Begin your second day exploring the parish of Birsay, one of the most historically significant settlements in Orkney. Birsay has been home to Neolithic people, Picts, Vikings and Scottish Royalty and each has left their mark on this small coastal village. Explore St Magnus Church, Barony Mill and the Earl’s Palace and take a stroll along one of the scenic coastal paths. Birsay is home to two RSPB protected areas and has a wealth of fascinating birds and animals to see.
Next, pay a visit to the Brough of Birsay, a small, uninhabited tidal island of the north coast of Birsay. Cross the causeway at low tide and explore the remains of both Pictish and Norse settlements. A walk to the far side of the brough brings you to the lighthouse and cliff face. This is a good place for watching migratory birds and a chance to see puffins. Keep your eyes peeled for whales off the shore and for the popular groatie buckies or cowrie shells.
While in Birsay, visit the Kirbuster Museum, the last example of a traditional ‘firehoose’, an early 19th century farmhouse and steading. The museum contains Orkney’s last peat-fired central hearth, stone neuk beds and a collection of ancient farming utensils. The site also has an Edwardian parlour and Victorian Gardens. Visitors can enjoy a game of putting on the green and also explore the new Trowie Trail in the back garden.
Enjoy a coastal drive around the very north of the Mainland, with spectacular views across to Rousay before arriving at the Broch of Gurness. Situated at the tip of Aikerness, with magnificent views across to Eynhallow Island, the broch sits in a spectacular location. The most impressive and best surviving example of a broch in the Orkney Mainland, the broch stands in the centre of a small stone village surrounded by houses and ramparts. The village at Gurness is the best-preserved of all broch villages, with numerous houses. Each had an entrance leading to a large room, off which lay smaller side rooms. The main room had a hearth, a large tank set into the floor, cupboards and sleeping spaces. Some houses had a yard outside, open to the sky, and a separate shed.
Finish your journey with a scenic drive through the heart of the West Mainland, heading back to Loch Harray. Enjoy a delicious meal at Merkister Hotel’s Skerries Restaurant, one of Orkney’s finest dining experiences, including the freshest local seafood. With a spectacular view over the Loch Harray and the hills of Hoy, the restaurant boasts some of the finest sunsets in Scotland.