Walk: Noup Head - Westray's seabird city

Orkney | Westray | Half day walk | ★★★★

[Coastal scenery on the approach to Noup Head]

The largest seabird colony on Orkney takes a little effort to get to - even from Kirkwall it's a 90-minute ferry crossing followed by a 20-minute drive up the spine of the island via Pierowall. In early summer though it's certainly worth the effort, as thousands of gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes and other seabirds nest here each year. Outwith the nesting season this is still a dramatic place, with interesting coastal architecture and seals often basking on rocks below the whitewashed lighthouse. The headland is accessible by a long, unsurfaced road which is a minefield of sharp stones for car tyres. Better to walk from near the end of the smooth tarmac at Backarass.

[The lighthouse at Noup Head is supposedly accessible by car, but we wouldn't recommend it]

Location & info

📌 Walk: Noup Head - Westray's seabird city ★★★★
Start / finish at Backarass, minor road 2 mi west of Pierowall, Westray, G.R.: HY 412482 ///icebergs.lectured.path
❌ No public transport within 1 mi. There is a bus to Pierowall (2 mi) | 🚗 Unlikely-looking car park - watch out for the info board to check you're in the right place

▶ 7 km / 4 mi | ▲ 190 m | ⌚ Half a day
Features: RSPB Noup Cliffs and lighthouse
Moderate | Faint, grassy coastal path to lighthouse, then stony track. Gentle gradients.

Route: Car park - Russa Taing - coastal path to Noup Head lighthouse - track via Noup Farm to start


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On our visit

Wildlife: Fulmars and chicks, gannets and chicks, black guillemots, cormorants, a few puffins and numerous other seabirds on cliffs; seals below lighthouse; sheep and cows by return track.
Weather: Dry but mostly overcast, moderate wind, cool for summer.

[Lots of fluffy fulmar chicks here at the end of July - see how they aim seaward when defecating!]

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