Your complete guide to Yesnaby Cliffs on Orkney

The coastal walk along the Yesnaby Cliffs is one of the best things do on Orkney. The views are absolutely stunning with massive sea stacks and a beautiful blue but wild ocean, smashing its waves against the cliffs. Here is a complete guide to help you on your way, including how to get there and what you should definitely not miss when you’re there.

How to get there

The Orkney Islands, or simply Orkney, are a group of islands located on the north coast of Scotland. To get there you can take a ferry from Gills to St. Margaret’s Hope or from Thurso to Stromness on the main island of Orkney. Once you are in Stromness, it is just a short 11-minute drive to the trailhead.

From Stromness, follow the signs for Skara Brae. Turn left after approximately 7 kilometers, where there is a small road sign that reads Yesnaby. Continue for 4 minutes on this narrow, one-way road and eventually, you will reach the start of the trail. It is best to park your car near the remains of an old gun battery. Click here for the location on Google Maps.

Hike Description

The hike to the cliffs is pretty flat with a rocky path over a green grassland. Although every now and again there is a small hill to climb up. It is an out-and-back hike, so you can return at any point if you like.

Next to the gun battery are a few signs with information about the cliffs, the flora, and the fauna. Here you will also see the route and the highlights of the coastal walk. See also the picture below. I recommend going left (when facing the ocean) since there are more highlights on this part of the route.

The first cliffs

Right from the start, you will see the large cliffs and its eroded walls. The first highlight you will encounter is the Brough of Bigging. This is a perfect spot for bird watchers. The layers of red sandstone create a perfect area for the birds to nest. If you’re lucky, you might even see puffins here.

Qui Ayre

Continue on with the hike, and eventually, you will find Qui Ayre. A massive sea stack that is still attached to the mainland via a couple of thin layers of red sandstone. This natural bridge really is a beautiful sight.

Yesnaby Castle

The ultimate highlight of the cliffs is the Yesnaby Castle. Formed by erosion, the height of this sea stack is 35 meters (135 feet). It’s amazing that that massive block of stone is still standing on those 2 tiny legs. I wonder how long it will be before the castle collapses due to erosion. Let’s hope it will hold for a long time!


Distance: The distance is depended on how far you want to go. For example, to the Yesnaby Castle sea stack and back is 3 kilometers.
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Old gun battery on the west coast of Orkney
Weather: I would not recommend going if the wind speed is too high/stormy. It would be very uncomfortable since there is no protection from the wind. Furthermore, it can get dangerous when the wind could blow you off the cliff.


  • Keep young children close. There are no fences and the drop-offs are high!
  • Wear a wind-proof jacket, because it can get very windy!
  • In case you’re into photography you should definitely bring your camera. The views are amazing!
  • In case you are into bird watching, bring your binoculars, as this is a perfect spot to observe the birds.
  • This trail is part of the larger West Coast Walk, which has a total length of 32 kilometers.
  • Yesnaby is one of the very few places where Primula Scotica grows (a rare purple flower).

Have you been to Orkney yet or are you planning to go? And is this hike on your to-do list? Please let me know in the comments below.

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