While often subject to strong winds, midsummer in Orkney finds the sun above the horizon for more than 18 hours of the day. Comprising of more than 70 islands, of which 18 are inhabited, Orkney is famed for its archaeological sites such as the Ring of Brodgar (a magnificent stone circle), the Neolithic chambered tomb of Maes Howe (c. 3000 BC) and the finest Stone Age village in Europe, Skara Brae. Well-preserved evidence of later eras includes Bronze Age barrows, Pictish brochs, Viking settlements, Papae churches and Stewart Castles.
Colonised by the Vikings in the 9th century as a base from which to launch assaults on Ireland’s monasteries, the natural beauty, folklore and unhurried pace of life on the ‘Isles of the Whale’ is seductive. Most of the walking is along grassy swards high above the sea with occasional descents to wide, sweeping beaches.
We take a cliff-top walk on Hoy, the wildest and highest of the islands, overlooking the famous sea-stack the Old Man of Hoy. And, from the site of Thorfinn the Mighty's palace at Birsay we walk to Marwick Head where the Kitchener Memorial towers above the ocean. Weather permitting we may walk the dramatic west coast of Westray to the lonely lighthouse of Noup Head and visit the ruin of Noltland Castle, built in 1560.
Orkney also hosts an incredible array of wild flowers and birdlife, including puffins, short-eared owls and hen harriers. The abundance of seascapes affords us the chance to see seals, porpoises, dolphins and even whales, whilst on land we may spot the Orkney vole or a mountain hare.
Collection from Inverness Rail Station at 14.30, drive to Scrabster by minibus, ferry to Stromness, transfer to hotel in Kirkwall. Group members who fly to Orkney will have to make their own way from the airport to the hotel.
Sunday – Deerness (Mainland)
We explore the peninsula of Deerness, the easternmost part of the Mainland. We walk to the Convenanters' Memorial and we will stroll along the coast round Mull Head. We continue to the Brough of Deerness and The Gloup, an impressive collapsed sea cave that produces strange gurgling noises! On our way back to Kirkwall we could stop at the Dingieshowie loos and visit the Italian Chapel. Back in Kirkwall we have time to visit the Cathedral & Tankerness House, home of the Orkney Museum.
Monday - Isle of Westray
Weather permitting we take the ferry to Westray in the far northwest, a fantastic voyage out along the Swan's Path, the old Viking sea route to Westray. Once on the island we see the sandstone ruin of Noltland Castle built around 1560 for Mary Queen of Scots. We visit the lonely lighthouse of Noup Head, second only to St Kilda in numbers of breeding seabirds. The open ground above the cliffs offers superb views and is beautifully carpeted with yellow, white and purple flowers. From here we walk down along the west coast of Westray.
Tuesday – West Mainland & Skara Brae
We visit 5000-year-old Skara Brae, one of the best-preserved Neolithic villages in Europe, and enjoy the long but easy walk southwards along the coast past Yesnaby fort and North Gaulton castle to Stromness. Along the way there is a fair chance to spot the Primula Scotia (Scottish Primrose), Orkney's most famous flowering plant. At the end of our walk we will have time to spend in the pretty town of Stromness before returning to Kirkwall.
Wednesday – Isle of Hoy
Today we take the ferry to the virtually uninhabited island of Hoy. Hoy is the most dramatic of Orkney’s islands with mountainous land rising over 1570 feet. We take a cliff top walk with dramatic views of the 450 feet sea-stack, the Old Man of Hoy. From here we have several exellent walking options northwards or southwards, depending on group fitness and interest.
Thursday - Birsay Bay
Our last walking day is a varied day around Birsay Bay in the northwest Mainland. We walk to the Kitchener Memorial, a huge tower raised by the people from Orkney, on Marwick Head. We can stroll on the lovely beach, and visit the ruins of Earl’s Palace, built in the second half of the sixteenth century. We finish our day with a visit to the famous stone circle of the Ring of Brodgar, as well as Maes Howe.
Transfer from Kirkwall to Stromness ferry (11am departure). From Scrabster we will drive back to Inverness. Arrival time approx.15.30.
Meet at Inverness Railway Station 14:30
Finish in Inverness 13.30
This magical new walking holiday explores both Orkney and Shetland. These unique and culturally rich islands where the influence of the sea dominates and the remains of its rich cultural history are never too far away
The "Long Island" as it is also known, provides a unique chance to climb the most distinctive hills of the Outer Hebrides. Here rocky hills rise from a land of shimmering lochans and turquoise seas flanked by the most beautiful beaches in the world
"Outstanding! Orkney is a wonderful place and your tour did an excellent job of presenting it to us."
Mr J Poteet
"Well organised and professionally conducted. Excellent itinerary of varied activities - good mix of walking and archaeology."
"Very comprehesive and interesting holiday that exceeded my expectations."
Mrs J Tattersall
"Very enjoyable. Active with full itinerary. Good overview of the wildlife, archaeology and land- sea scapes."
Ms O Newman
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