Philosophically spot-on organic eco-camping with a warm welcome
Not for nothing did the poet and novelist George Mackay Brown say that the Orkney imagination was haunted by time. There’s something otherworldly about the Orkney Islands. There’s been a human presence here for thousands of years; the living in places like Skara Brae and the dead in the Neolithic burial chamber of Maes Howe, whose entry shaft is perfectly aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice.
The land’s been smoothed over by the prevailing winds, and the resulting views are of rolling hills and water, water everywhere between the 70 islands that make up the archipelago. The dun hills are are like the patternless tweed of a geography teacher’s jacket and the sky can do everything from broody to menthol-clear.
Many visitors arrive on the short ferry hop from Gills Bay, between Thurso and John O'Groats on the family-run Pentalina ferry, to the charming little port village of St Margaret's Hope. From here it's a couple of miles over the hill to Wheems Organic Farm. Owned by Mike Roberts, though now largely run by his daughter Islay, the campsite has a simple and fitting ethos; to keep things small, simple and eco friendly but, most of all, to share the beauty of this ethereal setting with all who choose to visit.
For those seeking creature comforts, Mike has constructed four solid wooden bothies, insulated with sheeps’ fleece and with long double-glazed doors that open onto a deck overlooking the bay. Islay, meanwhile, has poured her efforts into two bell tents and a Mongolian-style yurt with beautiful latticework walls, each with a toasty log-burning stove for cooler weather. Between them they bridge the various gaps in the world of camping accommodation, leaving something for every visitor. Campers and caravanners can pitch in the meadows, visitors travelling light can bunk in the wooden bothies, while those pipping for the full comforts of a double bed and furnishings can head straight for the yurt – and the entire site is powered by wind energy. Everyone is welcome.
Facilities-wise, there are toilets, showers and a communal kitchen housed alongside the farm buildings and, if the hens are playing ball, fresh eggs are available along with other homegrown produce (when in season). BBQs and small campfires are permitted, though do check the wind direction for the possibility of spark damage to neighbouring tents. Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on leads.
On your way back south, try if you can to stop at the small Italian chapel on Lamb Holm, built by and for the POWs while they were here and skilfully preserved. Like most things in the Orkneys, it’s a simple and unassuming place, but beautifully done.
South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United KingdomTraditional, ancestral territory of various First Nations according to To respect the Host's privacy, the precise address of this land will be provided after booking
Hosted by Robert H.Joined in June 2010
18 Ratings · 23 reviews
September 12, 2022
Cute loft conversion, much more spacious than i imagined. Ancient appliances but most did the job! Nice communal area and views, and good showers! Friendly vibe.
July 14, 2022
a beautiful view and friendly welcome. short walk from beach. very thoughtful provision of seating area, blankets and kitchen. nice to be ab le to buy local produce too.
Phil Gordon ?.recommends
June 24, 2022
Campervan camping with dog
I liked the small scale & informality of the site and the personal style of welcome from the hosts. The coastal views and being 10 mins walk from the beach are definitely attractions.
June 7, 2022
Grass pitch (Tents 3 man + )
Gorgeous campsite with beautiful views. Plenty space in pitches. Really lovely atmosphere. Facilities were great and clean. One of the few campsites I’ve been to where I’ve never had to wait for the toilet or shower. Lots of upcycled kitchenware for use and a nice sheltered area for sitting as the wind can get up at bit at the pitches. Would 100% stay again.
June 7, 2022
A real gem of a campsite
The campsite was well set out with generous camping plots with fabulous views out to sea. Anna snd Sam were very welcoming and helpful to their campers. The showers were lovely and hot . The covered seating area was beautiful and the kitchen area was a real bonus, - having toast whilst camping was such a treat! and being able to recycle etc was like a home from home. The environment was friendly and I loved all the little touches . There isn’t a campsite like it in Orkney .
September 8, 2021
This site is all that you would want or need in a total getaway! It is so lovely in its gentle but wild setting. The owners are extremely friendly, but totally non-intrusive. The views are to die for, and the walking and cycling from the site are just wonderful. We are still in the Orkneys and are still having a fantastic time, but this site will forever haunt us, and ranks up there with Fidden Farm on Mull, before it became too popular, and the old campsite at Achiltibuie, in Wester Ross, before it closed in 2008! Campsites like this are sadly a dying, or oversubscribed breed, so enjoy this one whilst you can, and please don’t tell the masses about it! Let it be our secret, and let’s preserve it for those that will appreciate it and not ruin it? It is perfect as it is, and doesn’t need improving from any other perspective! So glad that we stopped here, and still missing the atmosphere and views, even though we’re currently only about an hour up the road!
From the host
Wheems Organic Farm is an ecological and organic 6 hectare horticulture and animal smallholding, producing organic food for a local market. Wheems farm buildings are 200 years old and have been renovated using local, traditional and sustainable materials. Wheems farmland has been sensitively landscaped with areas set aside for conservation, areas carved out with stone dyke walling, and areas of tree planting.
Make a pilgrimage to the tiny chapel, built by Italian POWs held here during the Second World War. They also built the causeways that link South Ronaldsay with the ‘mainland’. The interior of the chapel is just as striking as anything you’d find in Rome. An even shorter walk away, you'll find a pristine sandy beach, which is also the starting point of a fabulous 10-mile circular hike. Alternatively hop in the car and drive 20 minutes to Kirkwall, where you can wander around the labyrinth of stone-paved streets, or visit the gallery and co-operative craft and gift shop, in St Margaret’s Hope (01856 831587).
Food and drink
Wheems’ own organic fruit, veg and eggs are on sale in their shop. For fresh seafood with a sea view, try Skerries Bistro (01856 831605) on the very southern tip of the island. In St Margaret’s Hope, Robertsons (01856 831889) serves delicious local beers, while those that visit The Italian Chapel (see above) will be a short hop from The Orkney Wine Company (01856 781736), where you can take a tour and sample their entire range of fruit wines and liqueurs (as well as J. Gow Rum from next door).