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Public Transportation and the Orkney Islands

I haven't booked anything yet, so this trip may not happen, but I just decided that I had to get back to Scotland this summer, and the Orkneys are high on my list of places to go. Traveling solo, I stick to public transport. I've looked at the bus routes for the Orkneys and it seems good at getting to many of the sights. I'm wondering if anyone knows if the buses function in the same way as those on the Hebrides? Meaning that there aren't actual "stops" but if you stand along the route, you just flag the bus down. I'm thinking about spending at least a week based in Kirkwall, to give enough time to see everything since I know it takes a lot longer than if I had my own car.

And...any thoughts on hitchhiking there? Is it something that's done on occasion, or would it be odd? On Harris I hitched twice last summer, both times with a new travel friend so wasn't solo, but it was really easy and actually was recommended by the owners of the B&B that I was staying in.

Posted by
5678 posts

I don't think that there is bus service in Orkney. I don't remember seeing any buses other than tour buses. I think that the best option is to rent a car. Or to sign up for some tours.

There are local car rental companies here or here or here or your standard rentals here.

Or you can take taxis.

Or rent a bike.

It's a beautiful place and worth visiting.


Posted by
119 posts

Thanks you Pamela! There are actually public buses, operated by Stagecoach; they even have a special summer bus route to some of the main sights: After some digging, I found a PDF of a brochure that mentions that the buses do stop anywhere along the route if you hail them.

And I officially booked my trip today, 5 nights on Mainland, 2 on Westray, and 2 on Papa Westray!

Posted by
5678 posts

Well, I'm glad you found it. I thought it was a bit weird that there was none, but I sure couldn't find a reference to the service anywhere on the Orkney sites that I regularly use. Do they go anywhere off the Mainland? Can you get to South Ronaldsay? Eagles' Tomb, Churchill Barriers, the Italian Chapel and St. Margaret's Hope are all wonderful. I also really liked the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery outside of St. Margaret's Hope. You can catch a ferry from Kirkwall to Shapinsay and see the castle and gardens there.

You should look into some of the tours though as well. They can be well worth it as they allow you to see more in a limited time. We rented a car when we were there, but we were three people and it was a good value for us.

Posted by
9110 posts

You're both almost right.

I've listened to grumbling. They're infrequent and turn around at Stromness and Saint Margaret's Hope; don't know about northward. The one down to Burwick is run by O'Groats, seasonal, and obviously timed to the daily ferry only. There's another one to or toward Hoy that's ferry-synced , but that's all I remember about it.

I've never picked up a hitchhiker, so I'm betting there were none. The practice seems to be more common in western Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, but it's still nothing like it was years ago. There's a lot of ride-bumming/offering/sharing in hostels. The Peedie's a good one and it's right along the Kirkwall front. Helig's, by far the best pub in town, is just down in the next block.