Site overview: This is a large, low-lying island in the north-east of the Orkney archipelago. Around the island are several reefs that in turn provide a habitat for dense forests of kelp. There are large, dense brittlestar populations here, along with horse mussels. The island is also home to the largest group of Harbour seals at any site in Scotland. They make up just over 4% of the total UK Harbour seal population. The kelp beds are important feeding areas for the seals, and the colony is linked to a very large surrounding population in the Orkney archipelago.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Special Area of Conservation
MPA Purpose
areas which have been identified as best representing the range and variety within the European Union of habitats and (non-bird) species listed on Annexes I and II to the Directive


59° 16' 50" North,
2° 29' 59" West

Surface Area

109.86 km2
(42.42 mi.2 )


113.85 km
(70.74 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site


  • Intertidal mudflats and sandflats (Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide)
  • Reefs


  • Common seal (Phoca vitulina)


  • Subtidal sandbanks (Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time)