Stromness and Orphir - Orkney

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Journey Planner
  • Harbour at Stromness
    Harbour at Stromness
  • Fisherman on boat holds a lobster he has caught
    Fresh Orkney lobster
  • Pier Arts Centre at night
    Pier Arts Centre at night
  • Shopping in Stromness
    Shopping in Stromness
  • Looking across the harbour at Stromness from the incoming ferry
    Looking across the harbour at Stromness from the incoming ferry

Experience the best of Stromness and Orphir in Orkney following this itinerary that explores the region's history and nature. Keep your eyes open for the wonderful wildlife and the many exciting attractions along the way.

Start your tour in the picturesque town of Stromness, one of Orkney's main seaports. It first attracted sailors for the fine anchorage provided by Hamnavoe and has provided a haven for mariners for centuries, being the last port of call before many transatlantic voyages. Wander down the cobbled streets and soak in the atmosphere of the seaport, while listening to the audio tour, which can be downloaded or collected from the Stromness Museum and Pier Arts Centre.

Enjoy the shops and galleries which stock a large selection of local artwork and crafts. Each year in late May Stromness is buzzing with the Orkney Folk Festival. The town is the main venue for various events including concerts, pub sessions and ceilidhs throughout the festival. Whilst in July the town plays host to Stromness Shopping Week which culminates in a fancy dress parade and fireworks display on the last night. The town is also the venue for the Jazz and Beer Festivals each year.

Admire one of the UK’s most impressive collections of 20th century British art at the Pier Arts Centre. First established in 1979, the centre has undergone an extensive refurbishment and is now a modern exhibition centre overlooking the historic pier. The centre acts as a focal point for local art enthusiasts and helps keep Orkney current and involved with the worldwide art community.

For a glimpse into Orkney’s natural history and maritime past, pay a visit to the Stromness Museum situated just a short walk along the harbour front. Discover a wide range of fascinating artefacts, including those salvaged from the German Fleet which was scuttled at Scapa Flow in 1919. The Victorian Natural History Gallery has an extensive bird collection with eggs, fossils and sea creatures. Learn how to survive in the arctic through displays about Dr John Rae, Sir John Franklin and the Arctic Whalers. 

Relax and watch the harbour activity as you enjoy lunch at the Ferry Inn, or pay a visit to one of the many cafes, bistros and restaurants dotted throughout the winding town streets such as Julia's Café in Stromness.

Begin your afternoon with a guided tour of Ness Battery, which are available on particular days of the week and should be booked . This important relic of Orkney’s wartime heritage once defended Scapa Flow against enemy attack, and after being closed for many years, it is now open for guided tours provided by local company Stromness Tours Ltd. Book a tour and explore inside the gun emplacements, discovering how this battery defended Orkney. Finish your tour in the Mess Hall which features the famous painted mural.

Take a short scenic drive on the A964 to Orphir to continue your tour at the Orphir Round Kirk - Scotland’s only surviving medieval round church. This was built in about 1123 and is thought to have been modelled on the rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The kirk also stands next to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre, a visitor attraction detailing the great story of Orkney’s Viking Age as told in the Orkneyinga Saga, written in Iceland in the 12th century.  The centre has displays about the saga and their historical background as well as information about Viking life and culture.You can follow in the footsteps of the Norse through the Orkneyinga Saga Trail viewing important relics, areas and artefacts from the Viking era in Orkney.  Interpretation boards are at key locations of Viking events and places.

Finish your day with short drive to the coast to enjoy a sunset stroll around Waulkmill Bay, one of Orkney’s finest sheltered beaches and a Site of Special Interest. The freshwater feed from the Loch of Kirbister and the presence of reformative sand bars make the sandy beach area at the north end of Waulkmill Bay a unique habitat for birds. The RSPB site of Hobbister Reserve is just a short walk away with a variety of rare and fascinating seabirds.

Whether you're interested in the Orkney's historynature or are simply looking for a relaxing holiday, soak up the peace and tranquility of this amazing islands while travelling around and keep your eyes open for the wonderful wildlife and the many exciting attractions along the way.