Sanday by name and sandy by nature, the largest island of Orkney’s North Isles has beautiful sandy bays and dunes, turquoise seas and a gentle, fertile landscape.
Sanday is sixteen miles long and has a population of around 550. It is a low-lying island which led to problems in the past, as ships foundered on the reefs and rocks, unable to see the shore. The first Start Point lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson and completed in 1807. It was rebuilt in 1870 and painted with distinctive stripes and is now a magnet for lighthouse baggers.
History lovers are drawn to Sanday too as the island has a high density of ancient and Viking structures and tombs. One of the most stunning discoveries was a Viking boat burial which contained the skeletons of an elderly woman, a younger man and a child. A rich find of grave goods included weapons, a Celtic brooch, a sickle and an elaborate and well preserved carved whalebone plaque which is on display now in the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.
At Quoyness you can explore a Neolithic tomb and there is much else on the island. Leaflets about the archaeology are available and about wildlife, flora and shells. Seabirds, terns and wading birds are in abundance as are seals. Sanday is well known for its shells. The Sanday Ranger hosts many guided walks of special interest too. There is a new heritage centre and croft and other leisure facilities include a swimming pool, nine hole golf course and many social and special interest clubs which meet regularly. The island also has Heilsa Fjold - a youth and community centre.
A major date in the calendar is the Sanday Show in August when animals raised on the fertile land are shown and prizes awarded. The community has also organised a series of weekend events in recent years to celebrate life in the island called the Sanday Soulka.
Sanday’s main settlements are Kettletoft and Lady. There are hotels, guest houses, shops, a hostel, camping, self-catering cottages and a good range of eateries. There are flights from Kirkwall six days a week or you can take the car ferry. Car and bike hire and taxis are all available, and the island also has an on-demand bus service.
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