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Stove model farm - - 230874.jpg
Strove "Model Farm"
Main village: Lady Village

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Location: 59°14’33"N, 2°34’5"W
Grid reference: HY677411
Area: 19½ square miles
Highest point: The Wart, 213 feet
Population: 478

Sanday is one of the inhabited islands of Orkney. Its area of 19½ square miles (12,461.5 acres) makes 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 aeroplane from Kirkwall on Mainland. Cultural activities revolve around the school.

Natural history

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, Sandøy, 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.[1]

Islander taking off from Sanday

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

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.[2]

Aerial view of the east coast of Sanday


A number of sites of historical interest are found on the island, including 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.[1]

Storms in January 2005 exposed a Bronze Age burnt burial mound at Meur.[3]

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 Second World War, 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.


Start Point lighthouse

Start Point lighthouse on Sanday was completed on 2 October 1806 by engineer Robert Stevenson. It was the first northern lighthouse to have a revolving light and since 1915 has exhibited distinctive black and white vertical stripes which are unique. The light was automated in 1962 and is powered by a bank of 36 solar panels.[4]

Despite the presence of the lighthouse, HMS Goldfinch was wrecked in fog on Start Point in 1915.[5]

Current island activities

Sanday has 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 (believed to be Scotland's shortest) at West Manse.[6]

In 2004, three wind turbines with an installed capacity of 8.25 Megawatts were erected by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) at Spurness.[7][8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Omand, Donald (ed) (2003). The Orkney Book. Edinburgh: Birlinn. 
  2. "Sanday site details". JNCC. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  3. "Rapid response to storm damaged archaeology". AOC Archaeology Group. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  4. "Start Point Lighthouse". Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  5. "Remains of HMS Goldfinch". Orkney Image Library. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  6. The Islands of Orkney. 2008. 
  7. "West Wight Project Environmental Statement: Chapter 1 - Introduction" (pdf). Your Energy Ltd.. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  8. "Chairman's Report". Orkney Renewable Energy Forum. 2004-5. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  9. "Various minutes". Sanday Community Council. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  10. "Sanday Development Trust". Development Trusts Association Scotland. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  11. "A weather eye on Sanday" (pdf). Community Energy News No 5 (Dingwall: HICEC). June 7. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  12. "Sanday Tartan". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 

Outside links

Islands of Orkney

Inhabited islands:
Mainland  •
Auskerry  • Burray  • Eday  • Egilsay  • Flotta  • Gairsay  • Graemsay  • Hoy  • North Ronaldsay  • Papa Stronsay  • Papa Westray  • Rousay  • Sanday  • Shapinsay  • South Ronaldsay  • South Walls  • Stronsay  • Westray  • Wyre

Other islands:
Eynhallow  •
Helliar Holm  • Lamb Holm  • Switha  • Swona