Orkney’s west coast – is this Scotland’s most stunning walk?

There is no better way to get under the skin of Orkney than by venturing out across the Mainland on foot. Every step will connect you with the isle’s natural beauty and rich heritage with the walking pace a perfect way to slip into island time.

Warebeth Beach. Photo: Destination Orkney
Warebeth Beach. Photo: Destination Orkney

The coastline offers some unforgettable meanders that help illuminate Orkney’s powerful age-old relationship with the sea. A walk from Yesnaby in the north west to the main town of Stromness is surely one of the most stunning trails you can take in Scotland.

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Start the walk in Yesnaby so you’ll have a good stretch of west coast mainland Orkney at your feet. You can take a taxi from Stromness and make your way back to town by foot. The walk covers about 11 miles and will take between four to five hours to complete. What a way to spend a day.

Yesnaby Castle. Photo: Destination Orkney

1. Yesnaby

At Yesnaby, you’ll clearly see how the sea has battered and shaped the coastline of Mainland Orkney over millions of years. The result is a spectacular array of cliff scenery where you’ll find towering sea stacks and blow holes created by the force of the mighty ocean. You might also catch the “boiling seas”, which are churned up by the raging waters clashing against these geological wonders.The power of nature seemingly converges at Yesnaby, with your senses guaranteed to be lifted as the elements work their magic. The area is also one of the few in the world where the Scottish Primrose, or Primula Scotica, can be found.

2. Yesnaby Castle

Head south along the cliff path and you’ll catch sight of Yesnaby Castle, a two-legged sea stack which stands almost precariously amid the pounding waves. Found just south of the Brough of Bigging, the 35-metre high landmark is of endless fascination to visitors, geologists and climbers alike. The stack was first scaled in 1967 and today it is often used as a warm-up ascent for taking on the larger Old Man of Hoy. From the castle, keep heading south as the seabirds – from fulmars, razorbills to great skuas – guide you from overhead.

North Gaulton Castle. Photo: Destination Orkney

3. North Gaulton Castle

Keep going for an hour or so and you’ll come across North Gaulton Castle, another soaring sea stack which towers about twice the height of the Yesnaby landmark. These stacks will eventually fall into the sea as the waves overcome them, but North Gaulton seems as if it might disappear into the water at any moment.This fragile wonder has proved to be a tough challenge for climbers over the years.

4. Black Craig

The path south continues, and the next landmark on the route is Black Craig, the site of an old coastguard post that offers heart-swelling sea views. The old lookout points have now been transformed into monitoring stations for the European Marine Energy Centre, an indicator of how the sea continues to define the isles – as well as their future.From the bottom of Black Craig, take the path on to the public road and then down the hill to the right. A footpath sign for Stromness is what you are looking for.

5. Warebeth Beach

Now into the south-west coast of Mainland Orkney, you’ll catch beautiful views of the Hoy Hills from Warebeth Beach.Crofters and fisherman made up the population around this stretch of coastline in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the beach an important resource for the local seaweed harvesting industry.Indeed, the beach is named after ware, the abundant species of seaweed which is churned up along the shoreline from Hoy Sound.This beguiling spot is also home to much wildlife, from oyster catchers to ringed plovers, eiders and inquisitive seals.From here, you are only a couple of miles from Stromness. You can stick to the coastal path and pass the Point of Ness Camp Site, or take the road back into the town.

6. Stromness

Finish off your walking adventure with an amble through Stromness, once again a place defined by Orkney’s sea-faring history. A town of many arrivals and departures, its character reflects the rich tradition of welcoming travellers from around the world. Stromness features in many rich chapters in Orkney’s story and is a fabulous destination in which to complete your walk. Enjoy a trip to the world-famous Pier Arts Centre or settle down to some well-deserved food and drink to round off a splendid stroll.

Download Destination Orkney’s new Orkney Coastal Walks Itinerary and start planning your adventure today. Click Here https://www.orkney.com/plan/itineraries/west-coast-walk-itinerary