Orkney’s Coastlines

  • Saturday 2nd Sunday 3rd July 2022
  • Mainland Orkney

Our time in Orkney was almost up but still we had so many places to visit so off we went trying to fit it all in.

Firstly we visited the Brough of Deerness a walking route around some craggy coastlines offering beautiful views out over the North Sea.

Views over the North Sea

The walk began at The Gloup, a dramatic collapsed sea-cave separated from the sea by a land bridge about 80 yards wide. It drops down around 80 feet, with the sea crashing in through the blow hole. The name comes from the Old Norse “gluppa” – a chasm.

The Gloup

From here we continued to walk until we eventually came to the Brough itself, a rocky outcrop almost completely detached from the mainland.

We clambered down the steps to the base of the Brough and saw a beautiful rocky bay on one side and a lovely calming geo on the other.

How stunning is that?

We then continued over the rock-cut steps and up onto the Brough, using the rope chained into the rock and from here we visited the small 11th century Norse chapel on top and saw the remains of other buildings dating back as far as 600BC.

The Brough is perfect for taking a second to soak up the scenery.

11th Century Norse Chapel
Heading back out

We then headed to The Brough of Birsay another island off the north west mainland, upon which is a Viking settlement. Pictish people lived in the brough from the 600’s as traces of their oval houses were found beneath the later Norse buildings.

The Brough of Birsay

This time however we needed no ferry to get us over here as this was a tidal island with spectacular views which is accessed via a concrete causeway and can only be reached for a short period either side of low tide.

Concrete Causeway

We explored the ruins where the Vikings lived and feasted in the 1000’s and then headed to the site of the Pictish people.

Pictish Village
Ruins of church and monestry built in the 1100’s
Viking settlement
The Brough of Birsay Lighthouse – another David A Stevenson lighthouse built in 1925
Sea cairn
Then it was time to leave as the tide was returning
The Brough of Birsay near sunset with the causeway covered up by the sea

We also visited the Earls Palace built in 1574, by Robert Stewart, the Earl of Orkney. Once a building of grandeur, the now delapidated ruin continues to dominate the village of the Palace and its surrounding area.

The Earl’s Palace
The Village

We then went to Yesnaby, which is said to have one of the most spectacular coastlines in the whole of Scotland.

Yesnaby – Hoy in the background

It has cliffs, stacks and arches. Yesnaby Castle a stunning sandstone sea stack sits here. 

A Yesnaby arch
Yesnaby Castle

This sea stack is much smaller than the Old Man of Storr but beautiful all the same.  Some come here to practice their climbing before attempting the Old Man.

Yesnaby Castle – sea stack

We visited the Broch of Borwick an Iron Age settlement thought to have been in use up until 600 AD. The now ruinous broch is set in a dramatic location, perched on the very edge of a cliff.

Can you even spot the Broch from here?
The Broch of Borwick
Not another beautiful sea stack

We then visited the Broch of Gurness, one of the finest and best preserved examples of a broch: a type of Iron Age tower unique to Scotland. The tower was probably occupied by a local chief. Clustered around it we could see a village of houses and workshops, a rare window of opportunity into the lives of Orkneys Iron Age people.

The Broch of Gurness
Iron Age Village
A glimpse inside

Before leaving the Island I had to make one final return to The Italian Chapel, what for I don’t know but I knew I just had to return.

The Italian Chapel

Lastly before boarding the ferry we had one last quick walk through the very beautiful town of Stromness, known as Hamnavoe (Haven Bay) in old Norse. I love this picturesque town with its narrow paved, twisting streets and stone houses with gable-ends facing the sea, many with a small pier or slipway.

The beautiful houses of Stromness

Then on to the ferry we boarded with our lemon curd ice cream cones (my goodness these have to be tried at least 5 times when on Orkney), before setting off, passing by Hoy and saying our final goodbye to the Old Man.

We almost missed the ferry because of this ice cream (and cake)
Stromness Harbour
A glimpse of the hills of Hoy in the background from Stromness

Orkney what a place you are! The dramatic coastlines, shaped by wind and sea provided some stunning views of spectacular cliffs and untamed seas.


These wild and undisturbed coastlines are ideal for walking and getting away from it all….to something much more appealing.

St John’s Head on Hoy – at 1136 feet, is the highest vertical cliff face in the UK

The quietness and the ruggedness of the land for me was very appealing and with such deep history, well it couldn’t get any better.

Dreamy Landscapes

My favourite place still had to be Rackwick and you just never know I may return.

The Ferry, heading for home

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