Orkney Islands Tours

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Separated from the northern tip of mainland Scotland by the choppy waters of the Pentland Firth strait, the Orkney Islands are an archaeological wonderland. Comprised of about 20 inhabited islands and many more uninhabited ones, the archipelago is littered with prehistoric ruins and Viking remnants. The islands’ interiors, a patchwork of heather-clad moors and fertile grasslands, are encircled by superb sandy beaches and sheer coastal cliffs.
 
The Basics
The Orkney Islands showcase a side of Scotland few visitors ever get to see. Travelers can visit on guided day trips from John O’Groats, which typically include boat travel to Burwick and transport via the Churchill Barriers, a network of causeways that link the Orkney Mainland (the biggest island in the archipelago) to four other smaller islands to the south. Travelers can also see the islands as part of multi-day tours from Edinburgh that cover highlights of the Scottish Highlands too. Most guided Orkney tours will include a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Skara Brae, a prehistoric stone settlement that’s older than the Egyptian pyramids, and the Lamb Holm Italian Chapel, which was constructed by Italian prisoners of war during World War II.
 
Things to Know Before You Go
  • Guided day tours from John O’Groats generally last upwards of 10 hours.
  • Bring layers that provide protection from the archipelago’s near-constant wind.
  • Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
  • Keep an eye out for the island’s incredible fauna and flora, including the delicate and rare Scottish primrose.

How to Get There
Direct flights to Kirkwall run from the Scottish mainland cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness. NorthLink Ferries operate services from Scrabster to Stromness on Mainland Orkney (90 minutes), and from Aberdeen to Kirkwall on Mainland Orkney (six hours). Pentland Ferries run a route from Gills Bay to St. Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay (one hour). From May to September, John O’Groats Ferries carry passengers between John O’Groats and Burwick on South Ronaldsay (40 minutes).

When to Get There
No matter what time of the year, solitude and serenity can be found on the Orkneys. Because of the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, the islands are rarely subject to extreme weather, though the biting wind can make it feel colder than it is. Summer is the best time to go, as longer daylight hours facilitate exploration.

Sightseeing on the Orkney Islands
The Orkney Islands are jam-packed with attractions. In addition to the Stone Age temple complex known as the Ness of Brodgar and the Viking-era graffiti in the Neolithic Maeshowe tomb, visitors can survey sunken warships while scuba diving around the Scapa Flow, admire the 1,136-foot-tall (346-meter) cliffs on the island of Hoy, and stroll the boulder-strewn Rackwick Beach.
Location
Address: Scotland
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Admission: Free
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3 Tours & Activities to Experience

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Orkney Islands Day Trip from Inverness

Take an Orkney Islands tour of top attractions on this day trip from Inverness. You’ll travel by coach through Scotland’s dramatic North Highlands and ferry across the Pentland Firth from John O’Groats. Cross the Churchill Barriers and Scapa Flow to the Ring of Brodgar and Standing Stones of Stenness — part of the Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site. Your guide also takes you to the stone-age village of Skara Brae and the 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. Note: This tour operates during the summer months.
  • Duration: 14 hours
From
USD90.72
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  • Duration: 14 hours
From
USD90.72

3-Day Orkney Islands Tour from Inverness

Discover the mystic and dramatic beauty of the far-flung Orkney Islands on this 3-day excursion from Inverness. With a friendly guide, journey across the Pentland Firth to wind-swept Orkney archipelago, bursting with wildlife and picture-perfect vistas. Visit villages steeped in Viking mystery and landmarks like the Lamb Holm Italian Chapel and the UNESCO-listed Standing Stones of Stenness. Two evenings in a 3-star hotel or B&B and daily breakfast included.
  • Duration: 3 days
From
USD440.64
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  • Duration: 3 days
From
USD440.64

Orkney Islands Day Trip from John O'Groats

Escape the mainland for a full-day tour of the far-flung Orkney Islands from John o’Groats. Journey by ferry across the Pentland Firth to the wind-swept Orkney archipelago, bursting with postcard-perfect natural vistas and mystical landmarks. With a local guide, cruise along the Churchill Barriers to visit villages steeped in Viking mystery like 5,000 year-old Skara Brae and landmarks like the Lamb Holm Italian Chapel and St Magnus Cathedral.
  • Duration: 11 hours
From
USD77.76
See Details
  • Duration: 11 hours
From
USD77.76


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