Tresness, Sanday

Orkney’s finest beaches

Throughout the islands of Orkney there are many distinctive beaches to discover. In anticipation of warm weather this summer, we thought we’d display a list of the ten best – most beautiful, peaceful, atmospheric, and fun – beaches to visit in Orkney!

Rackwick Beach

Rackwick beach. Located on the island of Hoy, Rackwick is a six mile walk from the foot passenger ferry from Stromness to Moaness and a 12 mile drive from Lyness, where the car ferry from Houton arrives. It’s well worth the effort though – a beautiful quiet beach, Rackwick has giant rounded pebbles, golden sand and two massive cliffs at either side of the bay!

Goatie Buckies at the Brough of Birsay

The Brough of Birsay is a tidal island attached to the North West Mainland of Orkney. It can be reached by causeway when the tide is low. The beach here is popular – it has great rockpools full of hermit crabs – and the sand is made of fragments of shells. It’s also a great place to find Goatie Buckies! Put one of these in your purse and you’ll never be poor.

The Bay of Skaill, Orkney

The Bay of Skaill is located on the west coast of the Orkney Mainland. It’s a wide expanse of sand facing the Atlantic, and big waves sweep in here. At the south side of the bay there’s the Hole o’ Rowe – a sea arch that the sea explodes through on a wild day. The Neolithic village of Skara Brae is located here – making the beach a must-see on a trip to Orkney!

Waulkmill Bay, Orkney

Waulkmill Bay in Orphir is a long sandy bay facing Scapa Flow in Orphir. When the tide comes in, the water in the bay is shallow – making it the ideal beach for paddling! Car parking is on the road above the beach (there’s a toilet there also), and there’s a walk down some steps (with some slippery stones at the bottom), so this lovely beach is only for the nimble-footed!

Backaskaill Beach, Sanday, Orkney

Backaskaill Beach. Sanday is famed for its many fine beaches, including Whitemill Bay, Lopness, Sty Wick, Scuthvie, Sandquoy and Tres Ness. Tres Ness (pictured at the top of the page) is backed by an amazing long sand dune. We’ve picked Backaskaill Beach as our favourite though – it’s a lovely peaceful long sweeping beach with white sands and is a great place for shell hunting.

Grobust Beach, Westray, Orkney

Grobust Beach in Westray is one of many fine beaches on the island. Located close to Pierowall in the North of the island this lovely sandy beach is notable for amazing coastal scenery and archaeological finds (at Queena Howe and the Links of Noltland) as a result of the shifting dunes. Grobust is exposed to the North and can be spectacular in a gale!

The Sand O’Wright, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

The Sand O’Wright are located in South Ronaldsay on the road from St Margaret’s Hope to Hoxa Head. It’s a south facing beach with fine sand. Once a year, in August, the Sand O’Wright becomes the location for the Boy’s Ploughing Match. In this competition, boys use miniature ploughs (often handed down through generations) to cut the straightest furrows in the sand!

Warebeth Beach, Stromness, Orkney

Warebeth Beach is located just outside Stromness, and there’s a lovely walk to be had along the west shore, taking in the Hoy hills, to Warebeth. Named after the large amount of seaweed, or “ware” that gets washed up here, Warebeth is a lovely sandy curving bay, and the sandy car park is testament to the Atlantic winds that blow in here. The scenery of Hoy Sound is superb and it’s a great place to watch MV Hamnavoe on her sailing to and from Orkney.

Dingieshowe Beach, Deerness, Orkney

Dingieshowe Beach is located in Deerness in the East Mainland of Orkney. There’s a car park here with toilets and then a short walk over a sand dune to this spectacular south facing beach. Children will have a great time paddling in the water and exploring the rockpools for little fish. Adults can enjoy the fine views of Copinsay and shelter from the wind provided by the dunes!

Barrier Number 4, Orkney

Barrier Number 4. Located between Burray and South Ronaldsay, the creation of man-made Churchill Barrier Number 4 has caused a massive build-up of sand to the east. The curving beach that has formed here is simply lovely – it also has a car park and toilets. Sunken blockships that were previously underwater (and can be seen in the older photo above) have now been all but completely buried by the sand!

Magnus DixonBy Magnus Dixon
Orkney and Shetland enthusiast, family man, loves walks, likes animals, terrible at sports, dire taste in music, great taste in films and tv, eats a little too much for his own good.
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