Orkney Active

Orkney is attractive to folk for a variety of reasons. At the top of the list is our Cultural heritage and Archaeology, but running a close second would be our Natural heritage and of course Bird watching. Other somewhat more active pastimes are widely available for both the local and visitor alike.

Orkney Walking and Cycling

Combining these interests is ideal for both cycling and walking enthusiasts. Recent encouragement through the Scottish Executive open access policies have created a new core path network that has been a tremendous positive, opening up inaccessible areas and otherwise difficult to reach parts to the committed walker.

A variety of helpful web sites are available:

  • Walk Orkney : A good local Council site with useful walking guide and Map PDF downloads, new versions constantly being uploaded.
  • Walk Scotland : Part of the Visit Scotland Websites a mixture of Orkney and Shetland walks are listed, well described with maps.
  • Orkney Ramblers : Very welcoming of visitors who share their passion for striding across the land, the Orkney chapter is thriving.

Cyclists tend to be a more self-reliant group but a useful guide can be found here Orkney by Bike, Visit Scotland also have a cyclists information section. In general Orkney is easy topography for those lycra clad lean mean cyclists, though of course the weather can make things somewhat more difficult. Even a small slope is difficult against a Force 5 gale.

I guess a good compass and selection of OS Maps is all you really need. Mountain biking, or off road, is a different concept and to my knowledge few come here for off-roading. It may become an issue with the advent of the new core path networks but it seems unlikely that we would see an avalanche of mountain bikers heading this far North.

Orkney Water : Fishing and Sailing and Diving

The Trout lochs on the mainland of Orkney, lochs such as Harray, Swannay, Boardhouse, Hundland and Stenness are renowned worldwide for the quality of their wild brown trout.

The good news for the visiting angler is that all are managed most efficiently by the Orkney Trout Fishing Association for the benefit of both local and visiting fishermen, who can fish the lochs and make use of association facilities for the cost of an association subscription, currently set at a very affordable £20.

This entitles visitors to fish on all association lochs and to use all the facilities of the Association. Visitors' subscription fees also make a valuable contribution to safeguarding the future of some of the best wild trout fishing available in Scotland.

Line fishing off a small vessel in the sea waters around Orkney requires a less skilled hand for success perhaps, and can certainly be a thrilling experience.

The m.v "Welcome Home" is owned and operated by the Orkney Islands Sea Angling Association and can be chartered for either pleasure or fishing trips. Other boats are available during the season and if you want to look at this option further please contact me directly before your arrival in Orkney.

The waters surrounding Orkney have always been notorious; due to the forced marriage of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean the Pentland Firth has the fastest rip tides in European waters and often treacherously strong currents underlie many of the Sounds surrounding the archipelago.

Historically recreational Sailing here has not been a major pastime. This has however changed in the last decade due to growth in popularity allied to improved navigational technologies, and consequently Orkney has seen the the creation of a number of new fully serviced Marina's.

The Kirkwall Marina now offers 95 births, the Stomness Marina a further 65 and Westray has a serviced pontoon area within Pierowall Harbour. All the islands and minor harbours have piers which can be used to tie up at if required. The Sailing Club are very happy to welcome visitors and Orkney Marinas will provide as much information as you need. If you don't have your own then Yacht Charters (crewed if required) can be organised through SailOrkney.

The nature of the Seas here is still potentially very tough and that does mean experienced sailors only please. Scapa Flow is of course very famous for its role in both the first and second world wars.

The result of this wartime activity today has left a selection of diveable warship wrecks primarily from the scuttling of the German Fleet at the close of World War 1. Wreck diving in Scapa Flow started in 1980, when John Thornton from Kirkwall and Anthony Duncan from Burray started a dive boat service.

This has grown so that today there are now around ten or so dive boat charters operating mostly from Stromness or Burray that provide a healthy addition to the local economy. No diving is allowed within 100 metres of the war graves HMS Royal Oak or HMS Vanguard. The Flotta oil terminal is also forbidden to divers.

Scapa Flow has become a popular place for adventurous wreck diving and is now a world famous dive site, not least because there are few other places in the world that people can so easily dive warships.

The Roving Eye offers those of us with no desire to submerge a fascinating glimpse of these extraordinary remnants of a bygone age through the use of a ROV with linked TV on board "The Guide,". Skipper Keith Bichan makes this trip a very worthwhile and interesting outing that I highly recommend.

If more risky adventure is required then check out Iain Millers comprehensive guide to Climbing in Orkney. This site is packed with detailed information but very much intended for the professional or at least experienced climbers. There is also a climbing club but at the time of writing this site seems to be somewhat quiet.