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10 ideas for a great trip to Orkney.

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

Yes, my Lord. Deluxe Small Group Scottish Castle Tour.

Scotland’s turbulent history has left a lasting mark on the landscape in shape of the many castles, fortresses and tower houses that pepper the countryside

These imposing structures have the power to fire the imagination and with your guide’s expert storytelling this tour will bring the past to life on a wonderful and unique journey around Scotland

Scottish Highland ToursFrom Edinburgh to the east coast, along the castle trail of the Royal Deeside and into the Highlands. From here you will visit Scotland’s highest Whisky Distillery and back into the Kingdom of Fife finishing the tour with a boat trip on Loch Leven, following the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots Stay like a lord or lady in Ardoe House Hotel near Aberdeen for 2 nights and 1 night at Knockomie House Hotel near Forres, where a farewell banquet dinner is included in the package. View current prices and departures here

Day 1

You depart from the World Heritage City of Edinburgh and travel north, crossing the Forth Road Bridge into the ancient Kingdom of Fife. Your first visit of the day will be Falkland Palace, where during a private, guided tour you will be able to discover more of this pretty Royal Palace

Built between 1502 and 1541, it is set in the heart of the unique medieval village of Falkland and has been residence and hunting lodge of eight Stuart monarchs. Highlight of the visit will be to see the Real Tennis court, built in 1539! You continue to St Andrews and during a town walk your guide will tell you more about its past and more recent history

Its connection to the patron Saint of Scotland, birthplace of Golf, ancient University town and matchmaker to a Royal couple – there is a lot to see!

Your afternoon visit will be at the House of Dun near Montrose. This beautiful Georgian house, overlooking Montrose Basin, was built in 1730. It features superb plasterwork and now houses the Hutchison collection of Scottish colourists and the Stirling collection of furniture, ranging from the 18th century to the 1960s

On route to Aberdeen you will make a photo stop at Dunnottar Castle, a dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress in a truly stunning setting. Dunnottar is where they filmed Hamlet’s Macbeth and provided inspiration for Disney Pixar’s movie “Brave”. From here you continue to Ardoe House Hotel, a lovely 19th century mansion house, where you will stay for 2 nights

Day 2

Today will be spent in the Royal Deeside area, famous for its many castles.

Your first visit will be Castle Fraser, one of the grandest of the Scottish baronial tower houses. Begun in 1575, the present castle contains an evocative Great Hall, fine furniture and many Fraser family portraits. You can round the visit off with a walk through the beautiful 18th century walled garden

The tour continues to Banchory where you might be able to see salmon jumping at the Falls of Feugh. Maybe take short nature walk in Glen Tanar or the Burn o’ Vat

Lunch stop is at Ballater before continuing with your afternoon programme. Crathes Castle provides the highlight for the afternoon. Turrets, gargoyles and the ancient Horn of Leys given in 1323 by Robert the Bruce are just a few of the features of this historic castle. You will be free to explore the house and the stunning gardens at your own pace

The gardens stay green irrespective of the time of year, as with the ancient yew hedges that frame the upper parts of the gardens, particularly the fountain and rose gardens. Wandering through the outstanding, world-renowned June Borders, beautiful vistas of the castle can be seen through the fusion of colourful flowers

You return back to Ardoe House later for another overnight

Day 3

Your tour heads further north today and starts the day with a visit to Fyvie Castle near Turriff, which will open its doors especially for our party at 9.30

Fyvie Castle dates back to the 13th century and has a fine collection of arms and armour as well as 17th century tapestries and opulent Edwardian interiors.You then continue, travelling through beautiful scenery and on to Nairn, where lunch will be taken at nearby Brodie Castle. Then you have time to explore the castle further. Dating from the 16th century, this imposing castle stands in rich Morayshire parkland

It has very unusual plasterwork and a major art collection and tells the fascinating story of the Brodie family.

In the afternoon you will be able to take the Clan Walk at the Culloden Visitor Centre. The Clan Stone Walkway is designed to commemorate the Scottish Clans and their clansmen who fought at the battle of Culloden with a special Insignia Stone. The Clans are represented with their individual Crest and personal inscription

After the visit you continue to Knockomie House Hotel. A dinner for our group will be held tonight in one of the private rooms

Day 4

Today sees you travelling south again through some of the most stunning scenery Scotland has to offer

You pass Inverness and travel to Kingussie for a photo stop at the Ruthven Barracks. From here you continue to Dalwhinnie Distillery. Dalwhinnie is the highest Distillery in Scotland and takes its waters right from the source of the River Spey. A tour of the distillery is included and you will also have the chance to taste the ‘Water of Life’

After a lunch stop in Pitlochry you head to Loch Leven by Kinross. In the middle of the Loch you find Loch Leven Castle, a late 14th century tower, which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots

It was in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate her throne before her dramatic escape a year later

You will enjoy a short boat ride over to the castle, following in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots. Then explore at your leisure the island and tower house, before returning back to Edinburgh, arriving around 18.30

This exclusive Scotland tour can be booked through our preferred travel partners ‘Best Value Tours’

More Scottish Day Tours and multi day tours can be viewed here

The Small Group Tour Experts