Sanday Central Circular

Sanday is a stunning island to visit for a cycle.

It has plenty of options for cyclists of all abilities and this broadly circular route tours the centre of the island, with a beautiful beach or two and plenty of potential refreshment stops to keep all ages happy.

Grading: 2
Option to shorten Yes
Option to extend Yes
OS Landranger 5

For those of a modest fitness, or with children, the distance between the ferry terminal and the heart of the island means you may want to opt for pre-booked cycle hire from the Community Shop in the village of Lady. The island’s bus can also be booked to drop you here and pick you up again in time for the ferry back to Kirkwall.

Starting at the Sanday Community Shop, head southeast past the Heritage Centre and Croft House Museum. Both are well worth a visit, along with the nearby reconstruction of a Neolithic burnt mound. Check the opening times to decide if it’s best to take this in at the beginning or end of your cycle.

Just beyond the Heritage Centre is a crossroads with the island’s war memorial. Turn right here to pick up the road which takes you 2km around the head of the beautiful Otterswick Bay. This shallow bay provides a sheltered anchorage and was once protected by a military gun battery at Colliness (to your right, as viewed from the road), guarding against possible French and American 19th century raiders.

As the road turns back inland from the bay you’ll arrive at a T-junction. Turn left here to rise gently uphill towards the scattered settlement of Broughtown, with fine views across the Ness of Brough and the North Sound towards Westray and Papa Westray. After around 2km you’ll pass a well-stocked shop on the right-hand side, offering an ideal spot to re-energise small legs.

Keep heading south on this same road for another 1km or so. As you reach the summit of a low hill, you’ll see the large farm buildings of How Farm on the right. Immediately before this turn right to head down a small side road leading to a cemetery. Just beyond this lies the fabulous beach of Backaskaill – just one of a number of fine stretches of sand for which the island is famed.

Head back up to the junction with the main road, turning right for a gentle descent to the village of Kettletoft. There was a major herring fishery based here in the late 19th/early 20th century and it was the island’s ferry port until the early 1990s and the introduction of the roll-on/roll-off service. There are two public houses in the village both of which serve food, though do check in advance for opening times and availability.

Head back up the hill past How Farm. After a further 400m take the road on the right, sign-posted Lady Village. This leads you around the head of Kettletoft Bay and past the tidal inlet of the Little Sea (in the area you'll also find our Elsness and Quoyness Chambered Cairn walking route). Around 2km down this road you’ll come to the old Lady Kirk. There’s a stone staircase that runs up the exterior of this ruined church and at the top you’ll find the Devil’s Clawmarks, where Old Nick’s six digits are said to have left the deep gouges in the soft sandstone.

Carry on along the road as it takes a sharp left before winding the last 1km or so past the roofless remains of the once grand house of Geramount to arrive back at the village of Lady.

  • Plan your trip to Sanday

    Daily ferries connect Sanday and Kirkwall. View timetables and book online via the Orkney Ferries website. Booking in advance is recommended, and bikes can be carried for free.

    You can also fly to the island with Loganair's inter-isles service. Visit the Loganair website to view the current timetable.

    The Sanday Bus offers on-demand transport across the island and a ferry connection service.

    There are two public toilets available in Sanday – one at the island's ferry terminal at Loth, and another at the pier in Kettletoft.

    Find out more about Sanday on the island's Explore page, or visit the official island website.

  • Food & drink

    There are two pubs in the village of Kettletoft that offer food and drink, the Kettletoft Hotel and The Belsair. Do check opening times in advance if you're planning on stopping past for refreshments.

    The popular 59 Degrees North Pizzeria is found to the north west of the island and offers excellent pizzas and more.

    There are also two well-stocked shops in Sanday, the Sanday Community Shop in Lady village, and Sinclair's General Stores close to the island's school.

This cycle route information was funded through the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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