• Dingieshowe beach, Orkney - image by Premysl Fojtu

East Mainland

The area east and south east of Kirkwall is cattle country, comprising of low lying and fertile farmland. Although the East Mainland doesn't have a World Heritage Site, it does have its own nature reserve, sea caves, beaches, historical sites and attractive villages to explore.
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East Mainland

  • The area east and south east of Kirkwall is cattle country, comprising of low lying and fertile farmland.

    Although the East Mainland doesn't have a World Heritage Site, it does have its own nature reserve, sea caves, beaches, historical sites and attractive villages to explore.

    Head south east from Kirkwall and you’ll come to the small harbour village of St Mary’s, in Holm. Once a prosperous fishing centre for the herring industry, it’s now cut off from the North Sea by the Churchill Barriers, built to protect Scapa Flow during the Second World War. Across the first barrier you can visit the iconic Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners of war during the conflict.

    The area of Tankerness has some great beaches, perfect for seal and birdwatching. You can also visit one of Orkney's most popular jewellery manufacturers in Tankerness, Sheila Fleet, who has created a stunning new showroom, gallery and café, next to her workshop.

    On the road to the peninsula of Deerness you’ll find Dingieshowe, a sandy isthmus with a mound that was once the site of a Viking parliament, known as a ting. Head further east and visit the Gloup, a remarkable blowhole, before walking along a stretch of beautiful coastline to the Brough of Deerness. You might also like to brave the narrow cliff track to the site of an early monastery and chapel ruins.

    Carry on along the spectacular cliff path and you’ll reach Mull Head, a scenic headland crowded with seabirds in summer, and the location of a World War One gunnery range. Further on again is the Covenanters’ Memorial tower, erected to the memory of 200 religious prisoners who were shipwrecked and lost in 1679, while being transported to the American colonies.