Sanday is one of the Orkney Islands, northeast of Orkney Mainland. It's a thin low-lying strap, about 12 miles (20 km) long but seldom reaching a mile wide, flanked by sandy beaches. In 2011 the population was 494. There's nothing that amounts to a village, but Kettletoft is the main settlement - it was the ferry port until the pier at Loth was built in the 1990s to accommodate ro-ros.
Little is known of Sanday's early Pictish and Norse history, and archaeologists are still reeling from the discovery in 2021 of two 5500-year old cricket balls.
Get in edit
By boat: Orkney Ferries sail from Kirkwall 2 or 3 times daily year-round to 1 Loth on the south end of the island. The ferry is a small ro-ro for vehicles and foot passengers; a day-trip gives you up to nine hours on the island. The direct sailing takes 90 min but some ferries are via Eday or Stronsay.
By plane: Loganair fly a triangle from Kirkwall and Stronsay, twice a day M-F and once Sa and Su. The morning flight is via Stronsay and the afternoon flight is direct from Kirkwall and continues to Stronsay. Residents have priority, and you can only book by phoning +44 1856 872494 or 873457 (lines open Su-F to 19:00, to 18:00 Sa); you can't book online, see also Orkney Islands#Get Around. The five-minute Stronsay-Sanday hop may well be the world's second-shortest scheduled flight, the very shortest being the two minutes between Westray and Papa Westray.
Get around edit
A minibus connects with the ferries. Hiring a bicycle is a good way to get around the island.
For a few months in 2006, Sanday boasted Britain's most northerly railway station, with a ridable miniature railway. It's unlikely to re-open, ever.
- 1 Quoyness Chambered Cairn. 24 Hours. This is a well-preserved neolithic tomb dating to around 2900 BC; the bones were found of 10 adults and 5 children. You enter by crawling down a 9 m passageway into the tall chamber. Quoyness is almost an island on the south coast of Sanday, connected by a spit and track from south of the airport. Free.
- 2 Tresness is a "tied island", connected to Sanday by a long tombola but no track. It's farmland; Broch of Wasso is an Iron Age broch, but is just a tall grassy mound. The tombola sandhills are worth strolling.
- 3 Start Point Lighthouse. This was completed in 1806, rebuilt in 1870, and painted its distinctive candy-stripe in 1915. It was the first Scottish lighthouse to have a revolving light.
- Wildlife: bird life and seals are the main features, but always keep looking (including on the ferry), you never know what might come into view.
- Night skies: Sanday is free of light pollution so expect starry skies and maybe the aurora borealis on any clear night Sept-April. In summer it's a lost cause as the sky never gets properly dark.
- Sinclair's is the general store in mid-island, open M-Sa 09:00-20:00, Su 12:00-16:00.
- The main Post Office at Kettletoft pier is open M Tu Th 12:00-15:30, F 15:00-18:30. There's another mid-island.
Eat & Drink edit
Nothing was open in 2021, so you need to be self-sufficient.
Kimbland Distillery released its first whisky for sale in May 2023.
- Ayre's Rock, Sanday KW17 2AY, ☏ . Hostel (sleeps 8) plus self-contained Stable Cottage, campsite and caravan pitches. Runs a chip shop on Saturday evenings. £50 per room, camping from £20.
- 1 Backaskaill Farmhouse, Kettletoft KW17 2BJ, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. B&B with one double and one twin room. Restaurant open to non-residents.
As of Oct 2021, the island has no mobile signal from any UK carrier.
Go next edit
- You can reach Eday and Stronsay without returning to Orkney Mainland.
- All routes eventually return to Kirkwall.