Lerwick, Shetland

© VisitScotland / Stuart Brunton

Orkney & Shetland Island Hopping - Itinerary

So, what awaits you in Orkney and Shetland? For starters, each has a distinctive culture, natural wonders and a number of fascinating geological sites. Lying off Scotland's north coast, surrounded by crystal-clear waters, these two archipelagos are rather special places indeed.

Take a 12-day trip through this charming scattering of islands where you'll discover some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the world, remarkable wildlife, ancient archaeological sites, pristine beaches and much more.

You can fly directly to Orkney and Shetland with Loganair.

Start / Finish
Kirkwall / Yell
  • Days
  • Distance

  • Transport
  • Main theme
Geological wonders
Island towns and villages
Heritage attractions
Nature reserves
Ferry rides
Areas covered

Day 1Orkney - Kirkwall & Stromness


It's the first day of your adventure and it's going to be a good one! Get your bearings on Orkney's Mainland, the largest of the islands in Orkney, and explore town, coastline and the famous Skara Brae.

  • Kirkwall Kirkwall

    Four brightly coloured fishing boats in the harbour at Kirkwall, decked with buoys and nets, with the stone buildings of the town lining the water

    © Iain Sarjeant, all rights reserved.

    Immerse yourself in the Orcadian capital of Kirkwall and learn about the island's fascinating history on a visit to its many historic sites including St Magnus Cathedral, a magnificent red sandstone building that dominates the skyline for miles around.

    Find out more about Kirkwall
  • Stromness Stromness

    Looking across the bay to Stromness harbour. The small houses sit right on the edge of the sea, each with a steep private jetty down to the water

    © Daniel J Allen, all rights reserved.

    The captivating old town of Stromness is located on the shore of Hamnavoe, an inlet of Scapa Flow, and is the main ferry port on Orkney. Stroll around the pretty town and pop into Stromness Museum to learn about Orkney's natural and maritime history. Feeling peckish? Then grab a bite to eat at one of the town's excellent cafés and bistros.

    Find out more about Stromness
  • Yesnaby Orkney

    Yesnaby Castle sea stack on the west coast of Orkney

    Gaze out at the remarkable rock formation of Yesnaby Castle, a two-legged sea stack popular with climbers. Bring along binoculars and see how many different kinds of bird species you can spot while enjoying a revitalising coastal walk.

    Yesnaby is also one of the few places where the rare and delicate flowering plant primula Scotica - more commonly known as Scottish primrose - grows. Visit in the summer when the clifftops are dotted with these vivid magenta flowers.

    Find out more about Yesnaby
  • Skara Brae Prehistoric Village Sandwick

    Skara Brae Prehistoric Village

    Visit Skara Brae, one of the most remarkable prehistoric sites in the world. Older than the Egyptian pyramids, the Neolithic settlement is located on the Bay of Skaill. Uncovered by a sandstorm in 1850, it offers an unparalleled insight into how life was lived by Orkney's earliest inhabitants between 3200 and 2200 BC.

    Find out more about Skara Brae
    Sandwick,Sandwick,KW16 3LR
    Key facilities
    • Parking
    • On Public Transport Route
    • Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
    • Hearing Loop
    • Cafe or Restaurant

Day 2The Heart of Neolithic Orkney


Dedicate your second day in Orkney to unearthing the other archaeological treasures which form the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You might feel like you're Indiana Jones by the end of today!

  • Brough of Birsay Birsay

    Looking Across To The Brough Of Birsay Across Skipi Geo From From The Whalebone On the Mainland.

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

    Make a stop at the Brough of Birsay, the remnants of Pictish and Viking settlements which are believed to date from the 7th -13th century. Here, you'll find traces of Viking and even older Pictish homes, the remains of a Viking monastery, an 11th century sauna, and the cast of a Pictish standing stone with its engravings still visible (the original is on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh).

    Find out more about the Brough of Birsay
    Off Mainland,Birsay,KW17 2LX
    Key facilities
    • Parking
    • On Public Transport Route
  • Maeshowe Chambered Cairn Orkney

    Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

    Maeshowe is the finest chambered tomb in north west Europe and is more than 5,000 years old.

    Viking crusaders broke into the cairn in the 12th century and carved graffiti runes on the walls of the main chamber. Maeshowe is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, along with Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.

    Find out more about Maeshowe Chambered Cairn
    Maeshowe Visitor Centre (at Stenness),Ireland Road,Orkney,KW16 3LB
  • Ring of Brodgar Stromness

    Ring of Brodgar

    One of the finest stone circles in the world. Dating back from 2,500 to 2,000 BC, the stone ring was built in a true circle, 104 metres wide and originally contained sixty megaliths; today only twenty-seven of these stones remain.

    Find out more about Ring of Brodgar
    Stromness,KW16 3JZ

Day 3Isle of Hoy

Day 4Lamb Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay

Day 5Westray

Day 6Kirkwall

Day 7Lerwick

Day 8South Mainland

Day 9Central Mainland

Day 10North West Mainland

Day 11Unst

Day 12Yell

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