Destinations and maps

Orkney

Come to Orkney for the wildlife, the beaches and the history, and we reckon that you'll fall for the culture and the creativity too. This archipelago of around 70 islands lies north of mainland Scotland and was voted one of the UK's top 10 islands in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards, which is no mean feat!

Island life

With a unique culture and history, Orkney has a strong identity of its own. The largest island, and also the most populated, is known as the Mainland. On the East Mainland coast lies Kirkwall, the ancient capital of Orkney, with its Viking cathedral, fishing port and distillery. The archipelago's other main port and town, Stromness, is located in the south of West Mainland. It's a highly creative place with many crafty gift shops and art galleries amongst its old, winding streets.

Walk like an Egyptian

Did you know that the island of Rousay is known as the 'Egypt of The North' because it's home to over 150 archaeological sites, including a 5,000 year old chambered tomb?

In fact, the ancient settlement of Skara Brae on the Mainland is older than the Pyramids, and, together with the dramatic Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

And that's just one aspect of Orkney's fascinating history.

Back to nature

Award-winning beaches, fantastic wildlife, dramatic sea stacks and rugged cliffs - what more could you want? Let's take a closer look: 

  • Nice and beachy - when you see the white sands and turquoise waters of Orkney's beaches, you might mistakenly think you're in the Caribbean.
  • Puffins, fulmars and rare birds - Orkney happens to be on one of the busiest flight paths for migrating birds, with tens of thousands of birds and hundreds of species spotted each year. 
  • All going swimmingly - porpoises, dolphins, whales and other sealife can be spotted on and around Orkney's shores, and underwater creatures can be found in rock pools and on dives too.
  • Rocking through the ages - there are rugged cliffs, deep caves, rocky skerries and dramatic sea stacks to be seen, and sometimes climbed, dotted along hundreds of miles of coast.
  • Northern lights - Orkney is considered to be one of the best places in the UK to see the magical Aurora Borealis , also known as the Northern Lights.

Travel in Orkney

Getting here

Orkney has great transport links with the rest of the UK and can be reached by plane or ferry, with connections by bus, car or train.

Planes fly to Kirkwall from the airports at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Sumburgh, with all flights lasting an hour or less.

There are four ferry routes to choose from, with up to 12 sailings a day, depending on the season. Travel times vary from as little as 40 minutes on the seasonal passenger ferry from John O'Groats to Burwick, to six hours on the ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall.

Get to Orkney now!

Getting around

The road, flight and ferry network throughout Orkney is good, with many major attractions, towns and villages well connected by public transport. Famously, the shortest scheduled flight in the world is between Westray and Papa Westray, and takes less than two minutes!

Cars and bikes can be hired to explore the islands, and taxis are available too - what's more, there are four islands that can be reached from Orkney Mainland by road thanks to the Churchill Barriers.

Quiet roads and fairly flat islands make for good cycling, with routes including the Prehistoric Loop Ride.

Plan your travel around Orkney

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