Pentland Skerries, Caithness

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Sun, 2009-11-22

That is no miss-print on your chart, the 12-knot currents are there, large creel markers pop up briefly when the tide slows.

The wreck of the Cathy Niederkirchner lies off the north west corner of the biggest Skerry.

Slack water is extremely unpredictable, less than 25 minutes, then it switches on! Launch at John ‘O Groats.

Caithness is the bit of Scotland that sticks out to the north-east, the top end of the Moray Firth, the Pentland Firth, John O Groats, Thurso and Scrabster where the ferry leaves for Orkney. It’s the most northerly diving off mainland Britain, some of the most exposed coastline, and in the Pentland Firth some of the strongest currents.

History in brief:

Pentland Skerries is a group of islands lying in the Pentland Firth. If you must get the name Royal Oak in your logbook then why not go looking for one of the two other Royal Oak losses nearby. The first was a large fully rigged ship from Liverpool. She stranded at Brides Ethy on the south side of North Ronaldsay in August 1881. The second was a small fishing lugger that foundered off the Pentland Skerries early in 1908.

The really energetic can try Orkney’s most spectacular walk, which goes south from Rackwick to Torness (ND254884). This walk takes in very magnificent cliff scenery, with very fine views across the Pentland Firth. It will take a whole day due to the distance involved (12km, 7.5 miles) and rough terrain. With the many cliff views to admire, care must be taken to leave plenty of time.

A good panorama of the whole of south Hoy, Scapa Flow and the Pentland Firth can be had from Wee Fea (ND288942) up to the underground oil tanks, passing on the way the Naval HQ and Communications Centre and one of Orkney’s rare conifer plantations, well sheltered from the west.

The Pentland Firth contains a small number of grey and common seal haulouts and breeding areas. These are primarily located on the islands of Stroma, Switha and Swona, and the Pentland Skerries. There is also a large grey seal breeding colongy on the east coast, south of Duncansby Head. This grey seal colony produces approximately 1,200 pups annually, and seals from this colony are likely to be present within the Pentland Firth. In addition, data from satellite tracked seals show that the Pentland Firth is a regular stopping off point, and the close proximity of this area to Orkney means that relatively large numbers of seals are likely to use this area.

The largest populations of grey and common seals in the study area are found around the Orkney Islands. Both species are reported as being widespread and present in relatively large numbers throughout the area (Baxter et al 2008). However, research undertaken by The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) indicates that the seal population is actually declining: around the Orkney Islands populations have halved since 2001, declining almost 10% each year (BBC news online, 2008)

North East Caithness Dive:

Scenic sea cave diving at Duncansby Head, Drift Dives at Dunnet Head, Pentland Skerries, Swona, Stroma, South Scapa Flow by RIB, Wick. – long list not been here for a while another possible for July August.


Fig: Excellent view of Pentland Skerries
– Over The top

‹ Noss Head, Caithness up Spear Point, Caithness › Similar of ‘Pentland Skerries, Caithness’

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