Island-hopping through the distinctive Northern Isles
The quickest, most convenient way to explore these fascinating islands.
Immerse yourself in the many facets of the islands, including a memorable flight to Papa Westray
Ideal for a short and introductory visit, by ferry, or as part of a longer holiday in Scotland.
Orkney top tips:
- Skara Brae - visit the best preserved group of neolithic houses in western Europe
- The Old Man of Hoy - watch the climbers ascend this iconic sea stack
- Orkney Craft Trail - pick up a holiday souvenir; textiles, silver jewellry or artwork are good buys
- Highland Park Distillery - take a tour of the northernmost Scotch whisky distillery in the world
- Puffins - go puffin spotting at Marwick Head
Things to see and do on Orkney
The enchanting Orkney islands lie just off the northern tip of Scotland. The islands were under Norse rule for centuries and have a distinctive history and culture, fiddle music rather than bagpipes, knitwear rather then tartan. The local Orcadian people are justly proud of the 70 or so islands in their archipelago which are home to some of the most fascinating archaeological remains in Europe.
It is this history that makes the Orkney Islands very special. The main island (Mainland) hosts a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE which includes the breathtaking Standing Stones of Stenness, some up to 6 metres high. Remaining remarkably intact, the 5,000 year old houses at Skara Brae offer a real insight into pre-historic village life. For more local insights take a look at the Viking runes at Maeshowe which prove that graffiti isn’t a 20th century invention!
As well as Skara Brae, Maeshowe and Stenness, the nearby Neolithic Ring of Brodgar is particularly magical in the evening light (and gained contemporary notoriety when Billy Connolly danced naked through the stones on his "World Tour of Scotland"!) In more recent times evocative Scapa Flow contains the melancholy relics of two world wars, and on its banks the beautifully ornate Italian Chapel constructed by Italian Prisoners of War over 50 years ago is well worth a visit.
Wildlife flourishes here. Birdwatching is popular and there are plenty of fabulous seal-watching spots - and if you are lucky Minke whales, dolphins, porpoise and occasionally the odd Orca whale are seen playing in the island waters. On dry ground you will be tempted by the deliciously fresh food, (do try the squid), and the local crafts including fabulous silversmiths and highly covetable knitwear.
Travel around Orkney
The open landscape and good roads make Orkney easy to explore, and a number of the islands are joined by causeways. Others are accessible by small plane or ferry and include the tiny island of Papa Westray which has the oldest stone houses in northern Europe, Shapinsay with its wonderful castle and Rousay with its tremendous archaeological diversity.
Travel to Orkney
We offer holidays based on ferry routes from Scrabster on the north coast of Scotland, with the crossing taking around 90 minutes. If you prefer a shorter drive you can also choose to travel in either or both directions by the longer evening and overnight service from Aberdeen.
There are also daily flights from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, useful especially when time is short. We can then also arrange car hire.