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Scotland visit to the Islands over 2 weeks

My wife and I want to do a tour of the isles of Scotland. We can do 13 to 14 days in total to include day of departure from US and from Scotland. Is it possible to do Orkney, Shetland and then the Western Highland Isles all in that time frame and allowing for us to not feel rushed? If not, would you rather recommend we focus on the Western Highlands or the Orkney and Shetland Islands?

We are experienced travellers and don't need to be part of any group. I am very comfortable with booking my own itinerary and transport activities. We do want to see many of the key archeological sites in Scotland so I am leaning towards Orkney.

Thank you in advance. By the way, the timeframe would be September or October 2015

Posted by
1291 posts

Because they are sets of islands, getting to and from them will take time so will need to be built in. You can go to Eileann nan Siar and the Northern Isles together in the timescale depending on routes, transport type and what else you want to see.

I have used the Gaelic name deliberately as the Western Isles are the heartland of the language, and very different from the Northern Isles. Orkney has a large archaeological heritage in its favour, Shetland is well and truly off the beaten track in its favour.

If you can specify more of what you are after and what if anything you would be looking to see elsewhere in Scotland more advice can follow.

Posted by
1829 posts

Be sure to include Islay and Jura on your list otherwise you will only be seeing part of the isles.

Posted by
5561 posts

You can probably do this. The question is to ask your self is do you want to?

I did a trip from Madison WI to Orkney about ten years ago. We flew, Madison, St. Louis, London--Gatwick I think--Edinburgh, Inverness, Kirkwall. The last two legs were the same plane. We left at 3:30 PM and arrived in Kirkwall at 6PM the next day. We had time for dinner and then bed. And, BTW it was hard to find a place for dinner, so if you do this, think about making a dinner reservation. This was a second trip to Orkney for us, so we did not do all the sights a second time and included a visit to Hoy for family and Shapinsay because it was easy and looked interesting. If you are interested in the archaeological sites, you'll need at least two days on the Mainland of Orkney. But I would also want to see Eagles Tomb on South Ronaldsay, so that is another day. And maybe a day for enjoying other aspects of Orkney. That puts you 6 days in.

Sadly, I've not been to Shetland. It's on my list for another trip. The good news is that you can fly from Kirkwall to Lerwick in about 40 minutes. Or you take the overnight ferry. The return ferry is to Aberdeen. Of course, you could fly first to Shetland and then take the ferry or plane to Kirkwall. I would think that you would want to spend three days there, but others may have a better idea.

Let's assume, that you do Shetland and then Orkney. From Kirkwall you can fly to Inverness or take the ferry to Scrabster. In Scrabster, you can take the train or bus to Inverness. I would pick up a car and spend the night in Inverness. (BTW I would strongly recommend renting a car on Orkney. I suspect it is the same for Shetland.) The car that you rent in Inverness can easily be returned to Glasgow or Edinburgh. At this point we are ten days into your trip. You will want to get up early and drive to Ullapool and catch the ferry to Stornoway. You'll arrive early afternoon and have time to look around. This is day 11. Spend day 12 looking at the Calinish Stones and the Carloway Broch and catch the morning ferry on the 13th day to Skye. It will be a very long day and you can get to Glasgow that day.

But you see why I think you should pick....You are allowing enough time for the Western Isles. You could probably tighten up Orkney or do more with flights, but wouldn't it be better to go back for another visit? :)

Pam

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you for the responses. We become empty nesters and are hoping for a nice paced trip. I cant get more than 13 days because of work schedule and other vacations earlier in the year. I think since the archaeological sites would be a true highlight for us, I will focus on Orkney and Shetland Islands ON THIS TRIP:). I am thinking of starting farthest out and working way back so that would mean fly to Lerwick in Shetland and then evening ferry to Kirkwell after a few days.

We may be able to get a day or two in Edinburgh or Inverness...always good to see those places again!

I appreciate the responses. Once I decide on final itinerary, I will report back.

Posted by
11 posts

Logging back in because I can't just quit getting my Scotland fixes in spite of our trip being complete. :)

Just checking, and found a flight from EDI to Lerwick. ~90 min on a prop via Loganair. Did not work out the rest of the routes.

Posted by
5561 posts

That is a really great decision, There are some wonderful videos on Orkney and the recent archaeological digs. Look on YouTube. Also, if you want to read some books (novels) about Viking Orkney pick up some George Mackay Brown. Also look for the website Orkneyjar.

Pam

Posted by
5561 posts

Finally got to a real computer and so can post the videos.

Here's one from the BBC Coast series on Orkney and Shetland.

Here's the great one on the Ness of Brogdar.

And here's another on Vikings and Shetland and Orkney.

There are lots more. You could spend the next few months watching them. :)

Posted by
27 posts

Excellent. Thank you for the posts. Those two islands are so hard to get to that I just dont want to cut our trip short doing the hebrides also. Since we still havent seen N Ireland, we will maybe combine the western highland islands with N Ireland on another trip.

Posted by
4974 posts

Last August, we squeezed in visits to both Shetland and Orkney between a week in Edinburgh and a few days on Skye. We were admittedly rushed, but had a fantastic time in both. No time to visit the Outer Hebrides, Islay, Jura, etc. that trip. Next time, would like to visit more of Orkney than just the islands connected by the Churchill Barriers causeway, as well as more then just the "Mainland" island of Shetland. Having 2 full weeks for the isles would be a luxury! The farther north you go, and the later in the year, you might even see Northern Lights in Shetland in late September/October!