Nature and geography in Orkney

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Explore Orkney’s renowned natural environment which remains unspoilt and attractive. These beautiful habitats provide a welcome home to a variety of plants and animals.

Take a trip to a nature reserve to spot rare wildlife, look out to the waters to see the sealife or simply go for a walk along one of the beautiful beaches. There are many great things to see and do to experience the nature and geography of Orkney.

Farming in Orkney and cultivation of the land has brought together a mixture of farmland and rugged wilderness, which has created a stunning mix of wild flowers and high quality crops.

Orkney's landscape is also defined by geological landmarks, dominated mainly by red sandstone which stands out dramatically. The Old Man of Hoy is one such example, a sea stack located close to the island of Hoy, while the Castle of Yesnaby is a rock stack found on the coast of the West Mainland. Both are popular with climbers who have dared to venture to the top.

Mull Head in Deerness is a nature reserve where the sheer cliffs are made of layered rocks, telling a tale which stretches back millions of years. Watch the sea as it crashes into the rocks, eroding the coastline to form caves, stacks, narrow inlets and geos. Also close-by, you can admire the Gloup, a collapsed sea cave near the car park.

Travel around the islands and between the towns and villages to discover the different landscapes from the beautiful sandy white beaches to the green farmland and clusters of beautiful flora and fauna.

  • Sands of Mussetter, Eday
    Sands of Mussetter, Eday
  • Binscarth Woods, Finstown, Mainland, Orkney
    Binscarth Woods, Finstown, Mainland, Orkney
  • Broad Street, Kirkwall, Mainland, Orkney
    Broad Street, Kirkwall, Mainland, Orkney
  • Close up shot of Arctic Terns in North Ronaldsay
    Arctic Terns, North Ronaldsay
  • The coast at Yesnaby, Orkney
    The coast at Yesnaby, Orkney
South Bay and the beach at Nouster, North Ronaldsay


Explore a variety of individual yet beautiful beaches in Orkney. Look out for wildlife or enjoy watersports just off the coast.

Flora around the Ring of Brodgar

Flora and fauna

A diverse range of habitats on the isles nurture many wild flowers including some plants which are rarely seen.

Stomness harbour

Towns and villages

Discover the individual character and history of Orkney’s towns and villages.

The Northern Lights in the night skies above Durness © Mo Thomson

Northern Lights

Experience the magnificent spectacle of the Northern Lights in Scotland.

Close up shot of puffins on the Pentland Skerries

Hides and reserves

Discover wildlife in Orkney by paying a visit to the many hides, reserves and visitor centres.

The ferry sailing past the island of Hoy

Island hopping

Island hopping is the ideal way to discover the unique characteristics of each of Orkney's islands.