Read on for some ideas to whet your appetite for a trip out filled with stunning scenery, incredible wildlife, Neolithic treasures and family adventures in Orkney.
These suggestions are not just for visitors - if you're lucky enough to call this region home, then these ideas are for you too!
St Magnus Way
Let the serene landscapes of the St Magnus Way soothe your soul. Create your own Orkney odyssey on this wonderful 55-mile pilgrimage route, which celebrates the life of St Magnus. This is the perfect way to reconnect with nature. The five separate stages of the walk feature spectacular cliffs, fascinating historic sites, bustling villages and stunning coastlines.
Where will you walk?
- Find inner peace stepping back into the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral, which is over 875 years old.
- Take time for reflection and enjoy the picturesque views of Scapa Flow.
- At the Earl's Palace, roam the ruins of the residence of Robert Stewart, half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots, who became Earl of Orkney in the late 1500s.
- Have fun with the kids exploring the Broch of Gurness playing hide and seek amongst the surrounding ruins.
Find more about the St Magnus Way.
South Ronaldsay Cycle Route
South Ronaldsay is full of hidden gems and a joy to see by bike, with miles of quiet roads and not too many hills. This superb cycle route from Burwick to Burray explores through the rocky east coast, past beautiful sheltered expanses of Widewall Bay and through the pretty village of St Margaret's Hope.
Where will you cycle?
- Take a detour at St Margaret’s Hope to Hoxa Head for stunning views out across Scapa Flow. The area provided sheltered anchorage during both World Wars, and is home to an amazing mix of wildlife.
- There are many more cycling routes in Orkney to experience including the Isle of Hoy or West Mainland and its many Neolithic treasures.
Plan a cycle around the Orkney islands with Sustrans.
Brough of Birsay
There's nothing quite as magical as visiting an island that's only accessible when the tide is out! Check tide times and cross the tidal causeway to the Brough of Birsay, where you'll find loads of history? Even the walk along the causeway will bring magic moments as you spot jellyfish, anemones or crabs in the rockpools. Explore the Pictish, Norse and medieval remains and take a walk along the rugged cliffs to the lighthouse with Atlantic Ocean views. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins and orcas.
Where will you explore?
- With sands and rockpools to explore, the beach is a hit with children. You might even find ‘groatie buckies’, rare tiny shells said to bring good fortune.
- The island is home to a busy complex of Pictish, Norse and later settlements and an impressive carved Pictish symbol stone was found on the island.
- Access to the Brough of Birsay is only possible within two hours either side of low tide. There is a small visitor centre open during the summer months.
- Nearby Birsay was an important area for the Vikings and boasts the ruins of the once mighty Earl's Palace.
Plan a trip by tide to the Brough of Birsay.
The Old Man of Hoy
This old man is one of the oldest you'll find! At 450 ft tall, this is also the tallest sea stack in the UK.
Explore this dramatic island and take a walk along the scenic Rackwick Glen, nestled between the hills of Cuilags and Ward Hill. Make sure you say hello the friendly ponies which roam freely here. From the beautiful Rackwick bay, continue along the track to the famous Old man of Hoy towering out of the choppy waters by the edge of the cliffs. Further along the coastline, don't miss St John's Head, Britain's tallest vertical cliff face at 351 m high.
Where will you explore?
- Don't miss Hoy's many fascinating sites dating from prehistoric and Viking times, including the Dwarfie Stane, the only rock-cut chambered tomb in Britain.
- Keep your eyes peeled for sky-dancing' hen harriers and white tailed eagles. Seeing these magnificent birds in Hoy is always an unforgettable experience!
- The Old Man of Hoy was once two sea stacks joined together as an arch, but unfortunately a severe storm washed away one of the old man's legs, leaving this single one behind.
- It is possible to climb this sea stack - but only by very, very experienced climbers! It was first climbed in 1966, and the year after climbed again during a live broadcast! Sir Ranulph Fiennes climbed it in 2008.
Go and say hello to the Old Man of Hoy.
Feel the need to unwind and step back in time? Find yourself standing among 5,000 year old relics, ruins and archaeological wonders in the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney Heart of Neolithic Orkney sites. Uncover the ancient secrets of the Ring of Brodgar standing stones and re-live history in the ancient village of Skara Brae, one of Europe's best-preserved Neolithic villages.
Where will you explore?
- Find your inner self at the Standing Stones of Stenness, the oldest stone circle in the British Isles.
- Tackle the stunning West Coat Walk from Stromness to Skaill Bay, passing idyllic beaches at Warebeth, impressive sea stacks at Yesnaby, and the Neolithic village of Skara Brae.
- Take a trip to the 'Egypt of the North'. Rousay. Have you explored all its 160 archaeological sites yet?
- The Standing Stones of Stenness is the oldest stone circle in the British Isles, and even older than the great pyramids.
Explore some of the best wreck diving sites in the world in Orkney. Your first time underwater is an experience you will never forget. And there aren't many other places where you can dive on WW1 and WW2 shipwrecks on your first ever scuba dive. Scapa Flow was a strategically important base for the Royal Navy in both World Wars, but it was in 1919 that 52 German vessels were scuttled here (the ships were deliberately sunk, on the orders of the German commander, rather than being divided among the Allied nations), with seven still remaining on the seabed.
Did you know?
- Try a dive with Kraken Diving at the Churchill Barriers where the wrecks of blockships are only a few metres from shore in shallow water. With a fully qualified instructor, you don't have to dive to the depths!
- There's some amazing marine life to see in the clean, cool waters, including many fish, crabs, anemones, starfish and sea urchins.
- Many more unforgettable island adventures await. Why not try a sea-kayak tour with Sea Kayak 59 or chase the waves on a surf board at Skaill Bay?
Plan a diving experience in Orkney.
With so many places to visit across Scotland, will you head to one of your favourites or try somewhere new?
Plan your trip to Orkney now.