After visiting Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, we headed out for another wee walk to end off Day 6 of our Compass Buster tour! We loved being outside and experiencing the amazing scenery of Scotland – instead of being cooped up on a bus!
This time, we headed out to Yesnaby.
We left our wee yellow bus behind as we set off to explore the wild, unforgiving and beautiful landscape of Yesnaby.
This was probably my favourite wee walk of our trip. Coastal walks are my favourite – the crashing waves, the open water and the never-ending views! It was a bit gloomy and cloudy earlier in the day, but when we arrived here on the west coast of Mainland, the sun came out! And it was all thanks to the STRONG Orcadian wind blowing all the clouds away.
Walking away from our parked bus, we were immediately blown away by the coastal cliffs and the views out over the water.
We couldn’t help but start taking photographs right away!
There’s always time for a gazing photograph!
As we walked farther from the car park, we marveled at Nature’s unrelenting power in shaping this land, the cliffs, the arches and the sea stacks that we were headed towards.
Another photo stop – this time with our friend M!
Remember how we said earlier that the winds had blown the clouds away? Just to show you how windy it was – you could literally lean back and the wind would support you! 🌬 (Also, check out the windswept hair – not staged at all!)
Continuing on, being blown this way and that, we found a lone Standing Stone in the middle of a field. I wonder what its story is…
Besides spotting a Standing Stone, we also passed by inlets, rocky beaches, little streams and of course – more cliffs!
As much as we enjoy exploring and adventures, we do have a safety message… These cliffs and the area here are truly epic and spectacular. So they make for great photo opportunities! Having said that, do be careful – these cliffs can be dangerous. Especially if you are visiting in inclement weather or if you have little ones in tow! Make sure to stay a safe distance away from the edge and be careful of your footing. We also advise wearing good walking/hiking shoes or boots.
As we paused for our next photo stop, we turned back to check our progress and this view took my breath away! This landscape doesn’t even seem real! It almost seems a fake photo backdrop. But we can assure you that it is most definitely real and if you enjoy coastal walks as much as we do, we would definitely recommend you visit!
Can you spot our wee yellow bus off in the distance?
Here’s the nerdy side of me coming out again… 🤓 The rock formations here were really interesting – from the layers of rock pressed upon each other over the centuries, to the way the cliffs were “cut”, to the fragments of rock that are strewn around the cliffs. The Old Red Sandstone of Yesnaby hides a lot of history, I’m sure.
We were a little bit drawn to the rock formations… just a wee little bit! We may or may not have scamper around and climbed over rocks to have a mini photoshoot…
And finally, we saw it – our destination. Yesnaby Castle.
No, it’s not an actual castle. But Yesnaby Castle is the name of the sea stack you see here. We hurried along to get closer…
But before we got to Yesnaby Castle, we came across the “False Stack”, which looked epic in its own right. The False Stack is a little sea stack, which is connected to the Yesnaby cliffs via a little rock bridge. Even though the bridge was maybe 3 feet(?!) wide, it felt much more narrow when you are approaching it – or rather when you are standing there!
Again, if you do choose to walk onto the bridge and take a photograph, do BE CAREFUL! And you definitely do NOT have to walk over the bridge or even go near it. A photograph from afar would do just as well!
Carefully picking our way over the rocks to the little bridge, we did stop for a couple of photographs. And I think once in our lifetimes is enough! If we do return to Yesnaby, I think we’ll be taking photographs from afar this time.
And, of course, the ballet side of me couldn’t leave without at least doing an arabesque in this wild and beautiful location!
Safely back on solid and less-treacherous land, we continued on our journey.
Here is a closer look at Yesnaby Castle.
Instead of stopping here, we continued further. And we were rewarded with this stunning view of this famous sea stack. It was well worth the journey!
As we looked further south, we could just make out another famous Orcadian sea stack WAY off in the distance…
Can you guess what we were trying to spot?!
That is the Old Man of Hoy in the distance. Similar to Yesnaby Castle, it is a sea stack. Located off the coast of Hoy, it is said to be the tallest sea stack in the UK at 449ft! Experts estimate that the Old Man of Hoy is less than 250 years old, as there are old maps and paintings that do not depict this sea stack. The strong winds and waves here have carved this sea stack out of the Old Red Sandstone relatively quickly. It is said that the Old Man of Hoy once had two legs – an rocky arch for legs. But with continual erosion by wind and water, that arch collapsed – probably some time in the nineteenth century. This sea stack, and Yesnaby Castle also, is popular with rock climbers. Unfortunately, experts say that this sea stack will probably collapse soon. Although we didn’t get the chance to visit Hoy or the Old Man of Hoy on this trip, we were glad to have set eyes on it – even though it was from afar.
As the sun started setting, it was time to make our way back to our bus and return to Kirkwall.
Before heading back to our hostel, we made a quick stop at St. Magnus Cathedral.
We did not go inside but admired it from the outside. The building is striking – with its alternating red and yellow sandstone from the Orkney isles. St. Magnus Cathedral has an interesting history – from the martyrdom of St. Magnus, to the founding of this cathedral by his nephew Earl Rögnvald, to the reformation. You can read more about its history here.
Across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral, are the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces.
This site is maintained by Historic Scotland. Information on making a visit can be found here.
Although we did not go inside, we had a wander around the ruins on the outside. We also read a bit about the history surrounding these two buildings and were intrigued by its Norse roots, its transition to Scottish rule and the tyrannical means that the Earl’s Palace was allegedly built. More on the history of these Palaces can be found here.
We tried to imagine what the complete building would have looked like…
After a full day of adventures, we headed back in the direction of our hostel, with a beautiful sunset leading us back.
Most of us decided to make a grocery store run (there is a Tesco near the Orcades Hostel) and prepare a nice dinner in the hostel’s well equipped kitchen.
Let’s just say there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen that evening! 😋 But we had a really lovely time chatting with our friends, cooking and sitting down to a nice dinner and some sangria🍷!
As we were chatting and cleaning up after dinner, we could hear and feel a storm brewing outside. The wind was something fierce! I guess they weren’t kidding about the unrelenting weather up here. And it howled all night… We were a little concerned about taking the ferry the next morning in this weather! I don’t think we would have been too heartbroken if the ferry got cancelled – it would just mean more time spent in Orkney 😉
The Orkney Islands are full of fascinating stories and have a rich history going back to the prehistoric times. By no means did we traverse all of the islands, visit all the historic sites or see all that the Orkney islands had to offer, but we got a glimpse of its history, charm, its natural and scenic beauty. We are really glad we got to explore these islands on this tour. I’m not sure that we would have made it all the way out here, if we had made our own way around Scotland.
If you’re travelling around northern Scotland and have a couple of days to spare, we would definitely recommend catching the ferry over to visit Orkney. (Just be sure to check ferry schedules and weather conditions!)
Here are some useful websites if you are planning a visit to Orkney:
Northlink Ferries’ Guide to Orkney
John Groats Ferry – which also organizes some day tours
Orkney Ferries – if you want to explore the other islands of Orkney
Lonely Planet – Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Orkney Explorer Pass
Check back next week for our journey back to mainland Scotland.
From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie
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