The Journey

As you set off from Gills Bay in Caithness you will see the islands of Stroma and Swona in the distance. Both common seals and grey seals can be seen basking on the shores of Stroma and Swona and you may well see the now famous feral cattle of Swona which were left to run wild over thirty years ago and are now a recognised breed.

There are many eddies and currents running through the Pentland Firth and you may well pass whirlpools and eddies on your journey depending on tides and winds. One such whirlpool just north of Stroma is the Swelkie which according to Viking legend is caused by a sea witch turning the mill wheels to grind the salt to keep the sea salty.

When you pass along the firth depending on the time of year look out for porpoises, orca, dolphins and Minke whales. Between May and August on rare occasions huge basking sharks can also be seen

The cliffs running along the islands are inhabited by huge numbers of seabirds including puffins, fulmars, great skua, razor bills, guillemots and gannets to name but a few, can be seen nesting, roosting and flying around throughout the journey.

Passing Swona you may see to the left the island of Hoy famous for the rock stack the Old Man of Hoy and also the Martello Tower. Further along you may see the island of Flotta and the flaming chimney of the oil terminal.

Heading along the coastline of South Ronaldsay you will pass the abandoned gun towers and lookout posts at Hoxa Head, these huge concrete boxes stand in eerie silence as a reminder of the importance of the Orkney Islands during the second World War.

As the ship turns around Needle Point St Margaret’s Hope village comes into view. The third largest settlement on the Orkney Islands and the main settlement on South Ronaldsay St Margaret’s Hope is a peaceful place to stay and a good starting point for many of the attractions throughout the Orkneys.

Once you arrive at St Margaret’s Hope it is a twenty minute car journey across the famous Churchill barriers, past the Italian Chapel onto Mainland Orkney where you can catch the ferries to the outer islands or visit places like Maes Howe, Skara Brae, and the Ring of Brodgar.