Walking in Orkney

Stretch your legs, fill your lungs with fresh island air and take in the stunning views. With mile upon mile of beautiful rolling countryside, breathtaking coastlines, and countless pristine beaches, Orkney is a paradise for walkers of all ages and abilities.

Much of Orkney is low lying, making it an ideal place to pull on a pair of walking boots and tackle a trail or two. Our richly varied landscape ensures that even the shortest of walks can take you through a variety of habitats, each with its own unique vistas and soundscapes.

As an island community, it’s not surprising that coastal walks are where we excel. Our western coast – running from Noup Head in Westray, down through Rousay, the Orkney Mainland and into Hoy – is rightly renowned for its rugged natural beauty. But there are other fabulous areas of coast to be walked throughout the archipelago.

For those looking for a multi-day walking experience, the St Magnus Way offers a fabulous route, which takes in a wide variety of local landscape and places of interest.

We’ve tried to bring together some of our favourite walks, ranging from an hour or two’s gentle stroll, to more challenging routes which will take the best part of a full day. We'll continue to add new routes regularly, covering most parts of the islands.

Find your next Orkney walk

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Walking in Orkney

Hopefully our selected walking routes will give you the opportunity to explore Orkney and experience our incredible outdoor environment. We want you to enjoy your walks here, but more importantly we want you to be safe. Take a look at our sections below for more safety and responsible travel information before setting off on your Orkney walks.

  • The Scottish Outdoor Access Code

    Walking in Orkney takes you through a living landscape, one where agriculture is the dominant form of land use. Many of the routes make use of farm tracks or run alongside fields used for livestock or growing crops. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code sets out the rights and responsibilities of anyone going into Scotland’s outdoors. The code is based on three key principles:

    • Respect for the interests of others
    • Care for the environment
    • Take responsibility for your own actions

    We’d ask anyone planning on accessing the outdoors during their visit to Orkney to familiarise themselves with the code and take a look at our top tips for being safe and responsible in Orkney's countryside:

    • Pick up litter, taking it home with you or using any bins provided
    • Keep your dog on a lead around farmland and livestock, and clean up after pets too
    • Avoid lighting fires or BBQs on moorland or in the countryside, and if you do have a BBQ or bonfire on a beach, please clean up afterwards
    • Stick to designated walking and cycling routes when you’re out exploring, and be respectful of private property
    • Use gates where they’re provided and, if they’re closed when you find them, close them again after passing through
    • Avoid disturbing any natural flora, fauna or wildlife habitats
  • Safety and emergency information

    We want you to enjoy our walking routes and all the scenery they offer, but it's vitally important you take care whilst you're out and about - particularly around our coastal and cliff paths. Keep well away from the edge of cliffs, and bear in mind that even a short fall can cause serious injury, or worse. Orkney’s geology means that cliffs can be brittle, overhanging and prone to collapse, as well as extremely slippery when wet.

    We'd also recommend letting someone know where you're going, when and how long you plan to be away, especially if your walk takes in a coastal route.

    Orkney’s maritime climate means that weather conditions can change very quickly, and the wide-open landscape can leave you very exposed to the elements. Even in summertime, bringing waterproof clothing is recommended along with an extra layer or two. Check the weather forecast before leaving to make sure you can be prepared for whatever the elements throw at you.

    Also, with livestock being the main form of agriculture, taking water from streams and watercourses is not recommended. Carry enough water with you, particularly for longer walks.

    If you do get in trouble, or see somebody else in difficulty, then call 999 or 112 immediately. For situations on or around the coast, ask the operator for ‘Coastguard’. For most situations inland ask for ‘Police’, though if in doubt the emergency operator will help direct you to the appropriate service.

    For anyone planning on exploring Orkney's outdoors, we would recommend downloading and familiarising yourself with the What3Words app. It provides a quick and easy way of giving emergency services an exact location anywhere in the world.

  • How we've graded our walks/detailed terrain

    We’ve looked to grade each walk in terms of difficulty, taking into account factors such as terrain, ascent, navigation and general conditions underfoot.

    Experienced walkers with a reasonable level of fitness are unlikely to find they have problems with any of the routes that we’ve described. If you’re slightly less sure of your abilities or fitness level then you may want to stick to routes graded at Level 1 or 2. Do remember though that grading is very much a subjective process, and if you find a route is more challenging than expected then there’s no shame in turning back. Do please get in touch if you feel the grading of any of our routes needs reviewed.

    There are few gravel or hardcore paths in Orkney, and most routes will see you walking for much of the time on grass or coastal heath. Be aware that conditions can get wet, muddy and slippy – particularly outwith summer months.

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