A comparatively short walk with big views across the inner and outer North Isles, and west along Rousay’s dramatic northern coast.
Rousay is often referred to as ‘The Egypt of the North’. The sheer density of archaeological remains in the island is staggering, even by Orkney’s high standards.
A walk around Faraclett Head may feel like a wander into one of the island’s remoter corners, but even here there are constant reminders of human activity spanning back across the millennia.
Start at the small parking area at the junction just before the farm of Faraclett.
Go directly uphill and through a metal gate to cross a small field before passing through a second metal gate.
From here, bear slightly to your right to head northwest, diagonally across this larger field, making your way over, or skirting around, a slight outcrop. From here, the views begin to open up back across the Holm of Scockness to Egilsay and the distinctive tower of St Magnus Church.
Cross the obvious, well-made stone stile in the drystone dyke, before turning sharply left to skirt around the slopes, following the wooden posts, which soon become visible as you head west (the signposted track keeps to a route slightly to the left and lower down the slope than the one shown on OS maps, though the latter does also appear to exist – partially at least).
After around 400m pass through a wooden kissing gate, where you come across the remains of a pair of chambered cairns. A number of upright stones stand among the distinctive outlines. The flora here changes from rough grazing to heather-clad hillside. In summer, the colours of red lousewort, yellow bog asphodel and purple devil’s bit scabious compete for your eye.
As you continue northwest you’ll get increasingly fine views west along the dramatic coast of Saviskaill Bay towards Wasbister as well as the distinctive terraced slopes of shapely Kierfea Hill.
As the path turns right to head northeast, don’t be tempted to leave the narrow but well-defined route. Steep, grassy slopes and overhanging cliffs below make a dangerous combination.
After around 500 metres follow the faint track that branches right towards an obvious wooden post on the skyline, from where you’ll see a large stone cairn which marks the northern summit of Faraclett Head.
The views from here are superb: to the west the Atlantic, north the island of Westray, east to Eday, Stronsay and Sanday.
Summer skies are filled with a variety of birds, from arctic terns and the piratical great skua - or ‘bonxie’ - to snipe, skylark and peregrine.
Follow the faint track north northeast, keeping to the right of a small drystone sheep shelter before turning right to head east, following the line of wooden posts. The fertile fields of Scockness start to come into view – impossibly green after the brown and beige hues of the hill ground.
The track drops over two of the distinctive grassy terraces before heading through a wooden kissing gate then over a stile which crosses a drystone dyke. Head south along the broad terrace, passing the faint remains of a probable burial cairn before crossing a wooden stile over another drystone dyke.
Continuing south, turn left at the low point in this field to follow the faint footings of a stone dyke to reach the Yatenes Stone. The great standing stone was quarried from the nearby slope. Legend says that each New Year morning, just after midnight, the stone would go for a drink at the nearby Loch of Scokness.
Return directly uphill to continue on your route south. Look for a final wooden post at the corner of a broken stone dyke before carrying on directly across the field to pass through a small gate around 100m west of the farm of Faraclett.
From here head roughly south southwest to reach the second of the two metal gates that you passed through at the start of the walk and return directly to the parking place.
Visit the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website for more information and advice on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
- Places of interest
Rousay is home to some incredible archaeology with a collection of more than 150 ancient sites. A mile-long stretch on the south west coastline showcases some of these attractions, including the Iron Age Midhowe Broch, the 5000-year-old Midhowe Chambered Cairn – housed in an imposing hangar – and the excavations at Swandro. The Knowe of Yarso and Blackhammer Cairn also provide a perfect glimpse of Orkney’s history. There's also an excellent heritage centre close to the island pier.
The west and north coasts offer other terrific walking routes - Sacquoy Head is a fantastic locatios. Another path following an old peat track takes you inland to Muckle Water, the largest loch in Rousay, and the Trumland RSPB reserve is well worth a visit too. The 13-mile road which encircles the island is perfect for an active family cycle and is home to the annual Rousay Lap event for runners, walkers and cyclists.
The Rousay Crafthub is an excellent example of the close links between Rousay and the neighbouring islands of Egilsay and Wyre, showcasing arts and crafts from all three communities.
- Food & drink
The Taversoe is the local pub and restaurant, found west of the pier, and there’s a well-stocked shop at the north east corner of the island.
- Transport & services
Daily ferries connect Rousay and Tingwall on the Orkney Mainland. View timetables on the Orkney Ferries website. Orkney's number six bus service runs between Kirkwall and Tingwall daily. View the full timetable on the Orkney Islands Council website.
Bike hire is available from Trumland Farm - phone 01856 821 252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for availability and booking.
Public toilets are available at the Rousay pier. Petrol and diesel are available from the island shop too.