» » Sanday Orkney – Life’s a beach

Sanday Orkney – Life’s a beach

posted in: Orkney Islands | 2

The main reason why I went to the north of Scotland this year was to travel to the Isle of Sanday, Orkney islands, as I had never visited the island previously.

I am normally quite thorough when it comes to booking ferry tickets, however because we were travelling when it was not at the height of the season I assumed that it would be easy to get car ferry tickets to the island.


I turned up about an hour before the ferry was due to go to the island and booked the tickets.  However, for some strange reason, we did not line up in the correct place for the cars to go onto the ferry and as a result of this, we very nearly missed the ferry and we were only able to get on the ferry at the last minute.

Once the ferry alighted from Kirkwall, it was a journey of nearly 2 hours to the island.  If you are in a hurry, or don't like Ferries, there are frequent flights from Kirkwall Airport that can make the journey much shorter. On the way to Sanday we had a short stop at the island of Eday and then from here it was a short 20 minute crossing to Sanday.  Once we had arrived at thr Ferry Slipway, we then unloaded the car and set off towards one of the main settlements, Kettletoft.

Sanday Orkney - Bay of Stove

Sanday Orkney - Bay of Stove

When we got to Kettletoft, we had a quick look round the village and took in some of the fantastic views of the nearby beaches.  We then headed into the Kettletoft Hotel for a well-earned luch.  I chose the homemade soup, which was greedily eaten and very much enjoyed.

Sanday Orkney - Kettletoft Hotel

Sanday Orkney - Kettletoft Hotel


From here we travelled on to the centre of the island and went to visit the Heritage Centre and the Thatched Crofters Museum. The Heritage Centre was small but very interesting. It was packed with local artefacts and lots of information about the island.

Next to the Heritage Centre was the local Crofters Museum and there was a lovely lady who was actually working on the garden outside the cottage. She happily gave us a quick guided tour and was able to answer lots of questions that we had, about how the cottage had been used in its previous existence. The lady was very chatty and gave us a real insight into how the cottage had been used previously and how people had lived on the island in the past.

Sanday Orkney - Thatched Crofters Museum

Sanday Orkney - Thatched Crofters Museum

Our next destination was to travel towards Start Point Lighthouse towards the far north east of the island.  The First tower was built by the famous Stevenson family  and was erected in 1802. It was rebuilt in 1870 and subsequently painted with distinctive vertical black and white stripes. The Lighthouse is only accessible at low tide as the causeway is now washed away due to rising sea levels. When we visited, part way down the road down to the Lighthouse was a sign sdaying that the road was closed, so we eventually had to to turn back.

Sanday Orkney - Start Point Lighthouse

Sanday Orkney - Start Point Lighthouse. © Copyright Beth Loft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Again, there were some excellent beaches, which helped me to make the most of my new camera and we stopped at a couple of these to take some pictures. One of the beaches was called the Bay of Lopness and from the road we could clearly see the wreck of a ship peeking close to shore.  The ship is the remains of the WW1 destroyer B-98 which went ashore in 1919.

Sanday Orkney - Bay of Lopness - Wreck of German Destroyer

Sanday Orkney - Bay of Lopness - Wreck of German Destroyer


After visiting the Heritage Centre and Museum we then carried on towards the north of the island. Towards the north end near Ortie is a derelict model crofting township that at it's peak had a population of around 70. The last registered death there occured in 1876. As we went even further north, the road began to run out close to Whitemill Bay and eventually we were close to a dead-end when we spotted a local business called Angora crafts.

Sanday Orkney - Beach at Whitemill Bay

Sanday Orkney - Beach at Whitemill Bay

The cottage that the business was housed in was a long, low whitewashed cottage. I made my way through the gardens outside and into the cottage. I spoke to the owner of the business. He was called William and he introduced me to his wife Elizabeth and he explained that he had been wondering if I would pop in to his shop, as he had been following my travels on Twitter. (@LSislands)

William was a very interesting guy and he gave us the history of Angora Crafts including taking us to his small workshop at the back and giving us a detailed overview of how he runs his business. I found it especially interesting to hear how a business has been able to survive and indeed thrive. on a relatively remote island. Once we had left Angora crafts we then headed back towards the centre of the island and went back to Kettletoft for one last coffee at the pub.

Sanday Orkney - Angora Crafts

Sanday Orkney - Angora Crafts

After a swift coffee we carried on and started heading back towards the ferry. On the way I took lots of photos of the fantastic scenery and especially the beaches, that Sunday is justifiably famous for. It had been a very long day on Sanday but an incredibly enjoyable day. Some of the views around the island are breathtaking and I cannot recommend Sanday highly enough.  Any trip to Orkney is incomplete without at least a day on this stunning island.

Sanday is a beautiful and tranquil island. The beaches are truly magnificent and are possibly the islands main attraction, alongside the Heritage Centre and Museum and the Quoyness Chambered Tomb.

The people I met on Sanday were incredibly friendly and helpful and were justifiably proud of their island. People such as William and Elizabeth at Angora Crafts, who are able to run a successful business from such a remote island. Their model could be the inspiration for other small companies to re-locate to an island or for potential business start-ups.

The island is easily accessible from the nearby Isle of Eday and also from Kirkwall on mainland Orkney.  For anyone, staying for any length of time on Orkney, I would definitely recommend a visit to Sanday.

  Lee Allen
Love Scottish Islands (@LSislands)

2 Responses

  1. Michael Browne
    | Reply

    Just read this post – very helpful. We have a few days in tyhe Orkneys in late September and for family heritage reasons we are keen to go to Sanday. Is one day enough or should we stay overnight? Appreciate any advice

    • Lee Allen
      | Reply

      Hi Michael – replied to you as per facebook post.

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