Kettletoft is one of Sanday's two significant settlements, the other being Lady Village, nearer the centre of the island. It is located on the south side of Sanday, looking east across Kettletoft Bay to the near island of Els Ness, home to the Quoyness Chambered Tomb and many other ancient mounds.
Kettletoft grew around its fishing industry, though it never became as significant a port as Whitehall on Stronsay, which lays five miles due south of it across the Sanday Sound. During the herring boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s Kettletoft was a hive of activity with boats landing their herring; herring girls gutting and salting the catch; and vessels carrying the processed product off to distant markets.
The village was also important as the main point of entry to, and exit from, Sanday. The steamers that established the routes to the north isles, including Kettletoft, in the 1800s and early 1900s were replaced by the MV Orcadia from 1961 to 1990.
She in turn was replaced by the new generation of car ferries which operated from a roll-on roll-off pier at Loth near Sour Ness at the southern tip of Sanday in the early 1990s: and Kettletoft's harbour became a less busy place overnight.
The Belsair Hotel stands at the head of Kettletoft's old pier. Built in what was originally a house and an adjoining post office, some of its ensuite rooms offer sea views; while for those on the island for the day, it offers lunches and dinners. The Kettletoft Hotel also offers a choice of recently refurbished accommodation plus lunches and evening meals. The views of the harbour are extremely good and offer a particularly pleasant diversion as you relax over a drink or an excellent lunch here.
Just to the west of Kettletoft is one of Sanday's best beaches, Backaskaill Bay. This can be approached from the road from Loth and the ferry: or via a side road just north of Kettletoft itself. This takes you to the bay via the ruins of Cross Kirk, a rectangular church built in about 1700. Only the gables and south wall now survive above ground level. It is thought that the kirk was built on the site of an earlier Viking settlement.
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