• Marwick Head, Orkney - image by VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Get out and about in Orkney

From beautiful beaches to craggy coasts, Orkney has something for everyone.

We'd always recommend getting outside and experiencing the Orkney elements when you can.

Across the islands there are walks, viewpoints and new locations just ready to be explored. We’ve picked nine of our favourites for extra inspiration.

The Churchill Barriers, East Mainland

These four concrete causeways were built to protect Scapa Flow from German U-boat attacks during the Second World War; now they’ve become vital links between the Orkney mainland, Burray and South Ronaldsay. They also help create an epic road trip with beautiful sea views and plenty of history en-route. One of our favourite stops is at the start of the 3rd Barrier. There you’ll find a small car park and steps down to a beautiful beach in the shadow of the nearby causeway. A rusting old blockship sits in the bright blue water in front of you, and the beach curves back along the coast – it's just the perfect place to walk, and to relax.

Vat of Kirbister, Stronsay

Island hopping is one of Orkney’s great adventures. All our island communities are different but a friendly welcome is always guaranteed. Stronsay has an abundance of bays, beaches and wildlife, and the walk to the natural rock arch at the Vat of Kirbister is a real highlight. It’s a stunning stretch of coastline, and at the Vat itself you can see birds skimming over the surface into the collapsed sea-cave and wonderful wildflowers on the banks.

Stromness and Warebeth, West Mainland

If you’re feeling fit then the walk from Stromness along the coast to Warebeth is a must. The route takes you through the town's flagstone streets, past the old piers, houses and an excellent array of shops, out to a relatively flat coastal path. Take in the stunning views across to the Hoy hills and the fantastically rocky shoreline as you walk, then carry on until you reach the sandy beach at Warebeth. Depending on the weather, you can soak up the sun or watch the Atlantic rollers crash ashore before making your way back to the town.

The Old Man of Hoy, Hoy

This famous site needs no introduction. The Old Man of Hoy dominates the west coast of this dramatic island. The walk from the magnificent Rackwick takes you through an RSPB reserve with plenty of birdlife to spot, then eventually to amazing views of this 450ft-high stack of red sandstone. Head north to the top of St John’s Head, the highest vertical sea cliff in the UK, to take in one of the best vistas in Orkney, too.

Brough of Birsay, West Mainland

This island off the west coast of the Orkney mainland can only be reached by a causeway at low tide, but it’s worth the wait. Explore the rockpools and the sea life left behind by the retreating tide as you cross over, then climb up the steps onto the Brough itself to walk around the remains of a Norse settlement. Hike to the island’s lighthouse for stunning views of the Atlantic, and you can even see puffins between May and August. Remember to make your way back over the causeway before the tide comes in – tide times are available to view on our Today page or at the Visit Scotland Information Centre in Kirkwall.

Mull Head, East Mainland

This is one of our favourite places to blow away the cobwebs. A local nature reserve, Mull Head offers sea views, wildlife and plenty of natural and historical attractions. Walking routes in the area take in the Gloup, a huge collapsed sea-cave, and the Brough of Deerness, complete with the remains of a tiny Norse chapel and settlement. The downward section of path approaching the Brough itself is steep and is prone to erosion and landslips, which Orkney Islands Council monitors regularly. Take extra care when using this path and make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear and are physically fit. There is also a small visitor centre which has more information on the history of the reserve and recommendations on things to see and do in the area.

Tresness, Sanday

There’s nothing quite like a stroll on a sandy beach to help you relax and enjoy the outdoors. The aptly-named island of Sanday is the ideal destination if that sounds like your idea of bliss. There are plenty of beaches to visit here, but the white sand dunes at Tresness just about trump them all. Walk across Cata Sand to this thin strip of land and its curving shoreline, with azure blue seas in the summer and a brisk coastal breeze to clear the head.

Marwick Head, West Mainland

These towering cliffs on the west coast of the mainland offer incredible views and the stunning sight of swirling seabirds during the summer months. Take the walk up the coast from Marwick Bay for the full effect, climbing to the top of the 285ft headland. You’ll see the Kitchener and HMS Hampshire memorials and the largest seabird colony in the Orkney mainland. The summer months bring colourful wildflowers, with autumn and winter showcasing the wildness of Orkney's Atlantic coast.

Costa Head, West Mainland

This is a location well off the beaten track. Costa Head can be found at the north west tip of the Orkney mainland and features huge cliffs, dramatic coastline and one of the best sea-stacks in the islands. The Standard juts out dramatically from the sea, just one of the attractions of a walk in the area. Costa is also part of the St Magnus Way, a 51-mile walking route through Orkney’s history.

The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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