• Yesnaby, Orkney

Wild walks in Orkney

Fancy a wild walk in Orkney this autumn and winter? We've picked some of our favourite places to experience the elements over the coming months.

When wild weather hits, most people retreat indoors to a warm fire and a hot drink.

Here in Orkney, we’d always recommend taking a different approach. There is nothing quite like being on a beach or walking along a coastal path when the wind is blowing and the sea spray is splashing against your skin.

Here are our favourite spots for an autumn or winter wander, perfect for getting rid of the cobwebs and awakening the senses.

This is a special place to be all year round. In the autumn and winter months you'll have waves booming off the cliffs below; during the summer there will be thousands of seabirds swirling above the sea. And the beautiful lighthouse that marks the north-western tip of the Orkney archipelago is a constant presence. Hop on the ferry or plane from Kirkwall and head to Westray, one of our largest islands. Visit this RSPB reserve and follow the cliff-top paths for stunning views of natural arches and the lighthouse itself, built in 1898.

Sanday is famous for its beaches and you'll find plenty of options here in autumn to help you get away from it all. This beach, at Tresness on the east coast of the island, is one of the best. Wrap up warm and dodge the North Sea as it rolls ashore on the spotless sand. The dunes provide perfect shelter too if you want to sit back and listen to the sea and wind.

This is one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in the islands. Yesnaby is found in-between Stromness and Skara Brae on the west coast of the mainland and should be on everyone's 'must see' list. Head out on the path to the Brough of Bigging for mesmerising views north and south. During a westerly gale, expect huge waves crashing onto the cliffs and dark skies with rain clouds passing through. Further south you’ll pass rocky inlets full of sea foam before arriving at the Castle of Yesnaby, a fragile sea-stack. Don’t venture too close to the edge at Yesnaby – just enjoy the sights and sounds from a safe distance.

If you're an early bird then a morning visit to Dingieshowe in the east mainland is highly recommended. Watch the low autumn or winter sun rise in the east, brightening up the sea and sand at this beautiful beach. There's also a good chance you'll be carefully watched by a seal or two in the surf. Dingieshowe boasts an excellent nearby coastal walk too, so make sure you take the time to explore the area.

This spectacular stretch of coastline is relatively undiscovered, with most visitors to the island heading north to see the famous Old Man of Hoy. Don't miss this Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve though - it boasts cliffs, caves, sea-stacks, geos, natural arches and much, much more. It’s a remote and wild place, and you’ll probably have it all to yourself.

These huge 87-metre-high cliffs climb sharply out of the sea on the west coast of the Orkney mainland. You can either walk to the top of the headland from the nearby Marwick Bay or take the shorter route from the small car park at Cumlaquoy. Either way, you'll be greeted with some of the finest coastal views in the islands. There's plenty of history to be had here too, with the Kitchener and HMS Hampshire Memorial towering above the sea.

This could possibly be the best place in Orkney to clear the head and connect with nature. Rackwick is an old crofting community tucked away on the west coast of Hoy, at the end of a valley of glens and hills, with huge sandstone cliffs looming on either side. A rocky beach with a sliver of golden sand greets huge rolling waves during the winter months. You can walk here and back in a day, taking advantage of the passenger ferry from Stromness. It’s a place you won’t forget in a hurry.

This is a very unique place, even for Orkney. The tiny island is only accessible at low tide, when the sea retreats to reveal a concrete causeway, criss-crossing its way across the shore. The whole coastline in the surrounding area is fascinating, but a trip to the Brough itself lets you explore the remains of Pictish and Norse settlements, with the west side of the island dropping off dramatically into the Atlantic. Remember to check, double check and triple check the tide times so you don’t get stuck.

Windwick is another quiet spot but it’s well worth taking a trip off the main tourist trail. Visit in November and you’ll be greeted by the cries of hundreds of new-born seal pups on the rocky shore below. The area is part of a fantastic coastal route, stretching from the south of the island to the beach at Eastside in the north. Windwick has its own sea-stack and craggy coastline to enjoy.


If you're interested in visiting Orkney this autumn then check out our range of itineraries, ideas and special offers to help you start your journey.

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