Deerness is separated from the main body of the East Mainland by a narrow sandy isthmus, on the south side of which is the beautiful beach of Dingieshowe. On the western end of the beach is a large grassy mound with a shallow depression in its' top. This is the site of a prehistoric fortification called a broch (see Gurness on the West Mainland). On the north side of the isthmus is the shallow sandy bay of St Peter's Pool, a good place to spot waders.
The Gloup on the east coast of Deerness is a collapsed sea cave or blowhole which is particularly spectacular in an easterly storm. There is a bridge set at one end to provide a safe observation point for visitors, but the remainder is unfenced and great care should be taken around the edges.
The island of Copinsay, and the smaller Horse of Copinsay can be seen to the east. These islands are a major breeding ground for sea birds, and the entire group is an RSPB reserve. It is possible to reach Copinsay by boat, but this has to be arranged in advance.
A little further on from the Gloup is the Brough of Deerness, an early Celtic Christian monastic site. Access is gained by a steep track climbing the southern side. As well as the chapel remains, there are obvious signs of the settlement on the top of the Brough.
The Mull Head nature reserve is an area of some 200 acres on the north east tip of Deerness, approximately 1 mile further on from the Brough. The reserve contains many interesting types of wildflower and cliffs which are home to a wide variety of seabirds. Seals are a common sight in the seas, and if patient and quiet, it may be possible to glimpse an otter on the shoreline.
Aerial view of Mull Head
(C) Richard Welsby
The tower that can be seen to the west of the Mull head reserve is the Covenanter's Memorial. This monument was built in 1888 to mark the area where some 200 Covenanters drowned after their ship went aground in 1697. The Covenanters were being transported to the West Indies to be sold as slaves, when the ship encountered a storm and put in to Deer Sound for shelter. The captain ordered that the holds be sealed shut, and because of this very few of the prisoners survived the subsequent wreck.
Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby