How it All Started...
The Bis-Geos were originally built in the 1850s and was mentioned for the first time when inhabited by the Scollay family.
When I was sitting here at the ruin in 1998 looking over the bay and dreaming away, it felt as if the old buildings were telling me about life here in the past, about the hardships in supporting a family from a small croft on this windswept slope with only a shallow layer of good soil over clay and rock. To supplement the sparse food from the land, people were catching birds (locally called auks) in the cliffs on your left, to salt them and keep them as food for the long winter.
Another source of food was the sea. When you walk down the pathway to the shoreline you reach a rock sloping gently into the sea, this rock is where people launched their boats to catch fish and lobsters. It was (and still is) a dangerous spot because of the strong currents and sudden changes in wave patterns so that despite good local weather, you can be prevented from getting back into shore.
The winter nights must have been tough in these damp and draughty buildings. The fireplace and box bed were probably the centre of life in those dark stormy times. According to the locals, the wintry gales were much stronger in the past. A farmer, over 90 years old, told me that he saw waves reaching to the top of the cliffs on your left and other people have found a tree trunk half way up from the cliffs in the field in front of you, probably lifted up by the waves and blown there by the gales.
Maybe you will be lucky enough to meet some locals who will tell you some of more of these local stories from years ago. The cliffs in front of you witnessed the loss of a neighbouring crofter when he was blown over the edge in a storm many years ago.
After the Scollay family, local records mention the Groat & Rendall families as residents. The daughter of the Rendall family (Wilma Johnston) was the last child born at the Bis-Geos & was our first guest when we opened in April 2001.
If you want to reach much further back in time, look over the field sloping in front of the conservatory and you can see two mounds (elevations), which might tell us about inhabitants who lived here many thousands of years ago.
The Bis-Geos was abandoned in 1955 and soon the wind and weather brought down the roof and parts of the walls. This was the state of the Bis-Geos when I saw it first whilst doing a locum on Westray in 1998.
My guide at the time, the local doctor's husband, showed me the island and I can still feel the sensation of a warm grip around my stomach when I came over the hill and saw the view of the bay in a beautiful sunset and the ruin of the Bis-Geos snuggled against the gentle green fields sloping to the cliffs.
It was this gut feeling that made me rebuild the Bis-Geos in its traditional way, in harmony with the beauty of its surroundings.
You can view the rebuilding process in Debbie's PowerPoint presentation on our computer or in the folder in the Conservatory, if you prefer. Lets hope it was all worth the effort and many people enjoy their stay with us.
The Bis-Geos Cottages were opened in May 2001. The visitor numbers have been increasing steadily since, but because the Bis-Geos is remote and more of a destination than a 'passing-by' place it will take time for the word to spread, attracting more guests and making our project financially viable.
In the meantime, we take heart from the comments in the guest book.