simply furnished also with wooden floors and stoves. Islay can provide yurt dwellers with a camping stove if you would rather this than using the shared kitchen.

Suitable For

Tents, campervans, dogs (on leads), small caravans, big groups, young groups – yes. Large caravans – no.

Nearby

Make a pilgrimage to the tiny chapel, built by Italian POWs held here during the Second World War. They also built the causeways that link South Ronaldsay with the ‘mainland’. The interior of the chapel is just as striking as anything you’d find in Rome. An even shorter walk away, you'll find a pristine sandy beach, which is also the starting point of a fabulous 10-mile circular hike. Alternatively hop in the car and drive 20 minutes to Kirkwall, where you can wander around the labyrinth of stone-paved streets, or visit the gallery and co-operative craft and gift shop, in St Margaret’s Hope (01856 831587).

Food & Drink

Wheems’ own organic fruit, veg and eggs are on sale in their shop. For fresh seafood with a sea view, try Skerries Bistro (01856 831605) on the very southern tip of the island. In St Margaret’s Hope, Robertsons (01856 831889) serves delicious local beers, while those that visit The Italian Chapel (see above) will be a short hop from The Orkney Wine Company (01856 781736), where you can take a tour and sample their entire range of fruit wines and liqueurs (as well as J. Gow Rum from next door).

Open

April to October or by arrangement.

Pricing

Camping from £9; motorhome from £12; bell tents £30 a night, £180 a week; pods £40 a night, £240 a week; yurt & loft £50 a night, £300 a week; cottage £70 a night, £420 a week.

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