The Area

Around Orphir

The Parish of Orphir is in the southwest corner of the Orkney mainland.

It has impressive views of Scapa Flow, wild heather hills, beautiful beaches, and some fascinating stories to hear from Norse times and the two World Wars. In the First World War, the German High Seas Fleet were interned there, and in a desperate act of sabotage, the fleet was deliberately scuttled in 1919. Many of the ships were refloated, but those that remain on the seabed are exciting places to explore for divers today. In the Second World War, Scapa Flow was used as a harbour by the British Fleet, and the entrances to it were fiercely protected. Visitors to Orphir will see wartime look out points dotted along the shore. However, disaster struck in 1939 when a U-boat, on a dark night lit up by a display of the Northern Lights, sneaked into Scapa Flow. A British battleship, The Royal Oak, was torpedoed in an area of Scapa Flow close to Kirkwall and 835 men and boys were killed. This wreck is a designated war grave.

Many visitors to Orphir will be at Houton for the car and passenger ferry to Hoy and Flotta – this is run by Orkney Ferries, is caught from Houton and for vehicle drivers, should be booked in advance as it is popular especially in summer. The workers at the Flotta Oil Terminal also commute to the island from here.

The Earl’s Bu you will find as you approach the kirkyard in Orphir, you may see the vaguest remains of what is believed to be the Earl’s Bu. This was one of the great estates of the Norse Earls of Orkney in the 12th Century and consisted of a group of farm buildings, storerooms, chambers, a water mill, and a great drinking hall. As these buildings were made with wood and turf on stone foundations so little remains of them today.

You will find The Hall of Clestrian in Orphir, this grand old house was built in 1769 by Patrick Honyman of Graemsay. John Rae’s father looked after the Hall of Clestrain when the Honyman family moved to the Scottish Mainland and in 1813, John Rae was born there. He spent his childhood outdoors, sailing and walking in the hills of Orphir, which prepared him well for his later career as an Arctic Explorer.

The award-winning beach at Waukmill Bay has both stunning views and wildlife in abundance. No trip to Orphir would be complete without a visit to Waulkmill Bay. A long flat sandy bay, Waulkmill is the perfect beach for paddling as the sun will warm up the shallow waters here nicely! The beach can be reached by a staircase down a cliff. At the side of Waulkmill Bay there are sheltered flat rocks, ideal for a picnic.

Further local attractions to visit

Whisky and Gin and Beer Distilleries

Getting to and From Orkney