A great cycle route with stunning views of Scapa Flow and its Eastern approaches....
South Ronaldsay is the nearest parish to the Scottish mainland and was the traditional crossing point to Orkney in times past. The east coast is rocky, while on the west a long headland encloses the beautiful sheltered expanse of Widewall Bay. The Village of St Margaret's Hope is named after the bay in which it lies. Traditionally this is named after Margaret, the seven year old Maid of Norway. She was heir to the Scottish throne and died here in 1290 on her way to marry the future Edward II of England. Her early death was an important factor in the Scottish wars of independence.
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.
Burwick, on the southern tip of South Ronaldsay, is the start point of many cycling adventures in Orkney. The foot passenger ferry from John O' Groats (April to October) berths at Burwick, it takes bikes. Pentland Ferries (all year), running from St Margaret's Hope to Gills Bay also take bikes (and vehicles).
Just outside Burwick is a sign for the 'Tomb of the Eagles' (B9041). An ancient burial site dating from 3000BC, it was uncovered by local farmer Ronnie Simison, and still cared for by the family. The chambered cairn is in a spectacular cliff-top setting, there is a new visitor centre - well worth a visit.
From this site, head back down hill towards the Burwick terminal junction, and turn right, heading north (A961). The road carries you up the fairly steep Sandy Hill to the Olad viewpoint at the top. A nice downhill now past the phone box on your right leads onto a moderate climb before rolling down into St Margarets Hope.
This pretty village, once a herring port, offers local amenities, accommodation, local craft workshops/galleries. There is a pleasant square and pier front area, perfect for relaxing a while. If you feel like some extra miles here, then continue through the square, up past the school and on to Hoxa Head, where there are splendid views across Scapa Flow. There is a sandy beach near Quindry.
Back to St. Margaret's Hope and on to Burray, an easy cycle of around 3 miles takes you across Churchill Barrier No.4. The Churchill Barriers were built during the Second World War to protect the fleet at anchor in Scapa Flow and to link the South Isles in a defensive chain.