I rate South Ronaldsay as one of the jewels in the Orkney crown – it’s an island full of character and scenery. Our house is situated in the splendidly named Grimness at the northeast end of the island. Named after the Norse God Grim (an alternative name for Odin, the father of the Gods), our surrounds couldn’t be more different than its eponymous name. We’re bang on the east coast migration route, and ‘garden’ ticks (at the nearby Cara bushes site) have included such rare birds as dusky warbler and red-breasted flycatcher. Very recently a black-bellied dipper from Scandinavia turned up on our doorstep as well, a most unusual bird for Orkney.
But it’s not the unusual that makes South Ronaldsay special. It’s the scenery of the southeast and southwest coasts, which is both easily accessible and simply stunning. To walk south from Stews Head in the east – or from Barth Head in the west – is to encounter some of Orkney’s finest coastal scenery, with views of the nearby Pentland Skerries or the Scottish Mainland on the horizon.
In the summer months the seabirds and sea pinks will captivate you with their beauty. During October this is one of the best places in Orkney to see the grey seals pup, and their white bodies punctuate the geos, surrounded of course by wild, wild seas.
In the Tomb of the Eagles at Isbister, we also have the best-run tourist attraction in Orkney – a 5,000 year-old Neolithic chambered tomb and bronze age farmstead, lovingly cared for and interpreted by the family on site.
Here you will actually get to touch Neolithic artefacts, and let the past literally grip you. We also have the odd standing stone here and there, but where in Orkney doesn’t?
Finally there’s the stroll around Hoxa Head, with its military memorabilia in the form of gun batteries and searchlight stations, and its tearoom with an amazing view across the southern entrance to Scapa Flow.
This stretch of water has seen some action over the millennia, and it still does, as it’s one of the best places in Orkney to watch for cetaceans (whales and dolphins) entering the Flow. Over the years we’ve seen minke whale, orca and innumerable harbour porpoises from here – just go when there’s a good, calm sea state, sit down and watch the world go by…
Steve Sankey, Orcadian Wildlife
Steve leads wildlife tours in his adopted county of Orkney, where he has lived for a decade, running his own wildlife tourism company and small organic farm where he runs rare breed Shetland cattle. His self-catering cottage on the farm is one of the few businesses in Orkney accredited with a Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award status. For more information about wildlife and tours in Orkney please