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Orkney islands

Hoping to visit Orkney Islands next summer. Just read Rick Steve's trip to Orkney islands. Good advice can others add to his info?

Thanks

Posted by
5546 posts

Don't know exactly what Rick advises, but I would strongly recommend Orkney. In addition to the neolithic sites, check out the artistic sites as well. There are some wonderful jewelry designers on Orkney. Also, the Hoxa Gallery is wonderful. There is a wonderful website that is in a bit transition now, but well worth exploring. Check out OrkneyJar. Did Rick talk about the Lifeboats? Check out the museum. I first visited Orkney in 1977 and my relatives told me about the Lifeboat tragedy. The Orkney Islands are amazing. Check out George MacKay Brown's books.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks. Did you visit more then one island? How long did you visit?

Thanks
Ellen

Posted by
63 posts

We went to the Orkneys last year and loved it. The Rick Steves guidebook does hit the high points of the islands -- Kirkwall, Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the other prehistoric sites, the Italian chapel and the Scapa Flow WWII museum. Don't forget to make reservations in advance for Maeshowe. You do need a car to get around. Regarding getting there, the drive up the east coast of Scotland from Inverness to the ferry terminals at the north end of mainland Scotland is gorgeous.

Posted by
4841 posts

The locals made it clear to us that saying “islands” was redundant, and they just refer to the group as simply “Orkney,” as a whole. That’s great if you live there, but maybe not so much if you’re a visitor trying to navigate 😄

One thing not in Rick’s book when we were there a few years ago, but maybe in there now, is the Tomb of the Eagles, at the southern tip of the South Ronaldsay island, east of Burwick. There are some ruins foundations, and the ancient burial tomb, where eagle remains were discovered, with an opening so small and low that you lie on a small trolley and wheel yourself in. Once thru the opening, the space opens up. The shop at the visitors center there had a great selection of wonderful Orkney music CD’s, and we bought several.

In the northwestern corner of the Orkney Mainland is the Brough of Birsay, with remnants of a former settlement, and a fantastic view of the ocean and shore on the north side. You park, then get to the Brough on foot, via a causeway that’s only accessible at low tide. Check the tide tables, and get back to the mainland before the tide strands you on the Brough. It’s fascinating watching the tide rush in to reclaim the causeway! Also on the Mainland, the Ring of Brodgar stone circle is wonderful. Just down the road, the Ness of Brodgar is an active archaeological dig site, only open in the summer. Archeologists and students are happy to share their finds, and explain the processes used to uncover artifacts. Very kid- and adult-friendly site, when they’re open.

Posted by
278 posts

We were there for three days/four nights in July 2012, at the end of our Britain trip. We never left Mainland (the name of the most-populated island), but we had an amazing time! We saw the big four Neolithic sites (Skara Brae, Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar, and Maes Howe), as well as the Brough of Birsay and the Earl’s Palace nearby, the Italian Chapel, all of the sights in Kirkwall (I loved the Earl’s Palace there—different from the one near the Broch in that it is much more intact, and I could picture much easier what living there would have been like hundreds of years ago), and drove down to the tapestry gallery, stopping for photos of Scapa Flow and the countryside as we drove along. The big thing I missed just because I didn’t know about it was the dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which
I have been following every summer since online.

If you have time, try and go to one of the other islands. I am hoping to return soon and am definitely going to get over to Rousay for more Neolithic sites. If I have the time, I would love to take the world’s shortest scheduled flight from Westray to Papa Westray (two minutes long) and see the house at the Knapp of Howar, one of the oldest houses in the world. It predates Skara Brae by 500 years and you can actually walk through it.

In addition to all of the sightseeing, definitely save money for the shopping! I got some wonderful silver jewelry and other stuff in Kirkwall and the gallery, but my favorite thing to look at almost every day is the Skara Brae fridge magnet of the dresser in the houses.

Posted by
5546 posts

I visited the Mainland, Hoy, South Ronaldsay, and Shapinsay. These are the easiest places to visit with Hoy perhaps being the most challenging. There is an easy ferry from Kirkwall to Shapinsay where you can visit Balfour Castle. You can drive to South Ronaldsay over the Churchill barriers. I love St. Margaret's Hope, the Eagle's Tomb, the Hoxa Gallery and more. My travel to Hoy was managed by family and so is not relevant. There is a ferry. :) It's a magical place.