Find the nearest See & Do in Mainland
Heading to Mainland 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 Mainland 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 Mainland 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 Mainland 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 Mainland activity could be.
- St Magnus Cathedral is situated in the town of Kirkwall, the main town of the Orkney Islands. This magnificent cathedral, a fine example of Romanesque architecture, dominates the skyline of the town. Founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, the cathedral was added to over the following 300 years and even has its own dungeon! It is known for being the most northerly cathedral in the British Isles and is a parish church of the Church of Scotland. Open all year round to the public.
- The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The site is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception. The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. There are no obvious stones inside the circle, but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that structures may be present. The stone circle is the third largest in the British Isles at some 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter and set within a circular ditch. The ring originally comprised 60 stones, of which less than 30 remain standing. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring.
- 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.
- 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.
- Marwick Head is a Nature Reserve run by the RSPB located 4 miles north of Skara Brae on the western side of the Orkney mainland. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Marwick Head sandstone cliffs are home to thousands of nesting seabirds including kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots, razorbills and fulmars. In Marwick Bay, you can also see many wading birds and ducks, as well as hen harriers (if you’re lucky) and short-eared owls. Take the circular Marwick Head clifftop walk and marvel at the stunning views over to the island of Hoy. Open throughout the year, for more information on the RSPB reserve at Marwick Head, go to www.rspb.org.uk
- 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.
- Earl’s Palace is a ruined palace close to St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney. Described as a fine example of French Renaissance architecture in Scotland, the palace was built by Patrick Stewart, the 2nd Earl of Orkney, in the early 1600s after he decided that the Bishop’s Palace accommodation wasn’t adequate for his needs. The palace fell into ruin in the 18th century and visitors can still see much of the stonework, which gives a glimpse of its former splendour. Open from April to October.
- Mine Howe is a prehistoric subterranean man-made chamber dug 20 feet deep inside a large mound. It is not sure when it was built, some believe it to have been built roughly 2000 years ago during the Iron Age. Some researchers think that it could be as old as 5000 years, which would place it in the Neolithic period. There is some similarity to the well inside the Iron Age Broch of Gurness. The entrance is at the top of the small hill and there are indications of other Iron Age and earlier activity around the site. A flight of stone steps descend to a half-landing where they turn back on themselves and a further steps descend to a chamber. This chamber is only about 1.3 metres in diameter but is over four metres high with a corbelled roof. At the half-landing two subsidiary chambers/passages open out, one above the other.