East Mainland

The Covenanters' Memorial in Deerness

The Covenanters' Memorial in Deerness

The beach at Dingieshowe in Deerness

The beach at Dingieshowe in Deerness

The island of Copinsay from Holm

The island of Copinsay from Holm

The village of St Mary's in Holm

The village of St Mary's in Holm

The route to Mull Head and the Gloup in Deerness

The route to Mull Head and the Gloup in Deerness

Berstane Bay, St Ola

Berstane Bay, St Ola

The cliffs and coastline at Mull Head

The cliffs and coastline at Mull Head

Newark Bay in Deerness

Newark Bay in Deerness

This area east and south east of Kirkwall is cattle country with its low-lying fertile farmland. It may not have a world heritage site but there are plenty of historical sites and attractive villages to explore.

The parish of St Andrews has a well-used community hall and a vibrant school. Near the hall, Mine Howe is a privately owned ancient sunken chamber below a mound. You can descend into the mysterious subterranean space down a steep stone staircase. Archaeologists have speculated about the purpose of the chamber which is surrounded by a ditch.

The area of Tankerness has good beaches for seeing seals and birds such as Arctic terns, and the Loch of Tankerness where oystercatchers, lapwings and curlews breed. The discovery of a charred hazelnut shell in 2007 in a Bronze Age mound in Tankerness was exciting evidence of Mesolithic activity in Orkney and was dated to 6820-6660 BC.

On the road to the peninsula of Deerness is Dingieshowe, a sandy isthmus where a mound is the site of a Viking parliament, known as a ting. Deerness has a shop and scattered dwellings. Drive on to the car park at the Gloup and you can see this blowhole and walk on to the Brough of Deerness if you can brave the narrow cliff track to the site of an early monastery and chapel ruins. Carry on the spectacular cliff path and you reach Mull Head, a scenic headland crowded with seabirds in summer with its World War One gunnery range. Further on again is the Covenanters’ Memorial tower erected to the memory of 200 religious prisoners who were being transported to the American colonies and lost their lives when they were shipwrecked in 1679. More tracks can be followed for a circular route back to the car park.

On the road back to Kirkwall is the harbour village of St Mary’s in Holm which was a prosperous fishing centre for the herring industry. It is now cut off from the North Sea by the Churchill Barriers.

Inside Explore Orkney

Kirkwall

Kirkwall

Orkney's capital dates back to Norse times, in the 11th century, when it was called Kirkjuvagr (church of the bay).

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Stromness

Stromness

Quaint closes and narrow old streets huddled between stone buildings of historical interest is the delight that is Stromness. Orkney’s second largest town is an architectural gem that inspires artists and writers and is a favourite with visitors. T…

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West Mainland

West Mainland

The west mainland of Orkney is home to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site which is one of the most important areas in Britain for archaeological remains. Here are the famous standing stones of Ring of Brodgar and Stenness and Ma…

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South Ronaldsay

South Ronaldsay

The largest settlement outside Kirkwall in the east is the attractive harbour village of St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. Here a catamaran ferry runs to Gill’s Bay near John o’ Groats. There is an art gallery and craft shop, hotels, an aw…

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Burray

Burray

Burray is a small island linked to the east mainland of Orkney and South Ronaldsay by the Churchill Barriers. Once only accessible by boat and a farming and fishing community, it is now linked by the causeways. It has a population of around 350, a pr…

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Eday

Eday

Eday is at the centre of Orkney’s North Isles and has a rich heritage and history to explore as well as being at the forefront of research for the modern renewable energy industry. Eight miles long, Eday is home to 150 people who are vastly outnum…

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Flotta

Flotta

If you want to see Stromness and Kirkwall at the same time you need to head for Flotta in the South Isles. There are fantastic panoramic views around Scapa Flow from this flattish island. Flotta was at the centre of the Royal Naval anchorage during …

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Hoy and Graemsay

Hoy and Graemsay

Orkney’s second largest island Hoy dramatically rises from the sea with mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, appearing more like a highland landscape than a typical Orkney low-lying island. The Vikings named it High Island and Orkney’s highe…

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North Ronaldsay

North Ronaldsay

Seaweed eating sheep, an Old Beacon featured on prime time television and the flight path for thousands of migratory birds have all helped put North Ronaldsay on the map. It’s a small island and the most isolated and northerly of Orkney’s populat…

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Papa Westray

Papa Westray

Take the world’s shortest scheduled flight and see northern Europe’s oldest house on one of Orkney’s smallest inhabited islands with a big community heart. Papa Westray is one of the last places in the UK where you can experience being part of …

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Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre

Rousay has many major archaeological delights as the coast at Westness was an important power base from the Iron Age until the 19th century. The coast from Midhowe Cairn and Broch to Westness Farm is referred to as the most important mile of history …

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Sanday

Sanday

Sanday by name and sandy by nature, the largest island of Orkney’s North Isles is 16 miles long and has a population of around 550. Sandy bays and dunes form part of the low-lying coast though the gentle landscape was not without its dangers in the…

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Shapinsay

Shapinsay

Shapinsay is only a 25-minute ferry ride from Kirkwall but the atmosphere of a small Orkney island can be soaked up even before you step ashore. There is a splendid panorama of Shapinsay’s attractive village and castle and the lighthouse on Helliar…

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Stronsay

Stronsay

Stronsay is a beautiful island to visit and to live on with magical sandy beaches backed by dunes, a stunning coastline with interesting rock formations and a main settlement with grand houses dating back to the herring fishery days. There is a stro…

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Westray

Westray

Westray is known as the Queen o’ the Isles and is a vibrant place to live, work and visit. With a healthy population of 600 including 75 school age children, much of Westray’s recent vitality and prosperity has been nurtured by the Westray Develo…

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