Bay of Tafts, Westray

Flying back from North Ronaldsay on a beautiful sunny day we see the perfect beach.  From the windows of the little islander plane it is gorgeous.  This sight is quickly followed by the inevitable "Can we go there?"

Fast forward a week and I have relented.  The island of Westray is no longer the perfect idyl, it is now a storm ridden island with gale force winds and wintery squals.

Turning off the main road down to the cemetery at Rapness, the storm clouds are building.  The first attempt to reach the beach results in a soaking and a skinned knee.  So after hiding in the car, lots of reassurance that 'rain like this never lasts long' and some first aid we are off down to the beach.

As we pass between the sand dunes the swirling sand on the beach can be seen.  The icy cold shot blast of the wind pierces the skin as we leave the protection of the dunes and head onto the beach.

In both directions the perfect expanse of white sand can be seen.  Blowing is every direction as the wind hits land for the first time since its journey across the Atlantic the sand dances and sculpts the surface of the damp beach.  

With no-one else to share the beach it is time to wander, plastic picking as I go, watching as the trophy find of a ball is enjoyed.  It is more a game of chase as the wind whips the ball along at an ever increasing rate.


Ahead of me I see a mound.  Something that is not meant to be there but at the same time natural in its position.

As I get nearer the fragrant scent of death is mingled with seaweed and salt.  It is then that I realise that tossed amongst the flotsam and seaweed is a seal.

Long gone, but slowly decaying on this beautiful beach, its phalanges are exposed, a hole slowly eroding through its back.  Beautiful in its own sad way, waiting for the next high tide to lift it to its next resting place.

Slowly walking back to the car the wind howls along the expanse of the beach, carrying the calls of the ringed plovers who make this wild place their home.  The sand forming patterns with the small burn that races across the beach to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.  An art form all of its own.

Visiting Bay of Tafts


The Bay of Tafts is found just off the B9066 at the southern end of the island of Westray.  Heading north from the ferry at Rapness, turn left following the sign to Rapness cemetery. Parking is by the cemetery and the beach is then a short walk through the dunes. 

Parking grid reference HY 49927 41757

Parking Lat/Long 59.259366,  -2.8799186

Parking postcode KW17 2DE

Map OS Explorer Map 464 (1:25000)

transferCoast, Island, Orkney, Scotland