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Orkney Islands for a Week

Hello All! First time posting here(!)

I am (still) planning a 2 week trip to Scotland at the end of October 2020. I have been to Scotland every year for the past few years and have fallen in love with the country. We've decided to spend the second week on the Orkney Islands this year. We will have a car and like to get outside. However, if the weather doesn't want to cooperate, we can always find one thing or another to explore inside.

I'm hoping some folks on this forum can assist with the following:
- Best place to stay, that's not in the center of town (mainland orkney or otherwise)
- Favorite restaurants that will still be open the last week in October
- Besides the main sites on Mainland Orkney, favorite places to see on some of the other islands.

Thanks in advance for your help!
Mary Kate

Posted by
2145 posts

Hi Mary Kate, I spent a half day in the Orkney Islands last year as part of a cruise excursion. We toured the Ring of Brodgar and a dig site. I loved the area! Since we were there such a short time, can't help with your questions but looking forward to reading the responses. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
30 posts

Hi Mary Kate...bless your adventurous soul! Our 2 week trip to the Orkney and Shetland Islands were an amazing experience. So many people are reluctant to visit these outer islands...I would personally recommend you spend part of your week in the Shetland but if not, below are my recommendations for Orkney:

  1. A day visit to Old Man of Hoy...pack a lunch. You will need to go straight there from ferry. Prebook the ferry crossing times to make sure that you are reserved. You will want to select the earliest ferry from mainland and latest from Hoy.
  2. Ring of Brodgar - Better than Stonehenge and MUCH less crowded!
  3. Italian Chapel built by Italian POWs
  4. Tomb of the Eagles (wear the wellies they provide)
  5. Maes Howe - must prebook tickets
  6. Both Highland Park and Scapa Distilleries

We stayed right downtown in Kirkwall so I cant help you on accomodations outside Kirkwall.



Posted by
4 posts

Hi Maggie! Yes I read that this morning after Jacqui (Skyegirl) posted it. I'm actually an event planner so I'm in the thick of cancellations for spring and summer. At this point though, it does feel like end of October might still be very realistic in terms of traveling again. If its not, thats ok too. But for now, I'm still going to plan my trip :)

Posted by
809 posts

I spent 3 days on Orkney and 4 days on the Shetland islands with a tour offered by my college- and loved the whole trip. We stayed in a quieter part of Kirkwall at the Lynnfield Hotel, which was outstanding. Comfortable rooms, generous bathrooms, and delicious breakfast and dinner at the hotel restaurant.

For sights to see, I warmly second the recommendation of Skara Brae. It was our first stop and a great introduction to the early history. We also really enjoyed the archeological site Ness of Brodgar, just discovered within the last 20 years or so; excavations began in 2003.

Any chance you’ll add Shetland to this trip? Or is that a plan for another time?

Posted by
279 posts

Back in 2012, we stayed at the Mill of Eyrland, which is just a few miles east of Stromness and south of the Stones of Stenness. It‘s an 1830s grain mill converted into a charming B&B, with a lot of the mill equipment still around and the mill creek going past the building. There wasn’t any places within walking distance, but the restaurant at the hotel next to the Stones of Stenness had a nice dinner only a few miles away. Not as central to Kirkwall and places East, but a good base for West Mainland sites like Skara Brae and Maeshowe.

Posted by
1019 posts

I can’t help you with Orkney but if you need info on the Shetlands, I can help you with that. If travel is better/open in June 2021, we may go to Hebrides and Shetland (again).


Posted by
649 posts

I'm planning our Orkney visit, and I'm adding a day trip to Rousay. You can spend about four hours and rent bicycles to visit the half dozen cairns. Maybe it's a waste of time, but someone might chirp in.

Posted by
1188 posts

Just checking in in case you haven't seen the Scottish Government's phased approach to easing lockdown. Route Map
Today we entered phase 1 and it looks as though it will be a very slow process. Scotland is behind the curve in terms of numbers of cases, but it does seem as though the numbers are finally starting to fall. Nobody knows exactly when we will move to each step or phase, but among local B&B owners the general view is that we will be very lucky indeed if we get to open in September. I heard on the grapevine that a very famous restaurant near me on Skye may not open at all this year because social distancing rules would make it impossible for them to be profitable. This may also be the case on other Scottish islands such as Orkney.

As for the last week of October, well in a normal year most places on Skye would be winding down and may well have closed. I suspect it might be similar on Orkney. However, one wonders whether businesses will want to open in October to make up for lack of business earlier in the season. I don't think anyone knows for sure.

Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much Jacqui, and all for your replies.

We still have not cancelled the trip, however we are more cautious now than we were a two months ago.

At this point, we feel like waiting it out might be the right call. However, I've started to think through backup plans like if not Orkney, where? Or if we cancel, when would we reschedule?

Posted by
1997 posts

If you do reschedule, think about visiting in May or June when you will get really long days as well as wild flowers and puffins....