A rail journey exploring the Capital of the Highlands & Historic Pitlochry

My journey to the Highlands began from bustling Glasgow Queen Street station. Watching as busy commuters scrambled to catch their train, I was very much looking forward to the peacefulness of the three-hour train journey to Inverness.

Time went at a slower, more relaxed pace as I stared at the impressive views of the rugged mountainous scenery from the comfort of my cosy train carriage, with the sun shining on the moors as we passed.

Jolted back to reality, I listened as the train conductor announced that we had arrived in Inverness, to the faint tapping of rain on the window as we pulled up to the station.

As I looked outside at the slight drizzles of rain, I realised this was the perfect opportunity to delve into the art, history, and culture all offered in the heart of the city. What better way to learn about a new destination than visiting a local museum?

An Inverness street sign

After a short stop off at a local pub to fuel up on some delicious homemade soup and a fresh ciabatta sandwich, I headed to the historic centre of Inverness, a short stroll from the train station. Situated at the foot of the Castle Hill, the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery boasted a treasure trove of artefacts relating to the history of Scotland.

I was keen to soak it all in and get involved with the interactive exhibitions, ranging from ancient geology and recent history of the Highlands to Jacobite memorabilia and authentic weapons.

The Geology of the Highlands particularly sparked my interest – with some of the original stones on show dating back to the Ice Ages when only a mountain range existed, some 800 million years ago.

As I moved through exhibitions and the decades I learned more about life in the Highlands and how it has evolved to how we know it today, including the origin of Gaelic which came to Scotland in the 5th century from the North of Ireland.

The next stop was the booklover’s paradise of Leakey’s Bookshop – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. The setting housed in an old Gaelic church, with wonderful history behind it, made the visit even more magical.

Leakey’s Bookshop

With books in about every genre you can ever imagine from rare antiques to modern-day best sellers, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a new book to get lost in. The wood stove burning created a perfect homely ambience which made the experience even more enjoyable.

An hour and a new book (or two) later, I headed to Inverness Cathedral located on the scenic banks of the River Ness. Boasting Victorian architecture by Alexander Ross and glorious stained-glass windows, a walk through the UK’s most northerly Anglican Cathedral did not disappoint.

Inverness Cathedral

Day two started with a hearty full Scottish breakfast and the sun shining as I set off on my short walk to Inverness bus station, taking in the city’s spectacular views along the way.

On the coach, the journey to legendary Loch Ness began. I tuned into the driver’s guided tour as he shared some local knowledge and history of Inverness.

I then hopped aboard the cruiser headed for the world-famous waters of the loch, securing a seat on the upper deck to get a closer look at the mysteries  – would Nessie make an appearance?

The wind blew through my hair as we passed the Caledonian Canal, learning from our guide how the canal was opened in 1822 by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford, with 22 miles of the waterway being man-made and the remaining 38 miles being made up of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.

Viewing Urquhart Castle from the cruise

As we drew closer to the shore of Loch Ness, I caught a glimpse of the once mighty Urquhart castle. And so, the exploring began, climbing uphill to the ruins – slightly distracted by the breathtaking views over the loch. I started to gain an insight into medieval life as I walked the grounds, imagining the grand banquets in the great hall, peering into the dingy prison cell in the dungeon area and finally mounting the narrow stairs to the Grant tower.

We finished our visit with a coffee from the café located at the top of the hill, resting in the outdoor seating area – soaking up the sun and taking in the impressive views of the dramatic ruins.

Our coach ride back to Inverness was filled with more wisdom from our driver, educating us about the Highland Clearances which resulted in many Scots emigrating to places such as Canada, America and New Zealand, which is why many people around the world have Scottish ancestors.

I finished the day feeling very patriotic, finding a nearby pub where I joined the locals to watch the Scotland vs Switzerland football. It is safe to say that tensions were high, but everyone joined in on the celebrations when Scotland finally scored.

Urquhart Castle ruins

I boarded the train again the following morning, this time heading to destination number two – historic Pitlochry.

Nestled in the heart of the splendid Perthshire countryside, I felt instantly relaxed as I stepped out onto the train platform. I was mesmerised by the range of unique shops, cafes and restaurants that filled the streets of this quintessential Scottish town in the Highlands.

Famous for its ‘Fish Ladder and dam’ I thought it was only right for this to be my first stop in Pitlochry, following the signposted circular walk from the town centre.

Passing over the dam wall, I read the informative plaques that explained the history of the fish ladder. After the construction of Pitlochry dam as part of hydro-electric works between 1947 and 1951 it was decided that a fish ladder had to be created to allow the annual migration of thousands of Atlantic salmon journeying up the river Tummel and over the dam wall. I was shocked to discover that around 5,000 salmon pass through the ladder each year.

Pitlochry dam and Fish Ladder

After a bite to eat by the stunning Loch Faskally, the adventure continued – following the same sign-posted path that led me to the Explorers’ Garden situated beside Pitlochry Festival Theatre. The gardens celebrate the contribution of Scotland’s plant hunters. Strolling through the woodland garden I was transported across the globe with many rare plant species – from South America to South Africa to New Zealand.

Explorers Garden, Pitlochry

A quick taxi ride later, I was on my way to ancient Blair Castle – an attraction high up on my list when deciding how to spend my time in Pitlochry. Now open to the public, Blair Castle has been the home to 19 generations of Stewarts and Murrays, I was eager to explore the 30 rooms full of Scottish cultural history.

Entering the castle – I noticed the walls were decorated with weapons forming unusual shapes, which I later discovered were used at the Battle of Culloden. The paintings, furniture and contents of the rooms reflected the lives of the Dukes of Atholl who were adventurers, Jacobites and scholars to name a few, their stories captured against the 18th century interior.

The highlight for me was learning that in 1844 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert decided to visit Blair Castle for an informal family holiday, rooms were decorated, and furniture was imported specifically for the Queen’s use – with complete secrecy until the minute she arrived.

Blair Castle, Pitlochry

Captivated by the rich history of magnificent Blair Castle, I decided to explore the surrounding landscapes outside that feature a nine-acre walled garden designed by the 2nd Duke of Atholl, complete with landscaped ponds and a fruit tree orchard.

Overwhelmed with my action-packed day, I decided to conclude my Pitlochry venture with a taxi back to the town centre to reflect on my brief Scottish Highlands trip.

Over a delicious meal at a local restaurant overlooking the atmospheric town centre, I realised how much I enjoyed being a tourist in my own country, escaping the busy city life of Glasgow and taking time to fully appreciate the beauty, history and culture of Scotland. The question soon began playing on my mind, where to next?

Words by Joanna @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offers a number of holidays in Scotland, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in the experience I had, you can book a space on the Loch Ness, The Jacobite & Skye Guided Rail Tour.  If you prefer to travel self-guided you could consider the Explore Scotland by Train among a range of options. Slowly… holidays, such as Slowly Through the North Highlands by Train, allow you travel at your own pace for a relaxing tour, or you could ride the rails more extensively on the Grand Tour of Scotland by Train.

Do let us know if you’d like to include any of these destinations as part of a tailor-made tour. Take a look around our website for even more holiday inspiration.

A Tale of Two Cities – A brief jaunt through Dublin & Belfast

When the opportunity arose for me to pay visits to two of my favourite cities on the island of Ireland, I jumped at it straight away. I’d be travelling as part of a guided group tour and joining them for the first few days, so was intrigued to find out their impressions of the two capitals.

First stop was Dublin, a historic city of literature and music. It’s a place that feels quite intimate despite its size, and offers a welcome as warm and friendly as any village. I was arriving relatively late in the day, so wasted no time in getting to the hotel and meeting up with my fellow travellers. The tour leader made everyone feel at home and gave us an outline of what the holiday would be made up of, ensuring everyone knew the others in the group. Before long we were all chatting like old friends – even more so after a pint of Guinness.

St Stephen’s Green is a beautiful park for a morning walk

We started our first full day in Dublin fortified by a hearty breakfast and gathered with some excitement, ready for our guide to lead the way. It began with a gentle stroll down through St Stephen’s Green en route to Dublin Castle. The green is a Victorian gem nestled in the heart of the city, an oasis of calm in the middle of the bustle, which can boast four centuries of history. A beguiling mixture of myriad species of plants and birds, it’s also host to a number of important sculptural monuments to Irish history – with Joyce, Yeats (courtesy of a sculpture by Sir Henry Moore) and Mangan all present to represent Dublin’s literary heritage.

The interior of Dublin Castle

Arriving at Dublin Castle, it’s impossible not to be impressed by such an elegant edifice. Standing on one of the highest points in the centre of the city, the castle was originally constructed in the thirteenth century on the site of a Viking settlement. From 1204 until 1922 it served as the administrative centre for British rule, with a blaze in 1684 causing it to require extensive rebuilding. Parts of the Viking and medieval structures survived and they can still be explored today. When Independence was declared in 1922 it remained the hub of the new government for the Republic.

Dublin’s original defences

We went down below the castle to take in the Viking excavations and we could clearly see Dublin’s original defences, in the form of a stone covered embankment, preserved within the massive circular walls of the thirteenth-century Powder Tower. A set of steps led us down to where the original moat was located. The nearby River Poddle, which still flows in the castle grounds, would have been diverted in order to create it.

Chester Beatty showcases eclectic objects from Ireland and the rest of the world.

Literally a stone’s throw away from the castle is the remarkable Chester Beatty. Formerly known as the Chester Beatty Library, this glorious museum houses the collection gathered by the mining magnate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. Composed of examples of Western, Islamic, East & South East Asian artefacts, it makes up one of the most significant collections in the world, with an array of priceless objects. It is dedicated to the appreciation and understanding of world cultures. Lonely Planet described it as ‘not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe.’ After losing ourselves in this stunning display of treasures and with a little bit of time to enjoy the ornamental Dubh Linn Gardens that sits on its doorstep, we had a few hours to wander and explore Dublin ourselves.

As is traditional when in Dublin, the group settled down at a cosy local pub for a well-earned meal and a chance to review and discuss all that we’d seen. And yes, of course, the Guinness made another appearance.

Dublin has a vast array of friendly pubs

The following morning we boarded the train taking us up into Northern Ireland, destined for the vibrant city of Belfast. The track took us up the coastal route and, for the next few hours, a series of beautiful landscapes appeared one after the other as we gazed out of the carriage windows. First skirting Malahide Marina, it crosses the estuary heading north, following the coast as far as Drogheda. Speeding through the fields we crossed over the 18-arch Craigmore Viaduct, stretching for a quarter of a mile across the valley below. Eventually we pulled into Belfast, though the journey had just seemed to fly by.

At the station, our luggage was transferred to the hotel, whilst we were guided into Belfast’s centre by the tour leader, whose many tales of local history brought the past of the area vividly to life. We’d been advised at breakfast that maybe go for a lighter option – though an Irish breakfast is a mighty hard thing to resist – as our journey through the city today would be one based around it’s food. An expert foodie guide joined us and shared their enthusiastic knowledge of how food has helped to shape Belfast and how it’s a key part of its current reinvention.

Beginning in the historic, award-winning St George’s Market, the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast. The covered market has been here since around 1896, though an open version was in place prior to that and most likely contained a meat market and slaughterhouse.
The modern day market is not only home to a mouthwatering range of food stalls, but also features arts and crafts, antiques, clothing, plants, gifts with many more types of goods on offer.

The markets in Belfast is a delightful place to try out some new food

But it was the food we were here for – wanting to discover the passion behind the plate. After sampling delicious delights both local and from around the world in the market, the tour then took to the cobbled streets and a heady mixture of many traditional bars, artisanal producers and, in the Cathedral Quarter, cool restaurants and cafes. Interwoven throughout were stories about Belfast’s history as we strolled at a relaxed pace. We finished full and happy for my last evening in Belfast and I had no trouble drifting off to a wonderfully comfortable sleep.

My final day meant I had to say a warm ‘Slán Abhaile’ to my travelling companions as I headed on home. They were getting ready to spend the day finding out around Belfast’s social history with a local guide, and then visiting the award-winning Titanic Experience. The lucky bunch still had the rest of the week to enjoy the geological wonder that was the Giant’s Causeway and journey on one of the most scenic coastal rail routes, from Coleraine to the lively city of Derry/Londonderry. The city has undergone a dramatic transformation in the 21st Century and I was more than a little envious of the guided tours and reception at the magnificent Guildhall, that they had awaiting them.

Ah well, maybe next time.

Words by Conor @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offers a number of holidays on the island of Ireland, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in the experience I had, you can book a space on the Dublin, Belfast & Causeway Coast Small Group Rail Tour. If you prefer to travel self-guided you could consider the Grand Tour of Ireland Self-drive among a range of options. Slowly… holidays, such as Slowly Discovering Ireland’s Ancient East, allow you travel at your own pace for a relaxing tour, or you could ride the rails more extensively on the Grand Tour of Ireland by Train. For the Foodies, I’d recommend the Wild Atlantic Way Cork & Kerry Food Trail.

Do let us know if you’d like to include any of these destinations as part of a tailor-made tour. Take a look around our website for even more holiday inspiration.

Exploring the charm of Southwest England: A rail adventure through the best of Bath, Devon & Cornwall

The adventure began with my train journey from the centre of Glasgow. Comfortably seated, I found myself a little bit hypnotised weaving through picturesque landscapes down the length of the country to the historic city of Bath. With its stunning architecture, elegant tree-lined crescents and ancient Roman influences, it was a beautiful welcome to a fascinating location.

Bath’s beautiful canal

I was joining up with a group of fellow travellers – none of whom I’d met before – but all of us keen to explore as much as we could of what the South West had to offer. On arrival I soon had the chance to introduce myself and get to know the half-dozen others who’d be joining me on the tour. In the stylish surroundings of our hotel bar we soon established a connection, over our shared passion for travel and a desire to experience new places. One of the key memories from the trip was the people – great conversations, the delight of discovery and many shared laughs.

Next day, fortified by a hearty and delicious breakfast, we headed South Eastwards out and along the scenic route to Salisbury Plain and the world-famous neolithic mystery that is Stonehenge. This is where being accompanied by an expert guide made a real difference, with its storied history being brought to vivid life with tales of druids, magic and thousands of years of theories about its purpose. There’s something immensely powerful about standing in the stone circle’s presence and it’s hard not to be awestruck by the sheer effort that it would have taken to create such a structure at this scale.

Mystical Stonehenge

From standing amongst mighty stones we then travelled on to the equally magnificent, but slightly less ancient, medieval Wells. Nestled in the Mendip Hills, England’s smallest city has plenty to engage the curious – it almost reads like a ‘greatest hits’ of what a medieval city should feature. The magnificent Well’s Cathedral has dominated the skyline here since the late 12th century, with an impressively vaulted ceiling and unusual scissor arches supporting the central tower, it’s a remarkable tribute to the skills of the architects and the multitude of stonemasons it took to create it.

Interior of Well’s Cathedral

A day full of history gave us all plenty to talk about back at the hotel in Bath and we made the most of the rather funky, but extremely comfortable, lounge to compare notes on what we’d seen over a few very convivial drinks.

The following day was one devoted to travel, with a mixture of methods to take us to our eventual destination of the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. We took the train from Bath Spa station and headed to Bristol Temple Meads – designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and servicing the city since 1840 – and then again on to the Devon seaside town of Paignton, part of the English Riviera. It was here that we boarded one of the many highlights of the tour, the Dartmouth Steam Train (it was certainly one of my favourites). There can’t be many more evocative sights and sounds than the swirl of steam billowing around a locomotive, accompanied by the hissing of the engine and plaintive whoop of the whistle.

Dartmoor Valley Railway Steam Train

Entranced by the picturesque English countryside as we wended our way past village and coastline vistas, it was easy to feel yourself transported back in this vintage train carriage to a more leisurely and elegant way of travel. After this delightful spell of time-travelling we arrived at Kingswear to catch our ferry for a quick hop across to Dartmouth, a quite lovely town situated on the banks of the River Dart. Even the short ferry trip proved to be an event, as we were all thrilled to spot seals swimming around the vessel and reclining on nearby outcrops.

Enjoying an ice cream in Dartmouth

Dartmouth is perfect for pootling around and soaking up a classic English seaside town, with a charming quayside overlooked by rows of pastel coloured houses – it’s an ideal spot for a relaxed bit of lunch and my very traditional repast of fish & chips, followed by a cheeky ice cream, was the perfect accompaniment to our surroundings on a lovely sunny afternoon.

The streets of Dartmouth

A private coach then took us inland through the rolling valleys of Dartmoor National Park with our drive eventually delivering us to our accommodation for the night and we were all quite stunned as it appeared through the trees – a great hall perched on a low hill, which emanated a genuine sense of grandeur. Though large, the lit fireplaces and cozy ambience meant it was an ideal environment in which to round off such an eventful day. After a delicious dinner I was more than ready to get a good nights sleep among the luxurious comforts of my room.

We boarded our private coach bright and early and began the scenic drive through the park, stopping en route to take in key points of interest. A 14th century clapper bridge provided a unique insight into how people used local materials and no small ingenuity to cross rivers and open up routes of access. With stacks of rocks creating vertical piles on which were laid large flat slabs of granite or schist, they were often located alongside fords in a river where livestock cold be safely crossed. The word ‘clapper’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘cleaca’ meaning ‘bridging or stepping stone’, though some think it could be from the Latin ‘clapus claperius’ which roughly translates as ‘a pile of stones’. Just across from this we spotted a group of Highland Cattle, which was a bit of a surprise so far from their Scottish homelands, but inspired us all to try and capture photos of these wonderful animals.

As part of our travels down to our destination of St Ives, we had the opportunity to pause in Plymouth, a port city with an illustrious maritime heritage. We visited the Box Museum – a fascinating initiative where their vision is described as ‘Reimagining the future through the past’. By preserving the city’s cultural collections, they look to share extraordinary stories to provide a way of exploring the pressing issues of the current age. I could have stayed for hours, as there’s so much to take in and absorb, though not be overwhelmed by it all. It was then into the café for a tasty lunch and a lively chat through all we’d just seen and heard.

A charming short train journey from Plymouth to Penzance allowed us further time to comfortably ruminate, then we were whisked by our coach to St Ives.

St Ives is a truely picturesque seaside town

St Ives has been described as a dazzling jewel in Cornwall’s crown and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s harbour, golden beaches, myriad of crafts and independent shops and quaint cobbled streets, has been drawing admiration and inspiring artists for many, many years. We embraced the chance to check into our seaside hotel and then explore for ourselves. Being a bit of an art lover, I had to visit the Tate. An iconic gallery, built on the site of a former gasworks and overlooking the Atlantic, it helps to tell the remarkable story of how a small fishing town became one of the art capitals of the world. Besides showcasing artists that are associated with St Ives, such as Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon, the gallery also boasts collections for Picasso, Henry Moore and Turner Prize Winners. Absolute heaven!

St Michaels Mount dominates the coastline

The fifth day of the tour promised to be one of my favourites, exploring the Cornish coastline. We began with a visit to St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island joined to mainland Cornwall by a cobbled causeway. The island is crowned by a spectacular castle, with rows of canons staring out from the battlements out on to Mount’s Bay below. Access to the Mount is dictated by the tides, so getting there and back can be an experience in itself and you can find yourself walking back along the cobbles, with the sea lapping the causeway’s edges.

Bronze sculpture of St Michael holding a sword and offering the hand of redemption to the devil

Besides the castle there’s the Church of St Michael & All Angels and a bank of sub-tropical garden terraces that feature many unexpected plants for this location, including agave, cacti and aloe, all clinging to the immaculate patchwork of granite. The market town of Marazion is home to St Michael’s Mount and in itself a wonderful place to spend time and, for those that might find the walk across the causeway a little daunting, has plenty of distractions to occupy – as well as welcoming cafes to sit with a coffee and enjoy the fabulous skyline.

With our coach driver full of local tales and unique insights on our surroundings, greatly adding to the experience, we then enjoyed a meander through Cornwall via a series of visits to Cornish highlights.  I was thrilled that we had our first pause in the charming fishing village of Mousehole (it’s pronounced Mowzul by the locals), with its narrow streets and lichen covered houses retaining its own particular character. As a child, one of my favourite books “The Mousehole Cat” featured Mousehole and it was as if those childhood memories had been brought back to vivid life, making for quite a magical experience.

Mousehole fishing village

It seems almost a crime to be in Cornwall and not visit Land’s End, it’s an essential photo stop with its famous directional sign post to New York and John O’Groats – though the windswept, rugged cliffs themselves are worth the trip on their own.

From there, and still full of stories, our guide took us through Cornwall’s once proud and vital history of mining. The region was rich in minerals (including Botallackite, a rare supergene copper mineral), and metals such as copper and tin, providing a living for many people in the past. Remnants of the industry are still to be seen and the Crowns Engine Houses are two of the most well-known symbols of this trade, where once over a hundred engine houses drove production, until the fall in metal prices caused them to close. Clinging, almost precariously, to the cliffs in defiance of the sea just yards below, and named after the rocks on which they were built, the Crowns in Botallack are now part of a World Heritage Site. A constant reminder of the hardship and graft required to have made a living from such a tough and dangerous existence.

What remains of the Botallack Tin Mine

My final day of the trip promised a much more leisurely itinerary, with the opportunity to experience St Ives further, on a walking tour in the company of our local guide. Strolling through the town we were regaled with stories both historic and personal and there was something to surprise, interest and entertain us at almost every corner. For example, local fishermen once thought it was severe bad luck to whistle at night and, that when they caught fish, they could only count them using an old chant in the Cornish language, or run the risk of inviting mischievous spirits aboard. There are also numerous tales of the giant Blunderbore wreaking havoc to the town with his brother Rebecks.

And, as it was my last day, I couldn’t resist a trip back to The Tate and catch what I hadn’t had time to on my previous visit and take in a little more of that glorious view across the bay, whilst some of my travel companions were attracted by the siren songs of the local craft shops, or wanted to amble along the cobbles once more.

The Tate Gallery in St Ives has some excellent exhibits

It was the perfect end to what had been a blissful getaway.

I’ve already started to plan my return journey, and this time want to spend it exploring more of Cornwall and uncovering its secrets. Would love to combine this with a jaunt across to the Isles of Scilly and see those white sandy beaches, secluded coves and glorious gardens.

Think there’s even a winery that sounds perfect to drop in on.

Words & Images by Victoria @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offers a number of holidays to Bath, Devon and Cornwall, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in the guided experience I had, book a space on our Bath, Devon & Cornwall Small Group Rail Tour. If you’d prefer to travel self-guided on a road trip take a look at our Devon & Cornwall Road Trip. Or if you’d prefer car-free, we have the option of our Slowly Through Somerset, Devon & Cornwall by Train trip. Do let us know if you’d like to include any of these locations as part of a tailor-made tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

A Quick Dip into Orkney’s Treasures

Although the April morning started with a very beautiful display of heavy snow, by the time I had finished my breakfast—at the locally owned B&B in the heart of Kirkwall—it was a sunny day once again. My hostess let me know that the weather in Orkney never stays the same: there could be snow or very heavy rain, but 5-10 minutes later the sun will come out and grace the beautiful islands once again.

A Morning stroll along Kirkwall Harbour

After my morning breakfast, I set out with a local guide to see key areas of Mainland Orkney. The Orcadian accent can be tricky at the best of times to understand (get 2 or 3 in a room together and you might not understand a word!) but thankfully she had her “posh” accent on. I was grateful for this as she had many interesting facts at each site and along the way – the kinds of stories and insights you only hear from a local. I only wish I could’ve written all of them down!

Skara Brae is not only a fascinating site, but also boasts sweeping views over the sea

The weather was a bit chilly as I got into her car to start the explorations, but overall the weather is very mild in Orkney – averaging 5 degrees Celsius in winter and 15 degrees Celsius in Summer – not a place of extremes. The first stop was Skara Brae, a prehistoric village on the west of the mainland first uncovered in the 1800s by a storm. The site is still intact and has great preservation, due to this it has often been called the “Scottish Pompeii”. There are 10 houses in total which you can walk around and look down into from above. You can see all the very ‘comfortable’ looking stone beds, and maybe one or two birds hiding from the harsh winds.

Two birds making themselves at home at Skara Brae

Due to preservation of the site, you cannot walk around inside the remains of these buildings anymore like you used to. Although at the site they do have a replica house – thankfully they made the ceilings higher to accommodate visitors as the originals were more suited to shorter people. The site is around 5000 years old, older than both Stonehenge and the pyramids, but still the houses had an indoor toilet and a primitive sewer system. 

Skaill House has Skara Brae on its doorstep, lucky them

We said farewell to Skara Brae as the weather was about to change – Orcadians can tell what the weather will be from looking out to sea at the clouds and ocean. It was just a hop skip and a jump, however, to the next location of Skaill House, which was lucky as my guide’s weather skills did not fail and rain clouds promptly enveloped the area.

The view is incredible as it overlooks Skara brae, which would’ve bumped up the value of the manor when it was discovered. The land was given to the Bishop who built a house after the previous owner was executed for treason. There is a bit of eeriness about the house, especially in the hallway, as this part was built over the sight of an old pre-Viking burial ground. Ghost stories are very prominent at this old manor, with the present laird swearing that late at night he has heard a thump thump thump of footsteps on the old wooden staircase, causing his dog to bark in fear. But upon inspection no one was in sight. This happened many times, causing the dog to hide under the bed terrified each time. These disturbances have been attributed to ‘Ubby’, a local who built an island out in Skaill Loch by rowing his boat out and dropping stones. One night when he went out on his small row boat to add more stones to his growing island, the weather changed, resulting in him being drowned. It is said the ghost of Ubby now haunts his chosen resting place of Skaill House.

Skaill House will transport you back in time with antiques and artifacts

After the chills had left my spine from the ghost stories, we went on the road once again for some more Neolithic sites. A wonderful characteristic of Orkney is the amount of Neolithic sites there are. Even on the way from one major Neolithic site to another, you could see standing stones along the road side and archaeological sites still being worked on. We arrived at the site of the Ring of Brodgar to walk around the outer ring of stones, placed around 4000 years ago. There were 60 stones originally placed, with around 30 still standing today. If you’re lucky and the area isn’t muddy, you can walk around the inner ring to get closer to the stones.

The Ring of Brodgar – 30 stones still standing after 4000 years is something to be proud of

Something that my local guide made clear at all the Neolithic sites we saw is that it is still largely unknown why and how these were built, with it still being a contemporary area of study for Orkney archaeologists, with discoveries still being made to this day. The Ring of Brodgar is thought to be an area where ceremonies took place, between the living and past communities, to communicate with ancestors. The stones all come from different parts of the island, with different communities bringing them together – possibly symbolising the different people that created the stone circle, or it could’ve even been a competition to outdo other communities for the largest and heaviest stone.

Ring of Brodgar standing stone struck by lightning

The image above shows one of the stones that was struck by lightning in 1980, causing a piece of the stone to split and fall beside. The stone still stands, mirroring the resilience of the Orkney ancestors living in such harsh conditions but still building a community that thrives.

Around a 5-minute walk from the Ring of Brodgar are the Standing Stones of Stenness, Originally a collection of 12 stones placed around 5000 years ago, only a few remain now. The stones stand 5 metres tall, towering over the stones used for the Ring of Brodgar in comparison. These stones are showered in myths, one being that at exactly midnight on New Years eve, one of the stones called “The Watchman” leaves its place to take a dip in the Stenness Loch for a wee drink. With how fresh the water of Orkney is, I cannot blame them.

The towering spectacle of The Standing Stones of Stenness

Standing next to one you wonder how they managed to complete such a task so long ago, and why they would do this. Many think the site was used in ceremonies. The Victorians believed that it was used as a beheading site – my guide told me they loved to believe that anyone that came before them were barbarians and very uncivilised. So much so that the Victorians even altered some stones to replicate a place for the beheading to take place.

Victorians altered these stones to make it look like beheading took place

In some ways it’s very lucky that these stones still stand today – a farmer in the early 1800s was annoyed at having to plough around them, so he began to demolish them, incidentally he was not a native Orcadian. He managed to topple and destroy some of the stones before there was public outcry and attempts to burn down his house. However any court action was dropped when he agreed to leave the stones alone. If you look closely at one of the stones, there is a hole where a stick of dynamite was placed but never set off, thankfully.

Waving goodbye to the Neolithic stones, we then drove onto a far more modern point of local History, the Italian Chapel. On our way, we saw a horse in a field and a rather large pony with a mask on. My guide explained that the pony was there to give company to the horse, and it was wearing a mask because it was too greedy. Some ponies will just constantly eat and make themselves ill.

Pony being punished for eating too much for its own good

Photos don’t do the Italian Chapel justice, you must visit it yourself and learn about the history and see what those that built it managed to accomplish with such little resources. It was built by Italian Prisoners of war during World War 2 for a permanent place to worship. They were given no material to work with, all they could use were recycled materials.

The Italian Chapel – an incredible display of artistry in tough times

Every detail inside, such as the stone walls, were very carefully painted to make them look 3D, it’s something you have to see to believe. One of the prisoners said it was created to show that even when trapped in a barbed wire camp, down in spirit and moral, that one can still find something inside that could be set free.

These walls may look like laid brick, but are actually a painted illusion

The art centrepiece of the chapel, was painted by a prisoner called Domenico Chiocchetti who was an artist before the war. It was based on a picture given to him by his mum that he carried throughout the war, of the Madonna and Child who holds the olive branch of peace.

The Centre of the Italian Chapel displays Mary with Jesus in her arms

As you leave the Italian Chapel there is a statue of St George slaying a dragon. Remarkably this is made from barbed wire and concrete. The statue represents good triumphing over evil.

St George – the patron saint for all soldiers – slaying a dragon

I enjoyed my day experiencing the main sites of Orkney through the eyes of a local, they brought it to life with their lesser-known stories and insights. There is still much more I wish to see and do in Orkney, with the rocky landscape of Hoy calling my name the loudest.

Words & Images by Jonathan @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Orkney, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in a guided experience, why not book a space on our North Highlands and Orkney Guided Rail Tour? If you’d prefer to travel self-guided and car-free, we have options including our Far North Line to Orkney trip. Do let us know if you’d like to include Orkney as part of a tailor-made Scotland tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

The Flaggy Shore – Clare and Inis Mor

A few months ago, my father told me he’d received an invitation to County Clare. He’d reread Postscript by Seamus Heaney, a truly moving reflection on this exceptional corner of Ireland. I was lucky enough to be on my own journey to Clare and onwards to Galway shortly after we spoke, the poem tucked into my notebook and excited – I’ve been lucky enough to explore a lot of Ireland but Clare and Galway were still on my list.

Doonagore Castle on the Wild Atlantic Way

As an avid user of public transport at home and when travelling, I arrived into Dublin and after a short stroll in Phoenix Park, was off on the train to Ennis, the county town of Clare. Known as the centre of Ireland’s traditional music scene I was incredibly lucky to be visiting during Trad Fest and as I explored the town, snatches of sessions drifted out of every pub doorway – it was hard to pick a spot to settle and enjoy some music along with a perfect half pint of Guinness.

Looking for a spot to enjoy a drink and trad session

After a very comfortable evening, I was up early the next day to meet my tour guide Trevor, for a tour-transfer through the Burren up to Ballyvaughan where I had picked a spot for chowder before travelling up to Galway later that afternoon.

First, we set off towards the Cliffs of Moher, a must for any visitor to Clare. Well maintained and invested in by the Irish government with facilities appropriate to the 1.5 million visits every year, there is still not much that can prepare you for the view – an almost surreal experience. Had I more time I would have done some of the coastal walk, but it was time for us to venture deeper into the Burren.

Gazing out onto the Cliffs of Moher

Heaney’s words came to life as I struggled to decide which way to look – out to the ocean on one side or the magnificent karst landscape of the Burren on the other? My visit was in November, a favourite time of the year for me as I adore the low winter sun but I resolved return in the summer, to learn more about the unique wildlife and flora within.

After an incredibly enjoyable few hours I enjoyed a late lunch in Ballyvaughan with a view of the Atlantic in front of me before travelling up to the city of Galway. I was instantly charmed – the medieval quarter with its shops, bars and restaurants was an appealing place to while away a few hours before some fresh scampi, chips and a local beer, before heading back to my harbourside hotel.

The contrasting limestone landscape of Inis Mor

The next morning I was up bright and early for another highlight of this trip – a day trip to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands and at the time of my visit having become suddenly very well known, having been used as one of the filming locations for The Banshees of Inisherin.

In the summer time, a ferry goes to Inis Mor from right by my Galway city hotel, but in November I was to hop on a bus up to Rossaveel where I caught glimpses of the wilds of Connemara before catching the ferry, where we were joined by a pod of dolphins as we crossed, thrilling as my first ever sighting!

Aran Islands Knitwear

On arrival I was met by a local guide, a native Irish speaker who had lived on the island most of his life. I was most grateful for his company as we crossed another flaggy shore to Poll na bPéist – The Wormhole, a naturally formed and almost perfectly rectangular pool, surrounded by the tall waves of the north Atlantic – essential to have an experienced guide on hand to keep you right!

Poll na bPéist – The Wormhole

We explored the island as my guide shared stories of the island and its people and history. Farming has been a huge part of the island’s history, the stone wall patchwork of the island a constant reminder. Whilst around 800 people live on the island, much of the island is still completely untouched and has no electricity or water supply, and belongs to nature alone.

My day went in quickly, enjoying my tour, an obligatory Irish stew in Kilmurvey in a traditional thatched cottage, followed by a walk up the cliffs of Dun Aengus by myself, an easy walk and a welcome opportunity to reflect on this special island before retracing my steps back to Galway city by ferry and bus as dusk fell, before a train back to Dublin to begin my way home the following day.

Meeting the friendly locals on Inis Mor

Inis Mor and Clare had given me a taste of Ireland I hadn’t yet experienced, with these differing scales of distinctive landscape made up of ancient limestone contrasting beautifully with my experiences of Cork and Kerry but as always, with that special essence of Irish hospitality and spirit.

My experience in Clare and Galway was made all the more memorable by the talent and passion of the guides I met, a perfect harmony of the environmental benefits of car-free travel marrying with the social and ethical benefits of supporting local tourism. I’ll have to borrow Heaney’s summation to conclude how I felt after this experience, which caught “the heart off guard, and blow it open.”

Words & Images by Caoimhe @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of car-free holidays to Ireland – why not check out our Explore Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Car-Free trip or take your time on our three-week Slowly Through Ireland by Train holiday? Or, if you’d prefer a fully escorted experience in the company of a knowledgeable guide, discover our Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Guided Rail Tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

Isle of Raasay – Over the Sea from Skye

A visit to the Isle of Skye is on everyone’s Scotland bucket list and so it should be with majestic mountains, fascinating geology and traditional Highland hospitality. The highlights and hotspots such as the Fairy Pools and capital Portree are bustling places, magnets for visitors. But if, like me, you hanker to get off the beaten track, consider contrasting a stay on Skye with a couple of nights on neighbouring Raasay. It’s only a half-hour ferry crossing between the two islands but you’ll feel like you are taking a leap into a different world.

Atmospheric views from the south of Raasay over to Skye

Raasay is long, thin and rugged. Houses straggle out from the little harbour, interspersed with ruins, while the recently-established Raasay Distillery gleams like a beacon at the top of the slope, its golden cladding brightening the misty grey skies. We splashed out on a stay here, a little touch of luxury among the wilderness. The bar area is warm and welcoming, with picture views across the bay. In each bedroom a complimentary dram awaits for you to sample the local single malt, while Raasay gin is a favourite tipple at the bar. The distillery tour reveals the considerable efforts of the owners to establish their philosophy here and bring much-needed local employment. We were also excited to hear of their plans for another distillery in Kintyre, close to Campbeltown, once famous as a whisky destination and gradually regaining prominence among connoisseurs.

Raasay Distillery
Enjoying a talk as part of the Distillery tour

At McKinlay Kidd we often provide the advice, nicked from Billy Connelly, that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes, so pack a sexy raincoat and live a little! Travelling in April, we’d sensibly heeded this so were all set to explore the Raasay outdoors. Our first adventure was a drive to the far north of the island via the single track road, sometimes having to take it slowly around the pot-holes. Eventually we made it to the start of Calum’s Road. A local farmer, Calum Macleod was infuriated when the publicly-funded tarmac came to an abrupt halt just under a couple of miles from his croft at Arnish. Losing patience after years of local campaigning for a proper road without result, Calum took it upon himself to upgrade the footpath, his main tools being a pick, a shovel and a wheelbarrow. It took around ten years of hard labour from the mid-sixties for him to complete the one-and-three-quarter miles. Unsurprisingly this feat is now a thing of folklore, his barrow left rusting away at the start of his road near Brochel Castle as a fitting memorial to superhuman effort.

Calum’s rusty wheelbarrow

We continued by car to Arnish, taking it slowly on the twisty road, then on foot through ancient woodland, a beautiful refreshing walk with no other souls in sight. Every now and again the lichen-clad trees parted, providing gorgeous views across the channel back to Skye. The weather held for us, the sun even making fleeting appearances through the gathering clouds.

By the next morning soft rain had set in. Soft because it falls in gentle droplets but nevertheless enough of them to provide a proper soaking. Fortunately, our jackets were well water-proofed! We drove the short distance down to the south of the island this time, to the old ferry port where the remains of industrial heritage of iron mining are visible, now overgrown with grass and bracken and home to grazing sheep. We walked from here along the route of the old railway, taking in views either towards the volcanic plug of Dun Caan, Raasay’s high point, in front of us or back over our shoulders to the outline of Skye’s peaks. Even in the inclement weather we could understand why some say the best way to see Skye is from Raasay!

Venturing across the Isle of Raasay on foot

We carried on back towards the village, dancing across stepping stones to avoid boggy moss and trickling burns. Regaining hard-standing underfoot, we ducked into the community-owned island shop for takeaway coffee and chocolate to reward our efforts. As I wiped drips from the back of my neck, my thoughts strayed back to Calum and the contrast of his strenuous work undertaken in all weathers, day after day.

Words & Images by Heather @ McKinlay Kidd

Discover the Isle of Raasay for yourself from a less-travelled perspective on our unique See Mull & Skye Differently self-drive holiday. Raasay can also be included as part of a tailor-made trip – just let us know at time of enquiry and we can create a bespoke personal proposal. See more holiday inspiration on our website.


Travel Awards 2023 Winners

We are proud to announce our team has won “Best Specialist Tour Operator” in The Telegraph Travel Awards 2023! Some 27,000 readers voted overall, with the award decided based on their opinions and not the number of votes. We want to thank our customers who took the time to put us forward for such an acclaimed award, as well as our business partners who play such an important role in delivering our fantastic holidays.

This high standard is one we pride ourselves on and one we aim to maintain as we continue to deliver self-guided road trips and rail holidays, as well as small group guided tours, made differently in the UK & Ireland.

“It’s rare for a high-end tour operator to make a success of itself by concentrating on the British Isles, but that is exactly what McKinlay Kidd has managed to do. It holds our top spot for the second time in the last six years, having won previously in 2017… Readers who want to do a British holiday in style while being supremely well looked after have clearly found what they were searching for.”

Nick Trend, The Telegraph

If you’re looking for a 2023 getaway or planning ahead for 2024, you can speak to our expert team on 0141 260 9260 or email us at [email protected]. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

Finding Serenity in Shetland

Boarding the small Loganair plane, the excitement for my mini fly-drive visit to Shetland really kicked in. Surprisingly, despite being the northernmost region of the UK, the flight was only 1 hour 10 mins from Glasgow. I got to enjoy amazing views as the plane landed at Sumburgh on the southern end of the mainland – dramatic cliffs, greenery and glorious sunshine awaiting me.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse

Taking advantage of being in the south, I drove the short distance to Sumburgh Head, crossing over the small airport runway on my way. The cliffs here are ideal for birdwatching with chances to see puffins (in the summer months) and is also home to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Shetland, built in 1819. After spending some time exploring the area, I then set off for the archaeological site of Jarlshof – a series of settlements dating from the neolithic period, the iron age and Viking times. It really was like taking a step back in time, with this picturesque site greatly enhanced by the backdrop of hills, white sandy beaches and vibrant blue skies.

Enjoy fresh home baking from the Original Cake Fridge

The next morning was very foggy, making for an atmospheric and eerily quiet drive to East Burrafirth. I wanted to see the Original Cake Fridge on my way to Aith and was surprised to be met with the biggest ‘honesty box’ I’ve ever seen. Full of freshly made cakes and bakes, this honesty fridge is open 24/7 and restocked daily. Reaching Aith Marina, I boarded the boat with a local guide to get a feel for the dramatic scenery of the west coast of the mainland. Passing Papa Little and Vementry, we made our way up to the tip of Stenness, before heading over to the rare sight of the Ve Skerries as the weather was so favourable.

The Drongs Sea Stack

The Ve Skerries are a group of rocky islands three miles north of Papa Stour, notoriously dangerous to passing ships with many shipwrecks taking place over the years. Although, the sombre atmosphere didn’t seem to put off the herd of seals sunbathing on the rocks. Next, we disembarked at Papa Stour to have a look at the hidden gem archaeological sites and wander round the island which is home to fewer than a dozen people. I even ended up in one of the locals houses for a cuppa!

Sheep being herded off St Ninian’s Isle

On the way back to the airport I took the opportunity to visit the small town of Scalloway as well as the beautiful St Ninian’s Isle. I had to wait to get into the small carpark as there was a huge herd of sheep getting ushered off the beach – such an amusing sight to round off my trip. I’m keen to visit Shetland again in the future and see more of this fantastic part of Scotland, especially the islands like Yell and Unst.

Words & Images by Keira @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Shetland, including fly-drive, self-drive and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in an escorted experience, why not reserve your place on our Orkney & Shetland Guided Small Group Tour. If you’d prefer the chance to get right under the skin of the Shetland Islands at your leisure, check out our longer self-guided See Shetland Differently holiday or combine your time with the neighbouring Orkney Islands on our Complete Orkney & Shetland trip.

Ireland: Through the Eyes of Locals in Cork and Killarney

There is something very exciting about holidaying by train. The environmental benefits are becoming clearer to holiday makers, not to mention being an extremely comfortable way to travel – there is nothing nicer than a bright fresh morning, a fresh cup of coffee and a window seat with a table to enjoy the view.

This is how I started my break by rail, starting from Belfast and taking in Cork and Kerry over St Patrick’s Day this year.

I boarded the very comfy Enterprise train to Dublin, easily changing stations in Dublin using the Luas which helpfully announced the passing stops before another comfortable train to Cork City. In spite of the road travel usually taking about 7 hours, I felt I had crossed the country quickly, being happily ensconced at my hotel by tea time.

Cork is full of colourful quirky shops

Cork City is a lovely place to explore on foot. I stretched my legs taking in the River Lee and the compulsory half pint or two of Guinness in some very friendly pubs. As a solo traveller, I was immediately taken by the friendliness of Irish hospitality – always just enough, never too much.

One of the many pubs you can enjoy a tipple with friendly locals

The following morning I was met by a local guide – Kevin – who took me on a walking tour of the city. It was fabulous to have this small city I had been exploring by myself brought to life around me as I strolled from the cathedral to the university area to the famous English Market – a beautifully preserved covered food market with lots of artisanal producers popular with locals and tourists alike. A certain monarch enjoyed her visit too, being amused and charmed by a quick witted fishmonger!

The historical English Market

Back on the train I headed for the tourist town of Killarney. This train ride ended with real anticipation as I reached Killarney – I knew Kerry was famed for its mountains and waterfalls, but the sight of the McGillycuddy Reeks welcoming us travellers as we pulled in to Killarney made the arrival very exciting.

As I explored the town on foot I was treated to live music spilling out of pubs, traditional restaurants and shops and a bustling atmosphere. A highlight of my stay was a jaunting car ride in to the National Park with a Cal, local jarvey and Olly, our loyal steed. This was very special, and will stay with me. I learned of the sika and red deer of the park, the differing lakes and mountains, the history of Ross Castle and the fairy trees of hawthorn or ash – considered by the Celts to be sacred and to this day remain undisturbed by farmers and locals. 

Jaunting car ride through Killarney national park

My afternoon was completed by an Irish stew and a visit to Killarney House, where I enjoyed discovering the biodiversity of the park and the importance of maintaining its balance and health for the wider ecosystem. When I return to Killarney I‘ll hire a bike and tarry longer, but for now my tour was complete, and it was back to Dublin by rail to embark on my journey home.

Walking around the grounds of Ross Castle

It’s easy to see why Ireland has inspired poets, musicians and artists at home and the world over – the hanging baskets and multi-coloured painted shop fronts are instantly cheering and the hospitality and local stories, alongside an inspiring backdrop certainly left me wanting more and excited to pick up my car-free travels sooner rather than later and complete more of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Words & Images by Caoimhe @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays in and around Cork and Killarney, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in a guided experience, why not book a space on our Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Guided Rail Tour? If you’d prefer to travel car-free, we have options including our Explore Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Car-Free trip. Longer stay in mind? Then maybe you would like to uncover the entire 2500km length on our Complete Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip. Do let us know if you’d like to include Cork or Killarney as part of a tailor-made Scotland tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

Over to Orkney

As the short Loganair flight from Glasgow to Kirkwall began its approach to Orkney, I had the pleasure of viewing the stunning scenery that was waiting for me. I could relax in the peace and calm of the off-season before the warm weather kicks in, with a gentle blanket of snow on the ground.

The coastline was beautiful, with an abundance of farmland across the flatness of the landscape – quite a contrast to the different, more rugged feel of Shetland.

My first stop was the centre of Kirkwall itself, where I enjoyed spending a bit of time exploring what the town had to offer. There’s a wonderful variety of independent, local businesses – from vibrant cafes and restaurants to shops for jewellery and art.

Loganair plane waiting on the runway

Up bright and early the next day, where I was really looking forward to my tour with a local expert guide, who would take me through a selection of the fascinating sites on the island. The Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the Italian Chapel – all of them capturing the imagination, with my guide bringing the history into vivid life.

The Orkney Museum is also well worth visiting, to get a better understanding of the rich history of the islands. From the Stone Age to the Picts and invading Vikings and on to the present day; with accompanying details and videos to create an immersive experience.

You can also find great examples of Orkney Chairs here. These traditional pieces of furniture are unique to the islands and an instantly recognisable part of Orkney’s identity. Centuries ago, these were crafted using driftwood collected from the shores and, in the present day, the tradition continues, although with a modern twist.

A collection of Orkney chairs in Orkney Museum

After taking the time to get under the skin of the mainland, it was time to head to South Ronaldsay. To do this I drove across the Churchill Barriers, originally built during World War II, as a defensive measure to prevent enemy ships and submarines from entering Scapa Flow, they also link the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.

Then it was on to the ferry to the wildlife watchers’ haven of Westray, where I was to meet another local guide to take me around the island. Across enchanting beaches and captivating castles, they regaled me with tales of Orkney history. On a more modern note, we saw the Take-off strip of Papa Westray, sadly I couldn’t fit in the flight which lands here that some of our customers choose to include. The flight only takes a total of 90 seconds! No in-flight meal on that one.

Seals enjoying a rest on the shore
Stopping off to check out the beautiful coastline

Finally, it was onto the ancient village of Birsay, a peaceful place with honesty boxes full of fantastic local produce dotted around. With almost all of the land in this parish devoted to agriculture, it’s lush with green farmland and happily grazing cattle. Birsay boasts several monuments, including the 16th century Earl’s Palace. Although only the ruins now remain, it’s easy to be transported back to the times when it was in its full grandeur.

Just a stone’s throw away is St Magnus Church which, though first established in 1064, has been continually refurbished throughout the years. The simple minimalism of its hushed interior is deeply calming, with its three stained glass windows providing a dramatic contrast.

It was the perfect location to reflect on my first visit to magical Orkney, with a return journey already in mind.

St Magnus Church, Birsay

Words & Images by Linsay @ McKinlay Kidd.

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Orkney, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in a guided experience, why not book a space on our North Highlands and Orkney Guided Rail Tour? Perhaps the world’s shortest flight has taken your fancy – you can experience this for yourself on the Orkney Experience holiday or, if you’d prefer to travel car-free, we have options including our Far North Line to Orkney trip. Do let us know if you’d like to include Orkney as part of a tailor-made Scotland tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.