Due to the airstrip running over the eastern cliffs, it’s not possible to circuit Heimaey completely, though that still leaves you with a decent 12km of coastal trails to follow. A clear 6km trail heads down the west coast from the golf course, a pleasant couple of hours following the crumbly clifftops south. The little beach at the end is good for ducks and waders, then it’s a steep, short climb up grassy Stórhöfði, its top capped by a transmitter tower. There’s a viewing platform on the northwestern side for watching bird activity, while the south cliffs house a sizeable puffin colony and are a good spot to scan the seas for whales and gannets, the latter nesting on the sheer-sided islets to the southwest.
From Stórhöfði, carry on up Heimaey’s east coast to a steeper, rockier and weedier beach, often with some serious surf – this side of the island catches the prevailing winds – and occasional seals dodging in and out of the swell. Tidal pools and a couple of interesting caves might slow you down for a while – if you can get to them – else climb the messy scree behind up onto a ridge and follow this north until it reaches a fence line. A stile here gives access to the high, stumpy Landstakkur peninsula, complete with another puffin colony and scenic views. Continuing up the coast, you stay high above the sea with a dramatic drop into the deep blue on one side, and a gentle, grassy backslope on the other. Another stiff stretch uphill and you’re at a beacon above the airstrip, from where you’ll have to cut west across country to the road and so back up to town.