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Equally charming but entirely distinctive, the combination of Orkney and Shetland makes for an exhilarating escape from daily life.
With such a plethora of mysterious prehistoric ruins, dramatically varying landscapes and fascinating ancient history, it takes time to really understand and appreciate just how special Orkney and Shetland are. Guided tours aplenty, hand-selected charming accommodation and travel by land and air will help you really get under the skin of these most northerly Scottish islands on this 14-night holiday.
Your holiday begins in either Glasgow or Edinburgh as you board your flight to Kirkwall airport, a stone’s throw away from Orkney’s most populous settlement. From here, pick up your hire car and then the rest of the day is yours to settle in to island life however you wish. We’ll provide plenty of recommendations to help you along the way.
Your Hotel in Kirkwall
Located on the outskirts of Kirkwall, the owners have put tremendous effort into creating a genuine feel throughout this most charming hotel. All rooms are individually styled with Orcadian names and the hospitality is renowned. With a strong reputation as a destination for locals, the restaurant boasts menus packed with island produce, including seaweed-reared lamb or mutton and the finest seafood.
Today you will be collected from your hotel and taken on a full-day tour of the main cultural and historical highlights of the island in the company of one of our hand-selected local guides. Highlights could include Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, the Italian Chapel and the Churchill barriers.
Perhaps today is the perfect opportunity to go back and visit any of the sites that didn’t make it to on your guided tour. Orkney has more to offer than millennia of contrasting history – there are also a number of wonderful coastal walks to embark on and sea stacks to admire. Wildlife is a key part of life on Orkney – keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of minke whales, seals and dolphins among the crashing waves around the coast.
Today you’ll make the short jump to the island of Rousay – fondly nicknamed ‘The Egypt of the North’ due to the sheer number of historical sites that call it home. The small population (less than 200 people) strike the perfect balance of charming hospitality while allowing you to feel like you have the island to yourself. Make sure you take the time to meander along the golden strands of one of the isolated beaches along the shoreline.
Your Accommodation in Rousay
Located close to the ferry terminal, this four-roomed hotel is family run and provides an intimate environment to enjoy a locally brewed beer or Orkney dram, with panoramic views across to Evie and Rendall on the Orkney mainland. The restaurant serves a simple menu with a keen focus on local produce – the perfect place to round off a day’s exploring.
Today you will set off on a leisurely small group tour of Rousay, accompanied by one of our favourite and charming local guides. You will have the opportunity to visit and learn about the island’s most celebrated archaeological sites, along with plenty of stops to enjoy the breath-taking island views and spot some wildlife. Refreshments – but not lunch – will be provided.
Wake up bright and early today to return to Kirkwall airport to catch a short flight to your next destination – the wild island of Westray. Your flight will be in an eight-seater plane, and so is a memorable experience during which you can admire more of the Orkney archipelago from above.
On arrival in Westray you will embark on another small group tour with a gregarious local guide. As home to rich island culture, historical sites spanning every era – from Neolithic ruins to a 16th Century castle – and some of the UK’s most interesting wildlife, Westray is a fascinating place to discover. The tour is personalised to each group’s interests; the only problem will be deciding what to see first!
Your Accommodation on Westray
Your accommodation on Westray is a unique B&B within a 150-year-old kirk community hall. The comfortable en-suite rooms are tucked away for complete privacy, while the rest of the house is an appealing open-plan space of modern kitchen, dining area and comfortable lounge featuring every modern convenience. The friendly owners live in the adjacent manse, and will cook and serve you a delicious breakfast each morning.
This morning you will fly to Papa Westray, one of the most unusual of the Orkney islands. The flight from field to field takes around two minutes – in fact, it is in the record books as the shortest scheduled flight in the world! You will be collected on arrival by a local tour guide who will help you explore this fascinating landscape. On a small group bus and walking tour you will visit the well-preserved Neolithic stone houses at the Knap of Howar, reputedly the oldest houses in Europe, traditional Holland Farm and the lovingly restored old kirk at St Boniface. You will also view wildlife such as seal colonies and other scenic and cultural attractions. After a delicious lunch, you’ll enjoy a guided walk on the North Hill Nature Reserve with the RSPB Warden to see the sea cliffs with a wide range of sea birds in season and the maritime heathland including rare “Primula Scotica” colonies.
Your day is rounded off with afternoon tea and home bakes before returning to the airport in good time for your return flight – or should that be hop – before spending a final night on Westray.
Enjoy a quick flight back to mainland Orkney for another night’s stay in Kirkwall. The rest of the day is yours at leisure – perhaps follow Orkney’s Viking trail, delve into recently-discovered archaeological sites or visit some of the specialist craft businesses around the Mainland.
Today you say a fond farewell to Orkney as you board your flight to Sumburgh, watching the distinctive islands of Shetland come into view from the skies. On arrival you will collect your rental car and head to your lodgings for the next three nights.
Your accommodation in the South Mainland
Set in the tranquil village of Bigton on the picturesque west side of the island, your guest house is perfectly placed for touring the South Mainland of Shetland. Five minutes’ walk from St Ninian’s Sands, with many more empty sandy beaches close by, you will be spoilt for choice.
Today you will enjoy a full-day tour of the South Mainland with our expert local guide. You will spend the day visiting some of the main attractions – both natural and man-made – in the South of Shetland. The exact itinerary will depend on your interests and the weather, with options including beautiful St Ninian’s Isle and its unusual “tombola” sandy beach, the ancient settlement of Jarlshof and the new Lighthouse Visitor Centre at Sumburgh Head.
Today is yours to dive deeper into the fascinating beauty of Shetland. Head to the dramatic sea-carved cliffs and stacks at Eshaness -particularly enthralling on a stormy day. Spot otters and seals playing in quiet coves or simply breathe in the salty sea air on a rambling walk.
This afternoon you will enjoy a unique and spectacular wildlife experience. Thousands of birds nest and feed on the Noss Nature Reserve, and seals laze on rocks beneath the cliffs or nose around the boat. Your guides on-board will share their in-depth knowledge aboard the vessel while you tour the spectacular cliffs of the world-famous bird reserve.
Your accommodation in North Mainland
Your final lodging has an altogether elegant feel, and even has royal connections – the Queen once took afternoon tea in the library. Less regal guests can enjoy meals in the hotel bar or restaurant, both of which offer high-quality, locally-sourced produce. All the bedrooms are individually decorated and named after the surrounding isles, with views of the bay or the gardens, complete with trees – a rare and welcome occurrence in Shetland!
Today you will travel even further north to the mystical island of Unst. Home to the most northerly point of Britain – the Muckle Flugga lighthouse – you feel instantly as though you have discovered somewhere special from the second you set foot on this small island. There’s plenty to explore on Unst – from a reconstructed Viking longhouse to the Shetland Ales craft brewery and Foords’ Chocolates, where you can sample the delights made on the premises. Don’t forget to stop and admire/photograph the famous Unst Bus Shelter – complete with carpet, comfy seats, TV and themed decorations – one of Britain’s most quirky attractions – it even has its own website and visitors’ book!
Time for some final explorations of this totally different part of the British Isles.
Your northerly Scottish island adventures come to a close today, as you fly from Sumburgh back to either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Do let us know if we can assist with any onward travel.
This multi-centre holiday is based around Orkney and Shetland, and the various islands within each archipelago.
£2695 per person in March, £2735 per person in April & October and £2875 per person in May to September.
Prices are based on two people sharing a room for this 14-night holiday on a bed and breakfast basis. Also included in the price is small manual car hire throughout, return flights from Edinburgh or Glasgow, flights to Westray/ Papa Westray and a flight from Orkney to Shetland, ferry travel to Rousay, small group tours of Orkney, Rousay, Westray, Papa Westray, Shetland and a boat trip to Noss (for May to mid September holidays only).
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
Please note that due to conditions imposed on our supplier by insurance companies, the maximum age for a driver on this holiday is 78.
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This holiday can be arranged from March to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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