Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Thu, 2010-01-14
Orkney is a group of islands situated a few miles off the north-east tip of mainland Scotland. With its green fields and hills, stone pinnacles rising out of the sea, rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, it is the ideal place for getting away from it all.
Fishing in the lochs is free in Orkney, although it’s a good idea to join the Orkney Trout Fishing Association to find out where to go. Bird watching is another popular activity, as is diving around the wrecks. Orkney was an important strategic site for the British navy during both World Wars and the Germans scuttled their fleet here in 1919.
The main attraction for visitors to Orkney (some 250,000 each year) is its ancient history. From the Stone Age to the Picts and Vikings, the islands have so many sites of archaeological interest that it is impossible to list them all here. If you want to see prehistoric villages, ancient tombs, ruined palaces and standing stones, then book your ticket now. It is hoped that Orkney will become a UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Site which would help to preserve its unique history.
The people of Orkney, with their unique accent, do not see themselves as Scottish so much as Orcadian. For a long time the islands were owned by Norway, so they have a very mixed culture. Today, many of the tourists that come here are Scandinavian and in the shops you will be able to buy Norwegian newspapers.
How to get to Orkney
Vehicle ferries P&O Scottish Ferries operate two services: the ferry from Scrabster (north Scotland) to Stromness (1hr 45 mins), the ferry from Aberdeen (east Scotland) to Stromness (8 hours).
Vehicles should be booked in advance. Telephone: 01856 850 655.
A privately-run ferry operates daily during the summer from John O’Groats to Burwick on the southern tip of Orkney. It takes about 45 minutes to cross the Pentland Firth. No vehicles taken, but cycles allowed. Buses to Kirkwall connect with the ferry.
British Airways and British Airways Express fly to Kirkwall from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Wick, Sumburgh (Shetland). Connections can be made with flights to and from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast. No flights on Sundays. Telephone: 0345 222 111 and 01856 872 494.
If you have no car, a convenient way to reach the islands is to take the coach called the Orkney Express from Inverness to Kirkwall (via the ferry at John O’ Groats). This service runs every day May – September. The coach leaves Inverness at 1420 and connects with the 1800 ferry from John O’ Groats, finally reaching Kirkwall at 1930. For the return journey, you leave Kirkwall at 0900 and reach Inverness at 1345. A return ticket from Inverness for the coach and ferry is 38 pounds.. You can also do the day tour from early June to early September on the coach leaving Inverness Bus Station at 0730 and returning at 2100. Cost: 42 pounds per person (children under 16 travel half-price). Booking required.
Alternatively, you can take the Citylink coach from Inverness to Scrabster for all-year-round the P&O ferry service to Stromness.
Travel on and between the islands
There are lots of places where you can hire a car or bike, plus there are taxis if you want a personal tour.
Car hire is available in both Kirkwall and Stromness, as well as at the airport.
British Airways Express operate light aircraft from Kirkwall to Eday, Stronsay, Sanday, Westray, Papa Westray and North Ronaldsay. Orkney Adventure tickets are available which enable you to visit 3 of these islands at special rates. The fares to Papa Westray and North Ronaldsay are good bargains as they are subsidised. Check the details by phoning 01856 872 494.
There are several bus services on Mainland Orkney which usually operate Monday-Saturday: – Kirkwall to Stromness – Kirkwall to Houton (for the ferry to Hoy and Flotta) – Kirkwall to Burwick – Kirkwall to Tingwall (for the ferry to Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre). – Kirkwall to St. Margaret’s Hope – Kirkwall to East Holm (Mondays only) – Kirkwall/Stromness to Birsay (Mondays only)
– Kirkwall/Stromness to Dounby
You can sail to Rousay, Egilsay, Wyre, Shapinsay, Hoy, Graemsay, Flotta, Eday, Stronsay, Sanday, Westray, North Ronaldsay and Papa Westray. For details of these ferries, contact: Orkney Ferries Ltd – Telephone: 01856 872044 / Fax: 01856 872921.
Camping Eviedale Centre – telephone: 01856 751270/751254 Pickaquoy Caravan and Camping Site, near Kirkwall – telephone 01856 873535. Point of Ness Caravan and Camping Site, near Stromness – telephone 01856 873535.
Orkney Islands official Tourist Board: http://www.visitorkney.com/
More details: Orkney Islands Tourist Information
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