• eFoiling in Orkney

Outdoor activities in Orkney

Exploring the great outdoors is definitely a highlight of a visit to Orkney.

With hundreds of miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, and some wonderful wildlife experiences, getting out and about across the islands offers the chance of escapism and relaxation.

But you can also up the adrenaline levels when enjoying our natural environment. Here is our pick of outdoor adventures in Orkney.

Orkney’s many sheltered bays and geos make it the perfect place for a paddle.

Sea kayaking has become increasingly popular here, as folk head out into the calm waters of Scapa Flow, alongside the Churchill Barriers, or even on the wilder west coast, for a different view of the islands.

Sea Kayak 59° North offers guided tours and trips, bringing a wealth of experience and an intimate knowledge of the coastline, making sure your experience out on the water is as safe and memorable as possible.

Orkney is one of the world’s finest diving locations thanks to the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet, scuttled in Scapa Flow after the end of World War One.

These seven wrecks attract experienced divers from around the world every year, but there are more accessible sites too, including the blockships at the Churchill Barriers.

There are a number of charter firms in Orkney that you can book dive weeks with, and Kraken Diving offer a ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ session where beginners can explore the world beneath Orkney’s waves too.

Orkney might not have the hills of the Highlands but there are still plenty of stunning walking routes to tackle during your time in the islands.

Our selection of Orkney walks offers 19 (and counting!) routes with full guides and visitor information. Coastal trails are very much at the forefront, from beach walks in Sanday to clifftop treks in South Ronaldsay. Other routes include RSPB reserves, wartime relics, and the iconic Old Man of Hoy.

If you’d prefer to walk in the company of an expert guide, Megan Taylor from Wild Orkney Walks offers a range of gentle routes showcasing Orkney’s birdlife, flora and fauna.

If you’re looking for a water sport with a difference then e-Foiling should definitely be on your activity list during a holiday in Orkney.

A cross between a surfboard and a jet-ski, eFoils are powered by an electric motor and controlled by a wireless Bluetooth remote, and give the rider the sensation of flying over water.

eFoil Orkney launched in 2023 to offer a range of sessions, with all the gear provided too. It’s a truly unique way of enjoying Orkney’s coasts and waters.

We recently launched our brand-new cycling section, aimed at encouraging visitors to bring their bikes to our island communities and explore a range of beautiful locations. We have picked 12 routes across nine islands, with plenty of options for young folk and more experienced cyclists.

We even have our ‘Hoy on Hoy’ route, named after Olympic champion cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy, who visited his namesake island in 2023 to officially open the Scapa Flow Museum. All our circuits come with full guides and visitor information too so you can make the most of your island-hopping adventure.

If mountain biking is more your thing, you could book a trip with Ride Orkney, who offer guided island adventures on two-wheels, including trips to Flotta, Sanday, Westray, and more. Or, if you'd prefer something slightly more sedate, join newly-launched E-tour Orkney for a guided e-bike route through some of Orkney's most fascinating locations.

Diving tens of metres down to hulking wartime wrecks on the seabed might not be for everyone, but there is another way you can see Orkney’s underwater world.

Join the friendly folk at Kraken Diving for a snorkelling safari in some of Orkney’s safest sea conditions, including the blockship wrecks at the Churchill Barriers, or in areas where marine life is abundant.

They'll be with you during your time in the water to keep you safe and use their expert eyes to point out some of the surrounding sealife.

We’d always recommend heading to Papa Westray during the summer months for a tour of this tiny but vibrant island with local ranger, Jonathon Ford.

If the weather is right, you can also join him for a short cruise to the neighbouring Holm of Papay to visit its Neolithic cairn. You’ll have the island all to yourself, apart from the seals and seabirds, to explore the cairn’s 67ft long subterranean passage, complete with carved decorations and chambers.

And Jonathan always promises to come back to pick you up, honest!

Orkney is a haven for wildlife, from seabirds to seals, and there is always something to see here all-year-round.

There are 13 RSPB reserves here where you can spot puffins, guillemots, gannets, waders, hen harriers, and even white-tailed eagles. Local waters are full of sea life, with seals easily spottable, and orcas, dolphins and whales making regular appearances. There are hundreds of native plants in Orkney and the landscape glows a verdant green during the summer months, when you might be able to spot the tiny Primula scotica too.

And amongst all this wonderful wildlife and habitats, you can explore beautiful beaches and our fascinating geology too.

These are just some of the special experiences you can have in Orkney during your visit to the islands. The best advice is to book in advance as places do fill up quickly, and remember, most are weather dependent, so do make sure to check the forecast and keep in touch with the organisers beforehand.

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