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  • Saviskaill bay, Rousay - image by Max Fletcher

Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre

A small cluster of islands north of Kirkwall, each with its own distinct character and charm
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Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre

  • This small cluster of islands to the north of Kirkwall holds many delights and surprises for the visitor. They have great significance in shaping Orkney's archaeological heritage and each has its own distinct character and charm.

    Known as the 'Egypt of the North', Rousay's history and heritage is revealed in over 150 archaeological sites. In fact, the coast from Midhowe Broch - a 5,000-year-old chambered tomb - to Westness, which was an important power base from the Iron Age until the 19th century, is considered to be the most important mile of history in Scotland.

    A 13-mile road circles the island, making it a great place for cycling. Your journey will take in dramatic cliff tops, a bird population of around 70 species and a riot of colour courtesy of Orkney's wild flowers that burst into life from early spring.

    Across the sound to the east, the tiny islands of Egilsay and Wyre keep Rousay company. Egilsay was an important destination for pilgrims. A 12th century Norse church with its distinct Viking round tower identifies the site of the martyrdom of St Magnus in 1117. Much of the island is an RSPB reserve, home to families of birds and animals. For seal watching, head for Wyre. The island also has an intriguing history, with a castle built by legendary Viking giant Cubbie Roo and a heritage centre open to visitors.

    All three islands can be accessed by ferry from Tingwall.

  • Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre are close neighbours which means the regular ferry service is perfect for island hopping.

    The ro-ro route operates from Tingwall in Orkney's West Mainland, running to and from the three islands on a daily basis. Make sure you book in advance, especially during the summer months. A number of sailings to Egilsay and Wyre have to be reserved in advance too, so do double check the timetable for all the latest information.