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10 ideas for a great trip to Orkney.

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The beautiful islands of Orkney, lie just north of the main coast of Scotland. If you want to speak like a native, remember that the islands are called “Orkney”, not “The Orkneys”. The biggest includes the capital city of Kirkwall and is (confusingly!) called Mainland.

Standing stones Orkney

GETTY Some of the standing stones in Orkney are older than Stonehenge

1. Marvel at the stone circles and tombs that are even older than Stonehenge. Orkney was a very important place 5,000 years ago, and the islands are littered with them.

2. Tuck into crab and lobster – Orkney is famous for seafood. You’ll also see thousands of sleek cattle grazing on the islands and Orkney beef is delicious. Excellent restaurants to try local foods include The Foveran near Kirkwall or The Ferry Inn in the enchanting little port of Stromness. thefoveran.com and ferryinn.com

3. Go seal watching. Seals can often be seen bobbing around offshore, and if you are lucky you’ll come across some basking on the rocks. You can often see them lying around on the little islands that lie in the harbour of Stromness, called Inner and Outer Holm. You can walk across to these islands in a few minutes at low tide but be careful not to get stranded and check the tide times first.

Sandy beach on Westray

4. Pop into a welcoming Orkney pub and sample some of the real ales brewed on the islands, such as Red McGregor and Dark Island. Or, try a dram of superb Highland Park Single Malt Whiskey, distilled on Orkney for over 200 years – illegally in the early days. It has been voted ‘Best Spirit in the World’ three times. sinclairbreweries.co.uk and highlandpark.co.uk

5. Discover what life was like 5,000 years ago on these islands and explore the stone age village of Skara Brae. It was only revealed when it was uncovered by a raging storm in 1850. The cosy stone-built homes are complete with their beds, cupboards and fireplaces. Some even have an en suite toilet. To find out more, search for Skara Brae on the website historic-scotland.gov.uk

6. Most people stay on the biggest of the islands, which is confusing called Mainland. But it is fun to take a ferry to Westray if you like bird watching. During summer, the dramatic cliffs here are alive with thousands of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, and this is the best place to spot puffins. The ferries don’t have room for many cars, so book a few days ahead if you have a vehicle. orkneyferries.co.uk

Neolithic houses at Skara Brae

GETTY Stone Age houses at Skara Brae. They were uncovered by a storm in 1850

7. Looking at prehistoric tombs doesn’t sound very exciting – but on Orkney, it really is. The most spectacular is Maeshowe (you must book to see this – call 01856 761 606). The most fun is The Tomb of the Eagles on South Ronaldsay; to enter this you need to lie on a wobbly trolley and drag yourself in by a rope. Guaranteed to raise gales of laughter. Maeshowe: historic-scotland.gov.uk (then search Maeshowe). Tomb of the Eagles: tomboftheeagles.co.uk

8. Walk on water. The Brough of Birsay is a little tidal island off the west coast of Mainland. It boasts the remains of a Viking town, a lighthouse and spectacular cliff walks. But you need to check the tide times – you can only walk across the causeway to the island for about 2 hours before and after low tide. To check tide: surf-forecast.com

Old Man of Hoy

GETTY The Old Man of Hoy looks out on to Scapa Flow

9. Look up to see the towering, dramatic cliffs on the island of Hoy. Here, you’ll find the famous 145-foot sea stack known as The Old Man of Hoy. The island looks out onto the huge natural harbour of Scapa Flow, which was the Royal Navy’s main naval base during both World Wars. Hoy is also scattered with wartime buildings. Find out more about wartime Orkney at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre. scapaflow.co.uk
10. Come to Orkney on a day trip from John O’Groats on mainland Scotland if you’re short of time. The ferry only takes 40 minutes to get to Orkney, and then you travel on by coach. There are several itineraries to choose from taking in many of the main sights. jogferry.co.uk

By Anne Gorringe Express (Source)

We operate luxury small group tours of Scotland

The Small Group U.K Tour Experts
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