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“Birdwatching break”

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North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory
Reviewed 19 June 2013

We stayed for three nights doing a birdwatching and touring break. Flight over is just jump in the eight seater plane, belt up, pilot starts the engines and away you go. Flying as it should be with no long check in queues or any delays. Exhilarating flight of half an hour with good views of the other Orkney islands. A small shed houses the North Ronaldsay air terminal. A half mile ancient Land Rover trip to the observatory and that's it, great!! The observatory staff are very friendly and helpful. Menus are set but the seaweed fed North Ronaldsay mutton is excellent. The only other major attraction apart from the birding is the lighthouse at the north end of the island where Billy the former keeper will give you a tour round. Be warned 178 steps to the top!

  • Stayed: June 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank Geoff B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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24 - 30 of 37 reviews

Reviewed 1 May 2013

A lovely experience in a modern Bird Observatory
Comfortable rooms and lovely home cooked food
The staff were charming and we were able to see a bird being ringed and went on a walk with one of the wardens
Weather poor but the conservatory was pleasant place to sit and read or just watch the weather and the birds!
A peaceful place

Room Tip: All rooms are very compact and well furnished
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  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank Anne B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 October 2012

We visited North Ronaldsay in early October, spending one night at the N.R. Bird Observatory. The flight over from Kirkwall was exhilarating and a bit terrifying, but the peacefulness of the island and the gentleness of the inhabitants made it well worth the effort. We rented a car on the island and drove to the N.R.B.O. which is on the southwest part of the island. We were warmly greeted and shown our rooms on the 2nd floor of the main building (not the hostel) and were invited to choose our dinner selection (mutton!) and served a warming coffee in the main lounge.

The rooms were small but tidy and clean and very comfortable. My room had a very welcome electric heater which I turned on to warm the room. The bathroom was very good, with a shower with good flow and hot water. I had a writing desk, a wardrobe, and nice window looking out over the farmland next to the observatory. Both of us were pleased with our rooms and with the welcome and friendliness of the two young people running the reception desk and cooking dinner.

We had a quick walk on the beach - marveling at the seaweed eating sheep and the peacefulness of Nouster Bay. Dinner was served around 6:30 p.m. in the lounge and we were seated with the rest of the guests at a large communal table. The slight uneasiness was quickly dispensed with as we introduced ourselves around the table. There's nothing quite like good food and drink (mutton, freshly steamed veggies, sticky toffee pudding and Dark Island beer) to loosen lips and engender a real feeling of community and friendliness.

We had a great evening of conversation and beer and whisky from the excellent bar and stayed up well past midnight enjoying the moment and our new friends. The morning came a bit too quickly, but the bed and room were warm and comfortable. Breakfast was very good and we continued our conversation with our new friends and met Alison.

The N.R.B.O. is very well run and gives excellent value for the rooms in the main building (we didn't have any experience with the hostel). The meals were excellent, the drink plentiful, and the friendliness and craic in abundance. The island is a lovely and interesting place to visit (whether or not you're into bird watching) and the trip over from Kirkwall will be a memory you'll not soon forget! Highly recommended for a unique vacation getaway!

We enjoyed walking the beach to the Broch of Burrian, watching the seal colonies and the varied texture of stone dykes and beach pebbles. The light of North Ronaldsay is amazing and allows for stupendous views and great photography. The two lighthouses are well worth visiting as well as is the museum and the cafe in the New Lighthouse.

  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank Carl_Pritchett
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 September 2012

My wife and I stayed at the Observatory as part of a 'birding' holiday run by Heatherlea. From the moment we walked out of the airport the gentle and professional welcome began. North Ronaldsay is not a general tourist destination - it isn't particularly attractive unless you are a 'birder'. It does have some small fascinations like the seaweed eating sheep - which give rise to fascinating mutton! The Observatory is the centre of the study of birds and their comings and goings on/off the island.
The accommodation is really an aside to the bird related activity but is run as professionally as one could hope for in very good mainland hotels - never mind on an island - a very small island. The food is excellent and although the dinner is essentially one centred on a set main course the staff were amazingly helpful to anyone with any specific dietary requirements. The rooms are clean, very adequately furnished, and the bed very comfortable.
Our experience bore no commonality with one of the recent reviewers - in fact we can't believe we stayed at the same place as that reviewer - to such an extent that we wonder what the motivation of that reviewer was. Our experience at the communal meal table was convivial. There was plenty of food and extra was provided when anything ran out. There was NO evidence of staff abusing the control or consumption of food.
The post evening meal wrap up of the bird activity on the island was interesting and encouraged active input from visitors.
We felt privileged to have stayed there and hope to return soon - either with Heatherlea or under our own steam - or maybe both - at different times!!

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank BamboosNorthShields
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 August 2012

My partner and I stay on North Ronaldsay every year in other accommodation but we always have a couple of lunches at the bird ob. it 's a custom of ours.
Alison and her staff are very good hosts, the mutton is highly recommended, the best, and washed down with Dark Island beer, finished off with sticky toffee pudding.
Roll on our next visit.
Graham/ Pat

  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank bakermorgan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 June 2012

We booked into the Bird Observatory on the recommendation of the airline after we had found out that we couldn't get there and back within one day. When booking we were asked what we liked to eat and we were offered a lift from the airport. On arrival, staff couldn't be more friendly and we were served tea, rooms very comfy and clean. Evening meal was really nice - the puddings were exceptionally yummy. We sampled the extensive whisky menu in the lounge and then retired. Breakfast was fantastic - nothing was too much trouble. Kitchen and housekeeping was ably run by a lovely lady and all other staff on the bird observatory pitched in to cater for our every need. Staff very happy to arrange contacts with other services on the island including bike hire and the lighthouse tour. Bird Observatory is a mile from the airport and is on a bay with resident seal colonies so is very convenient. Very reasonably priced accommodation and we enjoyed every minute of it. Can't recommend this place highly enough - a lovely part of out honeymoon

  • Stayed: June 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank Abigail R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 August 2011

What a waste of time and money. Evening meal is very much sit here dont talk and watch out when staff sit down. Get as much food on your plate due to the rush from the staff to eat as mush as possible, its quite funny.
Very poor information as to whet brids are there, we did ask and the reply was not a lot.
Rooms not cleaned beds not made. We dropped some crisps on the floor, when we arrived and were still there when we left. Felt like we were there to help with funding rather than a guest. Avoid

  • Stayed: August 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank Billydo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory

Address: Twingness, Scotland
Region: United Kingdom > Scotland > Orkney Islands > North Ronaldsay
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Speciality Lodging in North Ronaldsay
Number of rooms: 22
Also Known As:
North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory Scotland

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