Sanday, Orkney

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For other places with the same name, see Sanday (disambiguation).
An aerial view of the southern coast of Sanday, looking west. Tres Ness and Conninghole are in the foreground.
An aerial view of the southern coast of Sanday, looking west. Tres Ness and Conninghole are in the foreground.
Sanday is located in Orkney Islands
Sanday shown within Orkney
OS grid reference HY677411
Norse name Sandey
Meaning of name Old Norse: 'island of sand'
Area and summit
Area 5,043 ha (19.5 sq mi)
Area rank 21[1]
Highest elevation The Wart 65 m (213 ft)
Population 494[2]
Population rank 22[1]
Pop. density 9.8 people/km2[2][3]
Main settlement Lady
Island group Orkney
Local Authority Orkney Islands
Flag of Scotland.svg Lymphad3.svg
References [3][4][5][6][7]

Sanday is one of the inhabited Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. With an area of 50.43 square kilometres (19.5 sq mi), it is the third largest of the Orkney Islands. The main centres of population are Lady Village and Kettletoft. Sanday can be reached by Orkney Ferries or plane from Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland. Cultural activities revolve around the school.

Natural history[edit]

Sanday, so called because of its sandy beaches, is thought to have been mostly underwater at some periods of prehistory. Archaeological evidence suggests that it at one time consisted of several smaller islands which joined together when the sea level decreased. There is a similarly named island, Sandoy, in the Faroe Islands. The island has large sand dunes where seals and otters can be found. Inland it is fertile and agricultural and there is some commercial lobster fishing. The underlying geology is predominantly Devonian sediments of the Rousay flagstone group with Eday sandstone in the south east.[8]

The novelist Eric Linklater described Sanday's shape seen from the air as being like that of a giant fossilised bat.[3]

There are several SSSIs on Sanday and the marine coast around the east of the island is designated a Special Protection Area due to presence of sand dune and machair habitats, rare outside the Hebrides, as well as extensive intertidal flats and saltmarsh.[9]

Aerial view of the east coast of Sanday


Attractions on the island include the Quoyness chambered cairn, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. A large man-made mound at Pool was excavated in the 1980s. This indicated a Neolithic structure made of turf or burnt peat, a later pre-Viking sub-circular structure with pavings and cells, and a Viking stone and turf rectangular building dated to the late 8th or early 9th century. Various implements were also discovered including pre-Norse hipped pins and pottery from both the pre-Viking and Norse periods. A predominance of fish and animal bones suggests the site was used for meat processing.[8] Storms in January 2005 exposed a Bronze Age burnt burial mound at Meur.[10] At the ruined Kirk of Lady, near Overbister, are the Devil's Fingermarks, a petrosomatoglyph, incised as parallel grooves into the parapet of the kirk. During World War II, the Royal Air Force built a Chain Home radar station at Whale Head on Sanday. Sanday also once boasted the most northerly passenger railway in the United Kingdom, Sanday Light Railway.

There is a legend that a Sanday girl was once given a book called The Book of Black Art by a witch, and that the Devil would claim the soul anyone who still owned the book at their death. She managed to pass the book on to a clergyman, who still owned the book at his death in 1903.[11]


Start Point lighthouse

Start Point lighthouse on Sanday was completed on 2 October 1806 by engineer Robert Stevenson. It was the first Scottish lighthouse to have a revolving light and since 1915 has exhibited distinctive black and white vertical stripes which are unique in Scotland. The light was automated in 1962 and is powered by a bank of 36 solar panels.[12]

Despite the presence of the lighthouse, HMS Goldfinch was wrecked in fog on Start Point in 1915.[13]

Current island activities[edit]

Sanday boasts two golf courses: a 9 hole links course of 2,600 yards run by Sanday Golf Club and the one-hole meadowland "Peedie Golf Course" of 57 yards (52.1 m) (believed to be Scotland's shortest) at West Manse.[14]

In 2004, three wind turbines with an installed capacity of 8.25 Megawatts were erected by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) at Spurness.[15][16] Sanday Community Council successfully negotiated a wind farm community fund with SSE which will be benefitting the people of the island for the lifetime of the turbines, anticipated to be 20 to 25 years.[17]

In 1996, the Sanday Development Group was formed to promote tourism. This group became Sanday Development Trust in 2004, which has a vision to:

create an economically prosperous, sustainable community that is connected with the wider world, but remains a safe, clean environment, where we are proud to live, able to work, to bring up and educate our children, to fulfill our own hopes and ambitions, and to grow old gracefully, enjoying a quality of life that is second to none.

Current projects include the establishment of a sports hall and youth centre, the creation of a local sound archive, and a countryside ranger service.[18] With the help of funding from HICEC, the Trust have purchased a weather station, including a wind-logger. Initially located in the grounds of Sanday School, the wind-logger will be placed in various positions around the island for a month at a time to compare differences in wind speed with those recorded at the school.[19]

Sanday Tartan

A district tartan has been designed for Sanday by one of the island's residents, although it has not yet been officially adopted by the island authorities. It represents the sea, the distinctive sandy beaches and green meadows of the island, and the vertical stripes of Start Point lighthouse.[20]

In July 2008 a concert held on the island was the culmination of an innovative musical project. The main aim of project is to set up a music-teacher training programme that will provide additional music tuition in the school and throughout the community.[21]

People associated with Sanday[edit]

Sanday's West Manse


  1. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  2. ^ a b National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7. 
  4. ^ Orkney Placenames
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  6. ^ Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
  7. ^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)
  8. ^ a b Omand, Donald (ed) (2003). The Orkney Book. Edinburgh: Birlinn. 
  9. ^ "Sanday site details". JNCC. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  10. ^ "Rapid response to storm damaged archaeology". AOC Archaeology Group. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  11. ^ Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 476. ISBN 9780340165973. 
  12. ^ "Start Point Lighthouse". Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  13. ^ "Remains of HMS Goldfinch". Orkney Image Library. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  14. ^ "The Islands of Orkney". 2008. 
  15. ^ "West Wight Project Environmental Statement: Chapter 1 - Introduction" (pdf). Your Energy Ltd. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  16. ^ "Chairman’s Report". Orkney Renewable Energy Forum. 2004-5. Retrieved 2008-11-14.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ "Various minutes". Sanday Community Council. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  18. ^ "Sanday Development Trust". Development Trusts Association Scotland. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  19. ^ "A weather eye on Sanday" (pdf). Community Energy News No 5 (Dingwall: HICEC). June 7. Retrieved 2008-11-14.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ "Sanday Tartan". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  21. ^ "Island of Sanday hits the right note". Local People Leading. Retrieved 2008-07-19. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Pamphlets and Papers: Anarchism". Working Class Movement Library. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 59°15′N 2°34′W / 59.250°N 2.567°W / 59.250; -2.567