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Orkney Islands next spring

Need some advice as we plan a trip to Scotland and Ireland starting mid April to early May, 3 weeks total. On our Bucket List are the Orkney Islands. We will have a rental car in both places. Does anyone know if their are short cruises we could take to see the islands or recommend a tour company? We fly into Edinburgh out of Dublin.

Thanks for any and all suggestions.


Posted by
1589 posts

You can take a very long day trip to Orkney from Inverness. I think it is offered through John O'Groats ferry. We did it a few years ago, so I don't remember exactly, but I think the entire trip was 14 hours.

Last summer, we took the car ferry from Thurso and spent two nights on Orkney. This gave us enough time to see Skara Brae twice, Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe (make a reservation ahead of time for that one) the Earl's Palace (not the one in Kirkwall, the huge one up at the north end of the island), St. Magnus Cathedral, and drive down past the Scarpa Flow area. This was enough time unless you also want to visit some of the other islands. The ferry goes right past the Old Man of Hoy - it's a very scenic boat ride..

Posted by
5572 posts

You can fly to Orkney from Edinburgh as well. It's a connection through Inverness. When we did it we didn't change planes in Inverness. This is the fastest way to get there. It's easy to spend a lot of time on Orkney. The Mainland does have a lot of places to see and visit, with RIng of Brogdar, Scarra Brae, Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe, Ness of Brogdar and more. But there if more to the place that the neolithic sites. If you are a whisky fan, Highland Park is one of the best single malts out of Scotland and is located just outside of Kirkwall. Also, on the island are jewelry designers and other artists whose studios are interesting to visit. Then drive over the Churchill Barriers to South Ronaldsay. The Italian Chapel is well worth a visit. St. Margaret's Hope is lovely little village for lunch and way down at the souther tip is the Eagles Tomb. An easy trip on a ferry leaving from Kirkwall is to Shapinsay where you can see Balfour Castle. There is a lovely walled garden. For the more adventurous the Isle of Hoy is more rugged and has some nice walks.

Here are some very useful websites. Orkneyjar also includes information on the Ness of Brogdar. The VisitOrkney site lists tour companies. Here's one if you end up wanting to move there. And here's the one from Undiscovered Scotland. HEre's the great National Geographic article.

There are some marvelous videos. Here's one on the Ness of Brogdar. Just check Youtube for many more.


Posted by
930 posts

To get to Orkney we took the ferry out of Aberdeen. Wonderful place with do much to explore!

Posted by
1982 posts

What a coincidence! I just bought Rick Steves' new Scotland guidebook that just came out this April and was reading the section on the Orkney Islands, what a fascinating place. You will have a great time.

So, I suggest picking up his Scotland guidebook.

Happy travels,
Judy B

Posted by
1299 posts

If you are going up to Orkney it deserves a couple of nights so as much time in the islands is had as is possible. Northlink ferries do semi cruises to the Northern Isles from Aberdeen, but their main role is as the ferry that serves the Northern Isles.