Sailing In Orkney
Sailing Holiday Type
Coastal Day Sailing
Sailing holidays have a magnetic appeal, especially when set against the breathtaking backdrop of Orkney. A sailing holiday in this archipelago, known for its rugged beauty and historic significance, has a unique blend of sailing, wildlife encounters, scenic walks and archaeology. In these voyage notes we embark on a journey through the Orkney Isles, focusing on the two islands we are most likely to sail to – Westray and Stronsay. Bring decent walking footwear and travel binoculars if you have them for this Orkney sailing holiday.
Su and John (Mate and skipper) are an absolutely brilliant team. They were creative in turning a mainly windless week into an Attenborough like superb encounter with Orkney wildlife and history. When the wind arrived, they used humour and patience to turn us into a crew that almost knew what we were doing. It was a brilliant way to experience Britain’s wilder places.
The scenery was stunning. We moored or anchored in a series of small harbours and bays keeping our eyes open for wildlife. Sharing a beer on deck as the sun slowly sank over the silent scene will be an enduring memory.
Stuart And Sarah
Trinovante starts and finishes this Orkney sailing holiday in Kirkwall Harbour.
Established by the Vikings in the 11th Century and first mentioned in the Orkneyinga Viking Saga (also called the History of the Earls of Orkney) the name Kirkwall comes from the Norse Kirkjuvágr meaning Church Bay. Trinovante has a copy of the Orkneyinga Saga onboard for guests to dip into.
The church or now cathedral is still the dominant feature of the town. For sailors the cathedral spire provides a handy leading mark when lined up with the SW tip of Shapinsay to clear the Vasa Skerry.
If you have some spare time in Kirkwall you can enjoy a wander in the busy stone slabbed high street, visit the excellent and free to visit Orkney Museum, The Bishops and Earls Palace and of course, there is a distillery in the town.
Orkney Mainland is rich in prehistoric sites are lots of day trips worth doing from Kirkwall including the Ring of Brodgar stone circles and two sites run by Historic Scotland – Scara Brae and Maeshowe
Sailing In Orkney
Even for sailors based in the UK Orkney is quite a long way from the usual cruising grounds. For us this is one of the main attractions. It means uncrowded anchorages and wild wide-open spaces. People ashore give our schooner Trinovante a warm welcome and we look forward to seeing people we have met in the islands again.
Every 12 hours the Atlantic flows through the gaps between the islands on its way to the North Sea and back again. Navigationally the strong tidal streams this creates are the main thing dictating the route Trinovante will sail. John the skipper says to think of this as getting on and off an escalator. Sailors need to work with nature. Orkney can be a wild and unforgiving place but for us that is exactly what make the outer islands in Orkney a place worth visiting.
It is because of these tides that Orkney is a centre of alternative energy development with grid linked tidal and wave test sites. As we write this EU funding has just been announced for the biggest tidal array in the world to be installed at the southern tip of Eday.
Sailing In Orkney – Stronsay
Stronsay is a friendly island with around 350 residents to the North East of Orkney.
The Transalpine Redemptorists bought the tiny off lying island of Papa Stronsay in 1999 where they established the Golgotha Monastery. If you see any monks in habits in Kirkwall as you travel to join Trinovante they are very likely in transit to or from Papa Stronsay. This you tube link takes you to a channel 4 documentary in which Adam Nicolson sailed to Papa Stronsay and stayed at the monastery in 2003 .
Top things our sailors like about Stronsay are
- Going to the cafe attached to the youth hostel with views over the bay and a fine selection of cakes.
- Riding round the island on the electric bikes Stronsay has for visitors.
- Walking on the cliffs and bird watching.
- Watching the seals and hearing them sing at the end of the day in one of the many bays.
- And the newly refurbished community pub might be open when we visit next year.
Sailing In Orkney – Westray
Westray is at the extreme western top end of Orkney with a population of over 600 it has a pub, two shops and fish and shop on a Wednesday night.
The top things our sailors like to do on Westray
- Enjoy the many different walks – take a short hike to the beautiful beach where there are often seals playing in the surf or head out for a more serious hike to the lighthouse at Noop Head where the sheer bird cliffs plummet straight into the sea. Last year we saw a Minke whale off Noop head and you are certain to see gannets and guillemots nesting and maybe some puffins (if nesting puffins are a must see for you then consider booking one of our Fair Isle sailing holidays). If there is no wind we might be able to take Trinovante round to see the bird cliffs from the sea. Two thoughts came to mind when we did this in 2022, the sheer number of birds sitting on tiers of straited rock ledges seemed so like an audience at a the opera, and how on earth do they manage to stay on their ledges when the Atlantic gales whip around this wind swept tip of Orkney?
- Take a stroll round the 16th century Notland Castle. Visiting the castles in Orkney one soon learns that the lords were pretty oppressive to their tenants. Wikipedia says this castle is ‘notable for its defensive architecture’.
- Play golf – yes really. Westray Golf Club has the longest hole in Britain and the club web site says. The men’s captain sails on Trinovante and various crew members have been for a round of golf over the years. John and Su (skipper and mate) have never played golf before – how hard can it be if we have the men’s captain as a tutor we naively thought? The answer is so much harder than you ever imagined.
- Catch a ferry to Papa Westray and visit what may be the oldest stone house in Europe, the mesolithic Knap Of Howar. Overlooking the sea, this site still looks like a house. At the far end of Papa Westray is the North Hill bird reserve. Studded with wild summer flowers the maritime heathland will be a good place to spot terms. Crew who have visited Papa Westray highly recommend it and said they also found tea and cake
What to Expect From Sailing Onboard the Schooner Trinovante
An Orkney Sailing Holiday
We hope to spend plenty of time exploring ashore on this Orkney sailing holiday. The plan will be to have at least two full-day stopovers on a couple of the islands where you can walk ashore, nature watch, hire bikes, visit archaeological sites and get the feel of living in a remote island community. Trinovante will likely spend three nights at anchor and four nights alongside.
All the training you need to fully participate onboard is included. You’ll be hoisting sails, steering, and generally participating in all the things that sailors do, including watching the sunset in a quiet anchorage at the end of a fabulous days sailing.
You can book on any of our UK Sailing Voyages as a complete beginner or an experienced sailor. All the training you need to fully participate onboard is included. You’ll be hoisting sails, steering, and generally participating in all the things that sailors do. That includes chilling out and enjoying the scenery.
What’s included in the price?
- All meals onboard
We provide breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Obviously, if you choose to eat ashore, this is at your own expense. We can cater for most diets, but you must let us know about special diets at the time of booking. We cannot cater for special diets at short notice.
- Non-alcoholic drinks
Ships rules are no drinking alcohol at sea or if we are about to sail. This does NOT mean Trinovante is a dry boat – it’s fine to have a drink in the evening when we are at anchor or alongside. We don’t sell alcohol on board so bring your own.
- Use of life-jackets and wet weather gear
What is not included in the price?
- Your travel to and from the ship.
Every voyage has travel information pages and info about finding the ship in harbour.
- Travel insurance
This is compulsory for all voyages.
We have a page on Buying Travel Insurance For Sailing Holidays
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