Orkney Islands Destination Guide

Explore / United Kingdom / Orkney Islands
Explore Orkney Islands Beaches and Coast

The Orkney Islands are a collection of around 70 islands situated about 10 km off the north-eastern tip of Scotland. Most of the population lives on the largest island, known as the 'mainland', but several other islands such as Shapinsay, Gairsay, Stronsay and Eday, to name but a few, are also inhabited all year round.

This is an ancient place as there is evidence of humans living in Orkney for over 6,000 years. You'll find a great number of archaeological sites here, where you can explore everything from Neolithic tombs to Viking settlements. Some truly ancient sites, such as Skara Brae on mainland Orkney, have been given World Heritage Status.

The landscape of Orkney is mainly low-lying and its gentle hills, heather heathlands, lochs and abundant wildflower meadows attract visitors all year round. You won't find the climate that cold in Orkney, as its temperature doesn't tend to fluctuate that much between summer and winter. But it is windy so do bring a hat whatever the time of year!

Thousands of seabirds nest around the Orkney cliffs during the summer providing a big attraction to visitors. You can also see other birds such as puffin, swallow, hen harriers and many more in this part of Scotland. Seals bask on the skerries and shores around Orkney and often a stroll along the beach will mean you can catch sight of one.

Capital of Orkney is the town of Kirkwall and it has many gift and craft shops to explore among its narrow streets or visit the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral, which has an amazing vaulted ceiling. Another town worth seeing is Stromness, historically known for its fishing trade route with Canada, and is situated among the dramatic backdrop of the Hills of Hoy.

Orkney Islands Coast Map


Want some ideas on where to visit?

Every favourite location must be visited for the first time. Want some ideas, why not check out the below small selection of coastal locations, including beaches, activities, things to see and do, and places to stay and eat:

Backaskaill Bay Beach

Place Tags: Beaches

North Ronaldsay Lighthouse

Place Tags: Cafes and Lighthouses

Old Beacon Lighthouse

Place Tags: Lighthouses

St Mary’s Chapel

Place Tags: History - Heritage

South Bay Beach

Place Tags: Beaches

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre

Evie Sands Beach

Place Tags: Beaches

Sands of Wright Beach

Place Tags: Beaches

The Old Man of Hoy

Place Tags: Outdoors - Nature

Bay of Skaill Beach

Place Tags: Beaches

Mine Howe

Broch of Burrian

Place Tags: History - Heritage