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Travel to Orkney Islands

We will be in Scotland in September. We would like to see the sites in the Orkneys. We are looking for different opinions on transportation to and from the islands as well as transport around the islands. Our travel should be "thirfty" as well as moderately efficient. Hubby has suggested public transportation to the island and a car rental there. I'm not sure that is even possible! For us, our best travel days are not spent driving cars! We are looking at spending two nights there. Any other suggestions for this particular area are very welcome. We have the plane tickets to Scotland but no itinerary at this point.

Posted by
6410 posts

Well, I have good news and bad news. There are a couple ways to get to the Orkneys: take a ferry, or fly. The ferry is cheaper, but takes a while. Flying is fast and more expensive (although if you book far in advance, doesn't need to be super expensive). It's your choice - which commodity is more precious to you - time, or money?

We went to Orkney last summer, for just a couple days. To me the choice was a no-brainer: we spent the extra money and we flew. With limited time, I couldn't imagine spending half a day getting there and half a day getting back. Your priorities may be different.

Orkney was cool. I'm glad we went (and I'm glad we flew there and back). Renting a car was fairly easy (use the internet). I can't imagine trying to get around to the sites without a car - it might be possible, but again, how much of your time do you want to spend waiting for a bus, etc.?

Posted by
2615 posts

I have only ever flown to Orkney from Edinburgh , doing the road/ ferry route just takes too much time and with the cost of car hire and petrol probably not much cheaper. easy enough to hire a car once there and having a hire car is a positive advantage that will get you to all the major sites easily and cheaply.

Posted by
6410 posts

BTW, I would suggest you arrange your car rental on Orkney well in advance of your trip. There are limited options (not THAT many rental cars available on the island) and if you want until the last minute you may have limited (or no) options. Plan ahead.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks, we have decided to fly. Everyone is right that it seems to be the best choice when you really study the problem.

Posted by
5677 posts

I have done both. I've taken the train/ferry to and from Orkney and I've flown to Orkney and then taken the ferry/train over the to mainland to finish our trip.

And yes, book your car in advance. We worked it out so that they met us in Stromness where we caught the ferry, but I've heard that others have had difficulty with it. I would recommend asking about transfer to the Ferry if you choose that route. The ferry from Stromness takes you past the Old Many of Hoy and into Scrabster. There you can catch a bus or Train to Inverness. Once in Inverness you can either rent another car or stick with the train.

BTW the roads are small, but there was not that much traffic. Check out this website for great info on Orkney.


Posted by
1596 posts

Because of the oil, Orkney has some good quality roads, often better than equivalents on Great Britain to the south. I note from your other thread you are hiring a car. This is probably the best course of action. Mainland and the islands along the Churchill barriers are well connected by road, but the buses are not that frequent being a rural area. Be aware that Kirkwall can be tight for parking, but as a main centre is not that big.

One thing that keeps occuring on Rick Steves - It is Orkney. Orkney Islands at a push, the council is 'Orkney Islands Council' the 'Islands Council' refers to its legal status not that it is the council of the Orkney Islands. It is never Orkneys.

Orkney, like Shetland, refers to the entire collection of islands. The island called Mainland is the mainland of Orkney.

And whenever I read these threads I start looking for jobs in my field there.