Things to do in
Orkney

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Our most recommended things to do in Orkney

From John O'Groats: Orkney Islands Day Trip

1. From John O'Groats: Orkney Islands Day Trip

Start the tour by boarding the ferry at John O'Groats. Take the 40-minute ferry crossing, keeping a lookout for marine wildlife including puffins and orcas on the way. When you arrive on Orkney, board a luxury coach which will be waiting for you to begin your tour of the island. As you set off, enjoy the commentary from a local guide. First, see the Churchill Barriers built during the First World War. Stop in Kirkwall which is Orkney's capital city and discover St Magnus Cathedral, shops, the museum, and the scenic harbor.  Continue along the northern coast of Scapa Flow and admire the beautiful views of the Hoy hills. Then, arrive in Stromness, one of Britain's most picturesque towns. Stroll through the winding street, visit the museum, and find plenty of places to eat lunch.  Next, set off for the neolithic village of Skara Brae, established in around 2,500 BC and which has been hidden under sand dunes, perfectly preserved for thousands of years. Follow the route onwards along a narrow tongue of land between the lochs of Harray and Stenness, making a stop at the mystical Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. Finally, board the return ferry, and make a stop at the Italian Chapel which is beautifully decorated inside 2 Nissen huts. Return to John O'Groats with incredible memories of your excursion.

Wildlife Cruise from John O'Groats

2. Wildlife Cruise from John O'Groats

Experience the wild and windy Scottish coastline. Listen to informative commentary from your guide throughout the cruise and enrich your knowledge of Scotland’s natural history. Cruise through the Pentland Firth past Duncansby Head lighthouse passing close to the sheer 200-feet high cliffs teeming with sea birds followed by a close-up view of the famous Stacks of Duncansby. Cross the inner sound of the Pentland Firth for a view of the uninhabited island of Stroma and the colonies of Atlantic Grey Seals. See the various cliffs and birds of Stroma. The types of birdlife seen will depend on the nesting season. For example Puffins will be seen in large numbers in June and July but in much smaller numbers in August. If you are lucky, catch a view of some whales.

From Inverness: 3-Day Orkney Explorer

3. From Inverness: 3-Day Orkney Explorer

Day 1: Explore Orkney’s ancient capital, Kirkwall After an early start leaving Inverness at 08:00, travel north through the Black Isle, past the imposing Dunrobin Castle, before crossing the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Isles. Stay in Kirkwall, the modern day capital of Orkney for 2 nights. Here, you can visit Kirkwall's magnificent Viking cathedral and its historic winding streets. Day 2: Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings as you travel through Orkney Today is your chance to explore the modern and ancient wonders of this fantastic island; a land of contrasts, where fertile green pastures are fringed by shores of golden sands washed by waters of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Highlights include a visit to Skara Brae, the mystical prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar, the standing stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, where in the 12th-century the Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions. Day 3: Travel through the history soaked regions of Caithness and Sutherland Have your last chance to grab some gifts for friends and family, and visit the local cathedral in Kirkwall. And after a ferry back to the mainland, travel through the history soaked regions of Caithness and Sutherland. Find out about the highland clearances, a world-changing period in Scotland’s dark history, and get a glimpse of some of Scotland’s most remote fishing villages. The tour will arrive back in Inverness early evening at approximitely 19:00.

Scotland: Orkney and Northern Coast 5-Day Tour

4. Scotland: Orkney and Northern Coast 5-Day Tour

Drive to the top of Scotland on a scenic 5-day tour, and learn the history of the Highlands at sites such as the battlefield of the Macdonald clan massacre, and Stirling Castle. Spend the day on the Orkney Isles, and travel the northenmost coast of mainland Scotland. The tour is by luxury 16-seat Mercedes minibus for a more intimate experience, while bed and breakfast accommodation is provided in Inverness, the lovely town of Kirkwall, and the whitewashed fishing village of Ullapool at the mouth of Loch Broom. Day 1: Depart Edinburgh, heading west towards Stirling. Pass Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and continue to Doune Castle, used for location shoots in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail.” Stop in the small town of Callander for refreshments. Then, marvel at the splendor of Loch Luibnaig, Loch Earn, Glen Ogle, and Glen Dochart on a scenic drive over the wild and remote Rannoch Moor. The views of the extinct volcano will take your breath away, and were also the scene of the infamous Clan Macdonald massacre of 1692. Continue north up the Great Glen to mysterious Loch Ness, with plenty of time to try and spot “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster. The evening will be spent in Inverness, with free time to explore the “Capital of the Highlands.” Day 2: Depart Inverness early to cross over the Black Isle and past Andrew Carnegie’s Skibo Castle. From here, drive the northeast coastline, traveling into some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery. Enjoy the views of some of Europe’s oldest landscapes, and the chance to spot wildlife such as golden eagle and red deer. Close to Scotland’s most northerly mainland village, John O’ Groats, board the ferry to cross the Pentland Firth to the Orkney archipelago. It is a short drive on arrival to the famous Italian Chapel, where you will stop for a quick visit before continuing to the Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, your home for the next 2 nights. Look inside Kirkwall’s magnificent Viking cathedral, and wander the winding streets of the historic town center. Day 3: Explore the ancient island of Orkney, and discover a land of contrasts, where fertile green pastures are fringed by shores of golden sands, and washed by the waters of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Highlights include a visit to Skara Brae, the mystical prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar, the standing stones of Stenness, and Maeshowe, where Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions in the 12th century. Day 4: It’s time to leave Orkney and sail the Viking waters back to the mainland. From here, travel across the very top of Scotland, driving past the stunning Ben Loyal and Ben Hope mountains, following the rocky cliffs and stunning golden sand beaches of the northern coastline. Go to the far northwest of the Highlands, and admire the grandeur of the wild Assynt mountains. Stop to view the 15th-century ruins of Ardvreck Castle. Continue to Ullapool at the mouth of Loch Broom, a beautiful whitewashed fishing village where you will spend your last night. Day 5: Your morning includes visits to Corrieshalloch Gorge, and the ancient Clava Cairns, as well as exploring the more recent bloody history of the Culloden battlefield. Return south through the magnificent Cairngorm National Park, driving past the ancient Caledonian pine forests of Highland Perthshire, before your drop off in Edinburgh.

From Edinburgh: Orkney, Skye and the Far North 8 Day Tour

5. From Edinburgh: Orkney, Skye and the Far North 8 Day Tour

On day 1, travel through the Trossachs to Oban. This wide-ranging Highland and Islands tour starts by heading west through the beautiful scenery of Loch, Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to Kilmartin Glen. Here, you’ll be able to explore Scotland’s ancient past. With over 5,000 years of history laid out before you, you’ll be able to walk in the footsteps of the first Scots at Dunadd Hill Fort and the Temple Wood Stone Circle. Then stay overnight in Oban. On day 2, enjoy a day of high hills and history. It takes you through the haunting landscape of Glen Coe, past Ben Nevis - Britain’s tallest peak, and and stop Fort William. Taste the best seafood at Mallaig and cross over the sea to the Isle of Skye on the ferry for your second night. Stay overnight in Kyleakin. On day 3, enjoy a whole day to explore Skye’s beautiful landscape. Here the mountains and beaches beckon, so lose yourself amongst the spectacular scenery of the Cuillin Mountains, the slanting hills of Quiraing and the incredible Trotternish peninsula. Stay overnight in Kyleakin. On day 4, discover castles and mountains and then head to Loch Ness. Once you leave Skye the first stop is a visit to the idyllic Eilean Donan Castle. You then drive past the spectacular Torridon Mountains and through the stunning scenery of Glen Affric. Here you can stroll up to a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by ancient Caledonian forest. Then it’s on to your bed, near the fabled shores of Loch Ness. Enjoy an overnight stay in Drumnadrochit. On day 5, head over the sea to the Orkney Isles. Travel north via Inverness and the spectacular coastal scenery of the Moray and Cromarty Firths. Then board the ferry for the memorable trip to the mysterious and magical Orkney Isles. Once you arrive, you can take in the stunning scenery and start exploring. Visit the beautiful Italian Chapel, which was built by Italian prisoners of war. You’ll also see the famous Churchill Barriers – causeways that were constructed to protect the British naval fleet from submarines. Stay overnight in Kirkwall. On day 6, explore the ancient history of the Isles. From your base in Kirkwall, which boasts many craft and gift shops to enjoy, you’ll spend the whole of day six exploring the islands. This is a land full of ancient history and you’ll be able to take in prehistoric marvels such as the Maeshowe chambered cairn, the world-famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae and the brooding stone circles of Stenness and the Ring o’Brodgar. The day will finish with a visit to the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral. Stay overnight in Kirkwall. On day 7, head home via Inverness, Culloden and the Cairngorms. The last day starts with a ferry ride back to the mainland. Then you’ll get the chance to take in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands before staying overnight in Inverness. On day 8, as you head home, you’ll be able to visit the battlefield of Culloden, the site of the defeat of the Jacobite forces. You’ll also pass the stunning Cairngorm mountains and explore the picturesque town of Pitlochry.

From Edinburgh: Orkney and The Far North 5-Day Tour

6. From Edinburgh: Orkney and The Far North 5-Day Tour

The 5-day tour from Edinburgh takes you on a discovery of the Scottish Highlands and the Orkney Islands. Heading north from Scotland’s capital city, you can admire the breathtaking scenery of the Scottish Highlands and explore the history of the Orkney Islands. On day 1, travel north to Loch Ness. The spectacular tour starts by heading west through the beautiful scenery of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The route then takes you through the haunting landscape of Glen Coe, the scene of the terrible massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and on through Fort William and the Great Glen to arrive at the fabled shores of Loch Ness. Stay overnight at Drumnadrochit. On day 2, head north via Inverness and the spectacular coastal scenery of the Moray and Cromarty Firths. Then, board the ferry for a memorable trip to the mysterious and magical Orkney Islands. Once you arrive, take in the stunning scenery and start exploring. Visit the beautiful Italian Chapel, which was built by Italian prisoners of war, as well as the famous Churchill Barriers – causeways that were constructed to protect the British naval fleet from submarines. Stay overnight at Kirkwall. On day 3, explore the ancient history of the islands. From your base in Kirkwall, which boasts many craft and gift shops to explore, spend the whole day exploring the islands. This is a land full of ancient history and you will be able to take in prehistoric marvels such as the Maeshowe chambered cairn, the world-famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae, and the brooding stone circles of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. The day will finish with a visit to the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral. Stay overnight at Kirkwall. On day 4, return via Inverness, Culloden, and the Cairngorms. The last day starts with a ferry ride back to the mainland. Then you will get the chance to take in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Stay overnight in Inverness. On day 5, head back to Edinburgh. On the way, visit the battlefield of Culloden, the site of the defeat of the Jacobite forces. You will also pass the stunning Cairngorm Mountains and explore the picturesque town of Pitlochry.

Edinburgh: Orkney, North Coast 500, & Hebrides 8-Day Tour

7. Edinburgh: Orkney, North Coast 500, & Hebrides 8-Day Tour

Day 1: Edinburgh to Loch Ness Depart from Edinburgh and travel north, taking in beautiful cathedrals, a local Scottish whisky distillery, historical sites, and even Outlander film locations! Day highlights include: •Dunkeld •Whisky distillery •Culloden Battlefield •Clava Cairns Day 2: Loch Ness to Orkney Discover the awe-inspiring North Coast 500 and explore fairy-tale castles, impressive cliff scenery, and beaches on Orkney Island. Day highlights include: •North Coast of Scotland •Dunrobin Castle •Italian Chapel •Orkney •Kirkwall Day 3: Orkney Let your guide bring Orkney's fascinating history to life and experience the magic of an ancient Neolithic village up close. Visit mysterious stone circles and wild coastlines and go puffin-spotting by the cliffs. Highlights include: •Skara Brae •Ring of Brodgar •Stones of Stennes Day 4: Orkney to Ullapool Bid farewell to Orkney and get ready for dramatic caves and zipline adventures (optional/weather permitting) before continuing to the picturesque fishing port of Ullapool. Highlights include: •Duncansby Head •Smoo Cave Durness •Ullapool Day 5: Ullapool to Stornoway Explore the impressive landscapes of Lewis and Harris and immerse yourself in the magnificent historical, natural and cultural heritage the islands have to offer. Highlights include: •Callanish Standing Stones •Gearrannan Blackhouse Day 6: Stornoway to Portree Learn all about the ancient skill of making Harris Tweed before dipping your toes in the turquoise waters of white sandy beaches. Venture to the Isle of Skye, where jaw-dropping mountains and famous rock formations await. Highlights include: •Luskentyre beach – Harris •Harris Distillery •Quiraing •Old Man of Storr •Lealt Falls Day 7: Portree After an action-packed 6 days of exploring, today is an opportunity to chill out, explore or get active at your own pace. From Portree, you can set off into the hills for a long hike, relax by the sea, or simply sit and watch the world go by. There is a shuttle bus to the Fairy Pools and wildlife cruises which depart from the harbour: dolphins, whales and sea eagles often show up around these parts! Day 8: Portree to Edinburgh Step into the shoes of the world-famous wizard that is Harry Potter and hop on the Jacobite Steam Train (optional add-on). Look out for Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain, as we pass Fort William, then we begin the road south with a stop in the dramatic Glen Coe and heading back to Edinburgh. Highlights include: •Jacobite Steam Train (optional) •Glencoe •Rannoch Moor •The Kelpies

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What people are saying about Orkney

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 64 reviews

A very enjoyable day out. Our driver, Darren, was really interesting, telling us lots of island history and cracking a few mostly bad jokes as well ! The variety of sites was perfect, though personally I would have liked longer at Skara Brae as there is a lot to see there . The tour ran to time as did the ferry.

This is a great experience. Our trip took us round the island of Stroma where we saw seals, a variety of seabirds and remains of wrecks. The skipper was extremely knowledgeable and very skilled at manoeuvring the boat into small spaces.

Gram, our tour guide, has been sensitive to the wishes of each person on this tour. The amazing landscape speaks for itself but our tour guide was also very informative about where we were going and what we were saying.

Well organised trip with time to enjoy all the places we visited. Our driver was very friendly and very knowledgeable. He gave us lot of information about all things Orkney.

Glad we booked the trip rather than driving ourselves. Great comfortable coach and driver. We would never had known or seen so many aspects of the Orkneys otherwise.