Orkney Walks: Yesnaby

By Bernie Bell

walking boots F DriverWhen you arrive at the Yesnaby cliffs, there is no problem parking your car.  It’s not  a Council made car park, but the concrete surroundings for the old war buildings which are there.  In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in Orkney’s war remnants – mostly from the Second World War, but some earlier.  For myself, I don’t see the appeal – the buildings are always a bit grim – and the ones at Yesnaby are definitely grim! but their being placed there, does  mean that we now have a good road to get to the clifftop, and a good place to park.

Yesnaby is another place where you can chose to either turn to the right or to the left. For this walk, we’ll head off to the right.  If you are here at the right time of year, you may be lucky enough to see some Primula Scotica, a rare plant which only grows in the very north of Scotland. It’s a little jewel – really, it’s like finding a small gem, when you see it in the grass. Especially on a windy, bare stretch of land such as the top of the Yesnaby cliffs – that such a delicate little flower, should manage, is a marvel.

primula scotica B Bell

Another natural wonder can be found among the rocks along this section of coast – stromatolites.   These are  rock-like structures, which usually form in shallow water, and are formed by bacteria and single-celled algae.  Stromatolites can form some interesting shapes – please leave them be though – too many folk have taken them home, and, well, there isn’t a limitless supply, and they’re not a renewable resource!

Yesnaby - Borwick B BellYou can then continue over the gently sloping curve of the land, and will find yourself going down quite a sharp incline to a gully which leads to a small sea inlet, with a waterfall.

And then, up a steep path and along to the Broch of Borwick.

This broch is now perched precipitously on the edge of the cliff – and the coastal erosion which is the bane of many parts of Orkney, will probably mean that this fine  broch, will simply fall into the sea, before too long.

So, appreciate it while it’s there. It has a good, strong construction – built to last – and it did!

As with many coastal walks in Orkney, you can, if you wish, carry on along the path here, all the way to Skaill Bay if you like!  We’ve never done so, and so, it’s back to the war buildings, and sandwiches, either in the car, or, weather permitting, sitting outside, looking about you, listening, and marvelling at the place. And planning the next walk, going t’other way.

Photos by B Bell with the exception of the distance shot of Broch of Borwick

Related Story: The Ruins of Breckness: Prehistoric & Modern – Brochs


2 replies »

  1. Good for you putting in the part about leaving the stromatolites where they are. The walk over to the Bay of Skaill is a very good one indeed. It’s not that strenuous and there are some spectacular views, particularly from Row Head where I once saw six Risso’s Dolphins right under the cliff.

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