South Ronaldsay | Neil MacRae

About

At just 6.5 miles across the Pentland Firth from John O’Groats on the Scottish mainland, South Ronaldsay is the gateway to the Orkney islands. The main village of St Margaret’s Hope is the third largest in Orkney and is thought to be named after a chapel dedicated to Margaret, Queen of Scotland (circa 1093), or the ill-fated Margaret of Norway who died in 1290. The island is teeming with history, from the ancient sites to the remains of 20th century military positions. More widely, the island offers plenty to explore for those looking for creative inspiration or a taste of Orkney – with a range of local galleries and some excellent local produce.

Famous For

  • Local farmer and self-taught archaeologist, Ronnie Simison, uncovered a Stone Age tomb and Bronze Age site on his land, unearthing some 16,000 human bones, alongside the bones and talons of around 14 sea eagles.* The remains of wartime defences at Hoxa Head overlook the main channel into Scapa Flow. From the top of the hill you have a panoramic view of the gun batteries and other defences from both world wars.

  • The Festival of the Horse and Ploughing Match is an event that dates back to the early 19th century. Held every August, local children showcase traditional costumes representing working horses, which have been handed down through generations. These outfits are complete with collar and headdress. The parade is followed by a ploughing match at the Sands O' Wright.

Ask an Islander

  • Old St Mary’s Church is the site of one of the earliest chapels in Scotland. The Ladykirk Stone can be found inside. It is believed to be a Pictish inauguration stone.

  • According to the Orkneyinga saga, it is believed that Earl Thorfinn the Skullsplitter was buried at Howe of Hoxa, a prehistoric broch, in 976AD.

  • Marengo Community Garden is Orkney's first community garden, created in 1997, situated in the heart of St Margaret's Hope. It is lovingly maintained by volunteers and is a peaceful haven for all to enjoy.

Accommodation

Check out the following accommodation listings to book your stay.

Visit Scotland accommodation

More Information

You can find some additional information about South Ronaldsay at the links below

Explore Orkney - South Ronaldsay

COVID-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.

Getting here

Covid-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.


Pentland Ferries operates several sailings a day for vehicles and foot passengers between St Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay and Gills Bay (near John O'Groats) on the Scottish mainland.

John O'Groats Ferries operates seasonal foot passenger sailings between Burwick on South Ronaldsay and John O'Groats on the Scottish mainland, with a connecting bus to/from Inverness at the height of the tourist season.

A series of causeways also connects South Ronaldsay with Mainland Orkney, which offers ferries and flights to mainland Scotland. Find out more about getting to Mainland Orkney.

Get Your Passport

You can find lots more information about things to see and do on the island, see some amazing island photography and collect your island stamp by downloading our app.

Download the app

App in phone

Download the Scottish Island Passport app to collect your island stamps! The app also provides lots more information on each island including recommendations from locals about things to see and do, info on how to get around, more stunning photos and useful offline maps.

  • Unlock Stamps - Collect them all! Stamp your passport when you visit each island - with an individual stamp designed to represent a unique aspect of island heritage.
  • Experiences - Discover the best experiences each island has to offer – from local boat trips to exciting traditional festivals, there is something for everyone.
  • Maps - Navigate the islands with useful offline maps, handy for areas where internet connectivity is weak.
  • Travel Jounals - Create an in-location travel journal with pictures from your island adventures, to look back on your trip.
  • Favourites - keep track of your most loved islands with the favourites feature. Available to access from your account on both the app and web.