The obscure, historic part of Orkney that most travellers never find


The largest natural harbour in the northern hemisphere can often feel extremely empty. I’m standing on Barth Head, an angular contortion of old red sandstone that juts its chin out high above the water on the south-eastern fringe of Scapa Flow.

The headland is reached by a footpath that hugs the edge of the cliffs of the island of South Ronaldsay harder than I would wish. Having walked for two hours, I have seen no-one, the wide silence broken only by the mournful mew of a curlew and the peep-peep of a trio of oystercatchers.

Barth Head is worth the dizzying walk required to reach it, for from here I can take in much of Scapa Flow’s breathtakingly beautiful waterscape. In all, this covers 125…

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