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  • Common and grey seals in Orkney - image by Raymond Besant

Nature

These islands are alive with the sights and sounds of nature.

For wildlife enthusiasts there's no place in the British Isles quite like Orkney.

Throughout the seasons, there is always something new to discover about wild Orkney. Everywhere you go, you'll have our pristine natural world for company on your journey.

Orkney has long been a haven for wildlife. Towering sea cliffs are home to thousands of birds – puffins, guillemots, gulls, gannets and kittiwakes can all be seen here – while our marshlands and sweeping moorlands are natural habitats for the likes of curlew, red-throated divers, hen harriers and other birds of prey.

A trip to the island of Hoy could give you a glimpse of a white-tailed or golden eagle, and Orkney is an important stop-off point on migratory routes too, with some spectacular species registered here over the years.

The clean, clear seas surrounding the islands host an incredible range of marine life. Seals can be spotted throughout Orkney, and there are regular sightings of whales, dolphins and orcas. Rock pools teem with life, from limpets and sea urchins, to hermit crabs and starfish, to delight young wildlife enthusiasts.

Back on dry land you’ll find Orkney's natural habitat is about as far from urban living as it's possible to experience. Fertile fields, meadows and verges come alive with crops and wildflowers as spring turns to summer. Keep your eyes peeled and you might see a local otter or the unique Orkney vole, and even a mountain hare or two in Hoy.

A combination of pollution-free air and diverse habitats account for around 500 native plants thriving in Orkney, including the tiny Primula scotica. The summer months bring bursts of colour to the coast, with sea thrift, marsh orchids and red campion in full bloom. And, despite what you may have heard, there are trees in Orkney, with plenty of patches of woodland to explore across the islands – including the UK’s most northerly native woodland at Berriedale.

Amongst all this rich wildlife and varied habitats, you’ll find hundreds of beautiful beaches, bays and geos, and fascinating geology that has been shaped over millions of years. Picture all this played out under a display of the Northern Lights, or Merry Dancers as they’re known here, and you’ll get an idea of what Orkney’s natural world is all about.

Explore just some of what’s on offer through our tabs at the top of this page or take a look at our listings below to find out more about nature and wildlife in Orkney.