Nearest Things To Do Orkney Islands
Heading to Orkney Islands and looking for something to do or a place to visit nearby. Coast Radar is not just a list of beaches but we bring you the whole Orkney Islands coast including castles, lighthouses, piers, museums, beautiful gardens, seaside towns, National Trust and other heritage properties.
When on an information page you can also use our tools to search for nearby Orkney Islands seaside towns, and the surrounding coast for the best beaches and places to stay and eat.
Finding the best things to see and do on a Orkney Islands day out with your family or friends is easy – simply explore the links below, to find the closest hit the jump to my location compass or use the search bar to plan where your next Orkney Islands activity could be.
- Noltland Castle is a 16th century heavily fortified castle. Built from local, grey sandstone, the castle follows as a typical “Z” plan layout, with a rectangular central structure with a square tower position at diagonally opposite corners. The castle has 7 ft thick walls and the lower floors have no accessible windows. Today, access to the castle is via this courtyard, the arched entrance of which remains today. On the right hand side of the arch, and barely visible, is inscribed the cryptic message: “When I see the blood I will pass over you in the night.”
- The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in the Orkney Islands with a total length of 1.5 miles (2.3 km). They link the Orkney Mainland in the north to the island of South Ronaldsay via Burray and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm. The barriers were built in the 1940s primarily as naval defences to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow but now serve as road links between Kirkwall to Burwick.
- Maes Howe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave and is one of the largest on Orkney. The cairn gives its name to the Maeshowe type of chambered cairn, which is limited to Orkney. Maes Howe appears as a grassy mound near the south-east end of the Loch of Harray. The mound encasing the tomb is 115 feet (35 m) in diameter and rises to a height of 24 feet (7.3 m). Surrounding the mound is a ditch up to 45 feet (14 m) wide. The grass mound hides a complex of passages and chambers built of large carefully crafted slabs of flagstone. It is aligned so that the rear wall of its central chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice. Maes Howe is within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- At the same time as St Magnus Cathedral was being constructed, the Bishop’s Palace was built nearby for William the Old, with a large rectangular hall above vaulted storerooms. The palace fell into ruins, but after 1540 was restored by Bishop Robert Reid who added a round tower, the “Moosie Toor”. He presided at St. Magnus from 1541 to 1558.
- North Hill is a remote and windswept coastline jutting out into the north-east Atlantic. Its highest point – Errival – is just 48 metres (150 feet) above sea level. North Hill is managed as a nature reserve by the North Hill grazing committee and RSPB Scotland, in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage as it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
- North Ronaldsay Lighthouse was built in 1852 just 43 years after the Old Beacon was decommissioned. The lighthouse lies at the north of the island at Point of Sinsoss and is Britain’s tallest land-based lighthouse tower at 43 metres (141 ft). The lighthouse is a brick cylindrical tower that is unpainted with two white stripes. The lighthouse visitor centre includes a cafe, gift shop, bike hire, lighthouse exhibition, island life exhibition and the wool mill.
- Start Point Lighthouse was built by Robert Stevenson and completed on 2 October 1806. This was the first Scottish lighthouse to have a revolving light and since 1915 has exhibited distinctive black and white vertical stripes which are unique in Scotland. The light was automated in 1962 and is powered by a bank of solar panels.
- The Links of Noltland Neolithic and Bronze Age site near Grobust Bay on the north coast of Westray in the Orkney Islands contains the remains of both a Neolithic village and later Bronze Age dwellings. As well as the buildings the ‘Westray Wife’ was discovered, a lozenge-shaped figurine that is believed to be the earliest representation of a human face ever found in Scotland. The face has two dots for eyes, heavy brows and an oblong nose and a pattern of hatches on the body could represent clothing. The figurine can be seen in the Westray Heritage Centre. The site sits within the sand dunes and is under constant threat from coastal erosion.
- The Knowe of Queen o’Howe is a turf-covered, artificial mound which probably contains a broch tower. Located in the north of the island of Westray in Orkney, it is mostly made of large stones with a circular hollow on the top, used for burning kelp. The name is derived from Old Norse meaning ‘enclosure’ and ‘mound’. Excavations nearby have uncovered evidence of a settlement which predates Skara Brae so it is likely that Knowe of Queen o’Howe was also a settlement.
- Broch of Burrian is an Iron Age broch located on the southern tip of North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands. The broch has solid walls and an external diameter of 18 metres with the entrance being a passage on the southeast side, there is a small room on the northeast side. The broch is surrounded by outer defences consisting of the remains of four concentric ramparts on the landward side.
- The Stone o’ Quoybune is solitary standing stone of prehistoric origin in Birsay in Orkney. The stone stands at nearly 4m high and is one of the Orcadian standing stones associated with the folklore of the ‘petrified giant’. The myth says that each New Year, the Stone o’ Quoybune goes down to the nearby Boardhouse Loch and takes a drink. If you were to see the stone taking this annual trek, then supposedly you would not live to see another new year.
- Cubbie Roos’ Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, built around 1150. This now ruined castle took its name from Kolbein Hruga, a Norse chieftain who is said to have lived in the castle. Cubbie Roo’s Castle would originally have been a simple stone tower with a ditch, earthworks and a stone wall as outer defences. Now the thick stone wall survives only to a height of 1.2 metres and you will see some of the ground floors of structures.