What is the easiest way to travel to the orkney islands from inverness. I have 4 days and would like to make the best of my time.
I see there is an express bus/ferry combination between Inverness and Orkney:
You can also fly, but I think it is significantly more expensive.
The Shetlands are further out, so flying might be worth it given your limited time. The airline is Flybe, I think. With 4 days you should probably choose either the Orkneys or the Shetlands, not try to see both.
We have done the Orkney tour. It is wonderful. Look here for tours.
We were staying at a lovely holiday home in Thurso, (http://www.thursobayholidays.co.uk) so it was an easy drive to John O'Groats. Buy your ticket in advance and do the full day tour. It is worth it.
I have recently visited both the Orkney (Kirkwall) and Shetland islands (Lerwick) with my husband. Flew to both island chains and stayed five nights in each place. I would go to the Orkneys if you must choose between one or the other. More to do, easier to visit the outer islands. Our flight to the Shetlands was somewhat expensive from Aberdeen. The flight from Inverness to the Orkneys not so much. Boat trips to both island chains although a little less expensive than a flight were time consuming and difficult at least for us in the turbulent North Sea. Have a wonderful trip. Emma
On our trip in August 2014, we flew from Edinburgh to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland, on Flybe air. We later took a ferry from Lerwick, Shetland to get to Kirkwall, Orkney. We used Flybe again to fly from Orkney to Inverness, where we picked up a rental car to continue our Scotland vacation. Both the flights and the ferry were easy, fast, and a reasonable cost. Departing Orkney for Inverness was perhaps the most pleasant airport security experience ever, but I don't know if that would be the case in reverse.
We spent three nights (gosh, was it four? --how can I not remember at this moment?) in Orkney and wished for more. There was a lot to do. We flew -- at the time we purchased the tickets it was much cheaper (and more convenient) than the ferry.
Having extra days was essential because when we got to Maeshowe they were fully booked for the day and we had to return the next day.
I agree with Cyn about the terrific airport experience. Orkney is the kind of place that our rental car guy instructed us to just leave the vehicle in the airport parking lot with the keys in it. Freaked us out a bit but it was fine.
I went to the Shetland islands June 2010 for the Hamerfarin. We flew into Birmingham, then to Aberdeen. We then caught the Northlinks overnight Ferry at 7PM arrive in Lerwick at 7AM. You can purchase a sleeping berth or just purchase a regular seat in the ferry. We did the sleeping berth. It was a neat going on the ferry and awesome. We did have gale force winds, so that was very exciting and rocky. The Shetlands are such a wonderful place to visit.
My ancestors came from there and actually met some 5th cousins that live there.