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Holiday Travel Guide
St. John\'s Head showing rocky coastline

Go for an invigorating hike and take in the views from the top of one of Britain’s highest vertical sea cliffs.

St. John's Head is comprised of stunning red and yellow rock cliffs, which plummet 1,128 feet (344 meters) to the beach below. Enjoy wonderful scenery as you hike along the coastal path leading to this viewpoint and see how many different types of birds you can spot along the way.

This remarkable headland is located along the coastline of Orkney. Try to get a glimpse of St. John’s Head in the early evening, when its colors are accentuated by the low lighting of the sun.

Notice the prow located on top of St. John’s Head, which is almost separated from the surrounding cliffs. Some believe this prow, called Bre Brough, will eventually become a sea stack. If this occurs, the stack will be more than twice the height of the Old Man of Hoy, a famous sea stack located 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) away.

Just like the Old Man of Hoy, St. John’s Head has been the site of a number of extreme rock-climbing expeditions. First climbed in 1970 by Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill, the headland was later free climbed by Dave Macleod in 2011. While few visitors have the skills needed to climb this challenging headland, they can see impressive views of it from the Scrabster-Stromness ferry as well as during hikes in the surrounding area.

Follow the footpath leading from Rackwick Bay to the Old Man of Hoy, which continues onward to St. John’s Head. This scenic 11-mile (18-kilometer) hike takes around 7 to 8 hours to complete.

Be on alert for nesting skuas, who are known to dive-bomb hikers to protect their nests during breeding season. Look for the summit of St. John’s Head, which is marked by a cairn and an Ordnance Survey triangulation point. After taking a moment to soak up the views, consider following the broad ridge leading northeast and continuing on to see the lovely Cuilags Mountain before descending.

St. John’s Head can be accessed from Kirkwall Airport. Alternatively, take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness, from where it’s possible to continue onward to Hoy. Admire one of the highest vertical sea cliffs in the British Isles and the beautiful coastal scenery that surrounds it.

Top Trending Hotels Near St. John's Head

The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
2 out of 5
The Pierhead, Stromness, Scotland
The price is £50 per night from 8 Dec to 8 Dec
Situated in Stromness, this hotel is steps away from Standing Stones of Stenness, Mainland and Piers Art Centre. Stromness Ferry Terminal and Stromness Museum ...
4/5 Very Good! (3 reviews)
Friendly hotel. Everything required was supplied.
"Quite a short notice booking. The hotel was very reasonably priced but had everything required for the stay."

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2021

The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
The Royal Hotel Stromness
The Royal Hotel Stromness
3 out of 5
55-57 Victoria St, Stromness, Scotland
The price is £110 per night from 9 Dec to 9 Dec
Located in the heart of Stromness, this golf inn is steps away from Standing Stones of Stenness, Mainland and Piers Art Centre. Stromness Ferry Terminal and ...
4.1/5 Very Good! (15 reviews)
"Nice rooms staff helpful but no restaurant or bar as staff celebrating Halloween in their sister hotel."

Reviewed on 2 Nov 2021

The Royal Hotel Stromness
The Stromness Hotel
The Stromness Hotel
3 out of 5
The Pierhead, Stromness, Scotland
Situated in Stromness, this hotel is within 1 mile (2 km) of Standing Stones of Stenness, Piers Art Centre and Stromness Ferry Terminal. Stromness Museum and ...
3.1/5 (7 reviews)
Good Location that’s about it
"The hotel is in a great location. Unfortunately the hotel in its self is a bit tired and could do with a make over. The guy at check in was a bit scary.!!"

Reviewed on 3 Aug 2018

The Stromness Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

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Top Hotel Deals

The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
2 out of 5
The Pierhead, Stromness, Scotland
The price is £50 per night from 8 Dec to 8 Dec
The Stromness Hotel by Paymán Club
The Royal Hotel Stromness
The Royal Hotel Stromness
3 out of 5
55-57 Victoria St, Stromness, Scotland
The price is £110 per night from 9 Dec to 9 Dec
The Royal Hotel Stromness
The Stromness Hotel
The Stromness Hotel
3 out of 5
The Pierhead, Stromness, Scotland
The Stromness Hotel
Ferry Inn Stromness
Ferry Inn Stromness
3 out of 5
10 John Street, Orkney, Stromness, Scotland
Ferry Inn Stromness
Harbour Cottage
Harbour Cottage
3.5 out of 5
Ferry Road, Stromness, Scotland
Harbour Cottage
Stromness Apartments
Stromness Apartments
3.5 out of 5
Milldam, Cauldhame Road, Orkney, Stromness, Scotland
Stromness Apartments
Lindisfarne Bed & Breakfast
Lindisfarne Bed & Breakfast
3 out of 5
Lindisfarne, Stromness, Scotland
The price is £85 per night from 16 Dec to 16 Dec
Lindisfarne Bed & Breakfast
Charming 3 bedroom family home close to Stromness
Charming 3 bedroom family home close to Stromness
Bu Road, Stromness, SCT
Charming 3 bedroom family home close to Stromness
Orkneylodge
Orkneylodge
3 out of 5
Houton Bay, Orkney Isles, Orphir, Scotland
Orkneylodge
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.