An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

58.790264, -3.184120
Distance: 18.9 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 8 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Orkney
  • Size: 1100 hectares
  • Terrain: Undulating grass track with some route finding; flat rocks on the foreshore; island lane
  • Access: Ferry
  • Height gain: 200 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 462
  • Starting point: East end of The Ayre. Lat/Long 58.785334, -3.227355; GR ND 29147 89290
  • Accommodation/food:

    The Royal is a traditional inn and the Stromabank Hotel offers a public bar, food and accommodation. General groceries available in Longhope’s shop (closed Sunday); public toilet at Longhope Pier; café at Lyness museum on Hoy near the ferry terminal. Range of accommodation on the island or nearby Hoy.

  • Island Summary:

    South Walls is joined to the southern tip of Hoy in the Orkney archipelago by a causeway, known as The Ayre, that was built over the original sand banks. Longhope and the scattering of houses along the low lying north of the island holds most of the island’s small population. The south of the island is wild and remote with some incredible geological features, many of which are within the wildlife reserve well know for its wild flowers and nesting sea birds. Most visitors to the southwest islands of Orkney tend to stick to Hoy with few visiting South Walls, leaving it a peaceful haven for this stunning clockwise walk

  • Look out for:
    • Amazing sea stacks, caves and two huge gloups with blowholes
    • Rare pink Scottish primrose (May) in the wildlife reserve
    • Great views of nesting seabirds on the impressive cliffs
    • Stunning seascapes and wildlife spotting from Cantick Head
  • Route description:

    This is a wild walk along the quiet lanes of the north of the island passing through the main village and ferry terminal of Longhope before navigating the rocky foreshore section beneath the low cliffs and Martello towers of the east coast to the white sands of Kirk Bay for a refreshing dip. The cliffs then rear up to Cantick Head with a cliff-top footpath walk along the spectacular scenery of the south coast with fabulous views of the other islands of the Pentland Firth and beyond.

  • Getting there:

    Ferry from Houton terminal (mainland) to either Longhope or Lyness on Hoy where the Hoy and Walls Community bus (call: 01856 701356 or 07833 777760) or taxi provides transfers to the start of the walk.

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