• The coastline at Yesnaby, Orkney

Wild walks in Orkney

Fancy a wild walk in Orkney this autumn and winter? We've picked some of our favourite trails, paths and viewpoints across the islands, perfect for blowing away the cobwebs 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 something different. There is nothing quite like a walk on a beach or a stroll along a coastal path when the wind is blowing and the sea spray splashes against your skin!

Here are our favourite spots for an autumn or winter wander…

Noup Head, Westray

Noup Head lighthouse in Westray - image by Virginie Chabrol

Waves booming off the cliffs below, thousands of swirling seabirds and a beautiful lighthouse marking the north-western tip of the Orkney archipelago – Noup Head is a pretty special place! 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.

Hill of White Hamars, South Walls

Part of the coastline at the Hill of White Hamars nature reserve in South Walls

This spectacular stretch of coastline is relatively undiscovered, with most visitors to the island heading north to see the famous Old Man of Hoy. The Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve has 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.

Brough of Birsay, West Mainland

The Brough of Birsay in Orkney

This is a VERY unique place in Orkney! The tiny island is only accessible at low tide, when the sea retreats to reveal a concrete causeway, criss-crossing its way along 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!

Rackwick, Hoy

Rackwick bay in Hoy, Orkney

Quite simply, this is arguably the most beautiful place in Orkney. The old crofting community is found at the end of a valley of glens and hills, with huge sandstone cliffs looming on either side. A rocky beach with a tiny sliver of golden sand greets huge rolling waves during the winter months, and the whole place is shrouded in history. Visit the Cra'as Nest Museum to get a feel for what Rackwick was like in the years gone by. You can also walk here and back in day, taking advantage of the passenger ferry from Stromness. It’s a place you won’t forget in a hurry.

Windwick, South Ronaldsay

The rugged coastline of Windwick in South Ronaldsay, Orkney - image by Fiona Annal

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. In the summer you can visit the nearby Olav’s Wood, a beautiful patch of woodland, and The Cairns archaeological dig too.

Mull Head, East Mainland

Part of the coastline at Mull Head in Orkney's east mainland

This remote part of the Orkney mainland contains plenty of hidden gems – perfect for a bracing winter walk! Mull Head itself is a nature reserve with hundreds of acres of grassland and amazing coastal scenery. The path to Mull Head takes in the Gloup, a collapsed sea cave, and the Brough of Deerness, complete with its rock-cut steps and the remains of an ancient Norse settlement. Mull Head is definitely one of the best places in Orkney for sea-watching, whatever the time of year.

Yesnaby, West Mainland

Yesnaby Castle sea-stack on the Orkney mainland's west coast - image by Fiona Annal

We’ve saved the best for last. Yesnaby features the most spectacular stretch of coastline in the islands. 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. Be careful and don’t venture too close to edge at Yesnaby – just enjoy the sights and sounds from a safe distance.

What next

Plan your trip to Orkney and search our accommodation options.

Read all about our wildlife attractions this autumn and winter.

Explore our autumn recommendations for a short break in Orkney.

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