There is not much to see inland on the road running southeast from Kirkwall past the airport, but head on towards the Deerness Peninsula and you will be richly rewarded by a truly serene, gentle beauty.

There are sandy bays, which make for very pleasant short walks and picnics (if you can find a sheltered spot), jutting cliffs and a great variety of birdlife. The peninsula makes the West Mainland seem like a mad, hectic whirl by comparison, and is one of the best places on the Mainland to 'get away from it all'.

When the weather's good, the view southwest from Sandside Bay to the Isle of Copinsay (an RSPB reserve) is glorious, and, as it emerges slowly and gracefully from the wild North Sea, is a perfect example of the whale-like properties that have been attributed to the Orkneys by the islands' most famous poet George Mackay Brown. There is a footpath following the coast from Sandside Bay to Mull Head (a Nature Reserve) and round the tip of the peninsula to the Covenanters Memorial (1679), a five-mile circular walk.

If you continue along the B9050, the road ends at The Gloup car park at Skaill Bay, from where it's a 200-yard walk to The Gloup, a dramatic collapsed sea cave, separated from the sea by a land bridge about 80 yards wide. The word comes from the Old Norse 'gluppa', meaning chasm, the local name for a blow-hole. A network of signposted footpaths covers the northeastern part of the peninsula and there are circular walks of between two and five miles which start from The Gloup car park. At the northeastern tip is Mull Head, a clifftop nature reserve which is home to guillemots, shags, fulmars, razorbills, terns and skuas.

On the south coast of East Mainland, near the northern end of the Churchill Barriers, is the old fishing village of St Mary's, once a busy little place but largely forgotten since the building of the causeways. To the east of the village is the Norwood Museum, which features the large and eclectic antique collection of local stonemason Norris Wood. Info - May-Sep Tue-Thu and Sun 1400-1700 and 1800-2000. Adult £3, children £1. Tel. 781217.

Deerness Hotels & Accommodation

The only place to stay or eat around here is the E Commodore Motel, Tel. 781319.

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