Enjoy breathtaking views of Hoy and the anchorage of Stromness as you cycle from Kirkwall to Stromness via Orphir.....
To the south of Mainland Orkney lies an expanse of water with islands strung around it. The openings are to the south and previously to the east. Scapa Flow has long been a safe haven; today it provides a safe berth for oil tankers. During two world wars Scapa Flow became famous and put Orkney at the centre of world history. Scapa Flow became the base for the British battle fleet, the primary purpose of which was to prevent German war ships gaining access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Scapa Flow was also the internment centre for the German High Seas Fleet when it was surrendered at the end of the First World War. Ultimately it was scuttled there and many of the sunken warships now are a Mecca for recreational divers.
At Hobbister a RSPB bird reserve lies on either side of the road, Highland Park Distillery's peat cuttings are quite near. Nearby Waulkmill Bay can be a pleasant place for a picnic or a swim on a sunny day. Houton is a departure point for the ferry to Hoy. This could be one leg of a circular island hop to Hoy, the other being the Stromness - Hoy ferry.
The route described here is part of the multi-country North Sea Cycle Route and the National Cycle Network and are being signed as Route 1 with blue cycle signs.
Set off along Junction Road in the centre of Kirkwall, in a southerly direction, past the library on your right and straight ahead at the roundabout. 300 metres on, take the next right turn to Orphir (A964) and you're heading out towards Scapa Flow again. About a mile out of town the road starts to climb past a garage on your left.
There are spectacular views down Scapa Flow as you make your way down to Waulkmill Bay, which is well worth a visit, past the nature reserve at Hobbister. Turning left at Waulkmill, take the single track road for a couple of hundred yards and park your bike at the top of the stepped track which takes you down to the magnificent tidal expanse of sand and marsh.
Back on the road, travel through the village of Orphir, taking the road marked Gyre on the left just after the school in the village. St Nicholas Round Kirk and the Orkneying Saga Centre has an interpretive display, which explains the Norse history of the area. Half a mile further along the road you come onto the main road again and on to Houton Bay. The road climbs steeply from here around the Hill of Midland but it's worth the effort for the views at the top down Hoy Sound and Stromness.
From there, it's a fairly easy run along into Stenness, where a left turn to Stromness (A965) passes over the Bridge of Waithe. Take the next left turn and head up hill past the farm of Howe, enjoying the panorama of Stromness, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Hoy hills. At the junction with the Ferry Road turn left towards the town centre, where the Tourist Information Centre is situated in the terminal building on the pier. Stromness has accommodation, restaurants, and excellent services.