Notes from a tranquil island: slow walking in the Orkneys

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With its mesmerising seascape, the long, low green isle of Shapinsay is perfect for mindful exploration

The wind is fierce, making it weather to move fast in, but Louise Hollinrake and I are moving as slowly as we can along the deserted Bay of Furrowend on the island of Shapinsay. I say deserted, but now that we’re doing virtually nothing, save concentrating on our slow walking (a Buddhist meditative tool, says Louise), it’s clear how busy the place actually is. I’m aware of a cacophony of sound from a flock of long-tailed ducks, the crash of the waves and the sound of Louise’s dog’s paws on the sand. The blues and greys of the sea and sky seem more pronounced, and the wind’s power is awesome (it’s not unknown in Orkney for gales to tear car doors off).

Shapinsay is one of Orkney’s more than 70 islands: it’s seven miles across, with a population of 300. It has no pub, no restaurant, no cafe, and there’s only one place to stay. But it may soon have more tourists, thanks to a new guide to mindful travel called Shapinsay Reflective Routes, written by residents including Louise who want to share the island’s peace, wildness, nature and space for contemplation with visitors.

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