Eday is one of the Orkney Islands of Scotland. It's about 15 miles north of the Orkney Mainland, 8 miles long by a mile wide but pinched in the middle: in Old Norse Eiðøy means "isthmus island". It's low-lying heath and farmland, with a scatter of houses but nothing that could be called a village, and with a population in 2011 of 130. The reason to visit is to see its collection of ancient tombs and standing stones.
Orkney Ferries sail 2 or 3 times daily from Kirkwall and carry cars. This is a triangular route, so some ferries are direct taking 75 min and continuing to Stronsay, others sail out via Stronsay and take 2 hr 30 min to Eday then return direct to Kirkwall. A day-trip from Mainland gives you up to six hours on Eday.
1 Eday ferry pier is southeast corner of the island. This area is called Backaland.
Loganair fly from Kirkwall Apr-Oct on Monday and Wednesday morning via North Ronaldsay, so it takes 30 min to Eday then returns direct in 10 min to Kirkwall. Wednesday afternoon has another direct shuttle flight. Nov-March just have two direct flights on Wednesday.
2 Eday airport (EOI IATA) is midway along the island. Amazingly this cottage in a field is also known as London Airport, as the Bay of London here indents Eday's east coast; lundi is Old Norse for "puffin". It's maybe best not to use that name when searching for your flight connection in Edinburgh.
The ferry brings you to the south end and the points of interest are 5-6 miles north. A day trip gives you enough time to walk it all but you might consider bringing a bike, or a car for shelter from the wind and rain.
- Stackel Brae at the south end of the main lane may have been a medieval Norse castle. It's just an earth and stone mound succumbing to coastal erosion and there's little to see.
- 1 Southside Stone is 5 ft / 1.6 m tall. It's bashed about, as a tenant farmer set about demolishing it but was instructed to re-erect it by the landowner.
- 2 Eday Heritage Centre in the former Baptist church is closed in 2021. The heather-clad mound seen half a mile west is a chambered burial cairn.
- Mill Loch is a freshwater lake, a good place to see birdlife. Mill Loch Cairn is an odd structure, a burial chamber blocked off by adding a second chamber. These interior designers, eh? The main chamber is aligned with Stone of Setter just north and with Vinquoy.
- 3 Stone of Setter is a 15 ft / 4.5 m standing stone, deeply furrowed so it looks like a giant hand. It's prominent on a hill, a landmark both on the island and for seafarers.
- Fold of Setter just north of the Stone is an enclosure of 285 ft / 85 m diameter within a turf and stone embankment. It's probably Bronze Age; at a guess it was a livestock pen. It's becoming engulfed by the peat bog.
- Braeside further north of the Stone and aligned with it is a "stalled cairn", so-called as its burial chambers resemble cattle-stalls in a byre. It's in poor shape and has lost its covering.
- Huntersquoy on the footpath towards Vinquoy is an unusual double-decker tomb, but the upper level is damaged and the lower is waterlogged.
- 4 Vinquoy chambered cairn is similar to Maeshowe on the Mainland, yet no cruise-ship tour group will ever mob it. It's a Neolithic burial chamber made of great blocks of Orkney red sandstone: a narrow passage leads to a central chamber and four side-cells. You can enter if the gate's not locked. Three nearby mounds are also thought to be burial cairns.
- Carrick House at the north end of the island lane became the landowner's residence in the 16th century when Stackel Brae was abandoned. Historians therefore studied it carefully before declaring that it was "of no architectural value". This was Eday's main landing point in bygone years before Backaland pier was built, and one infamous visitor was the pirate John Gow (1698-1725). He gained his ship by leading a mutiny and killing the captain in a dastardly theatrical way, and began raiding shipping off Iberia. Low on supplies, he returned to Orkney, but the authorities were on his trail and not fooled by his disguise as "Mr Smith". He raided a house at Ophir on Orkney Mainland and tried to do the same at Carrick House, but ran aground and was captured. He was hanged at Execution Dock in Wapping, London, but lived on in pirate novels and operettas of the 19th century.
- 5 Carrick House Cairn is a jumble of rocks and you mainly come for the sea view.
- Calf of Eday Lighthouse is on Eday itself near Carrick House Cairn, looking across to the Calf. It's a minor or navigation light on a stubby metal tower with an access catwalk.
- 6 Linkertaing near Red Head, the island's north point, is a chambered cairn with two stones still upright. Nice views but the area is boggy. Red Head takes its name from the sandstone cliffs.
- 7 Calf of Eday is the islet to the northeast, uninhabited but with a prehistoric burial chamber, remains of 18th century salt works and imposing cliffs. With your own boat you can get ashore at the sandy cove on its west coast.
- 8 Faray is the low mile-long island to the west. A lane runs past its abandoned farmsteads; it's been uninhabited since 1947 and is now a grey seal breeding colony. Holm of Faray is the divided islet just north, which was just grazing: faerey is from the Norse for "sheep island". These islands once formed a ridge connecting Eday and Westray. You get a better view of them from the ferry to Rapness on Westray.
- 9 Muckle Green Holm is the larger of two islets to the southwest. It's uninhabited, with bird life and sea otters. The strait between it and Eday has strong tidal currents, the Falls of Warness, and since 2021 these are the site of Orbital O2, a floating power station with two submerged turbines generating 1MW apiece.
- Beach: the best is Mussetter, west of the airport.
- Watch for wildlife including on the ferry ride: bird life and seals are the main residents.
- Night skies: Eday is free of light pollution so expect starry skies and maybe the aurora borealis on any clear night Sept-April. In summer it's a lost cause as the sky never gets properly dark.
- Eday Shop is the island store, at the lane junction for Setter Stone. Hours vary.
- Online never buy anything here, as your clever search engine is sure to substitute eBay for Eday. The early Hudson's Bay Company relied on Stromness as a staging post, is this how they look to return a favour?
Eat & Drink
There's a cafe in the Heritage Centre, same hours.
- Roadside B&B is at the junction of the lane from the ferry pier and the main north-south lane, tel +44 1857 622303. It didn't open in 2021.
- Eday Hostel is by the airport at London Bay, tel +44 7789 900950. It didn't open in 2021.
- As of Oct 2021, Eday has a patchy mobile signal from all UK carriers - EE is best and Vodafone is weakest.
- Stronsay is the only other island that can be reached without back-tracking via Mainland. (You can fly direct from but not to North Ronaldsay.) Stronsay's main sights are the sea-arch "Vat of Kirbister" and the stacks along its east coast.
- Kirkwall on Orkney Mainland is where all routes eventually return.