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Your holiday begins as you fly from Glasgow or Edinburgh Airport on the 90 or so minute flight to Orkney. On arrival, collect your hire car and drive to your centrally located hotel on the outskirts of Kirkwall – your base for three nights.
Your Hotel on Orkney
Hidden away somewhat amid the residences on the outskirts of Kirkwall, your Orkney hotel is an inviting and welcoming base. The traditional furniture includes a range of local Orkney chairs in various shapes and sizes, while our favourite late night spot is the whisky snug: imagine a library where the shelves are stacked with bottles instead of books! A destination for locals as well as visitors, the restaurant prides itself on serving the best local produce. The menu changes regularly depending on the season: look out for Scrabster squid or local lamb with its distinctive flavour due to the seaweed diet of the sheep. And it would be amiss not to drop in and see the neighbours – the world famous Highland Park distillery is just next door.
What to See and Do on Orkney
Orkney offers world class archaeology as well as superb land and seascapes. We’ll provide plenty of recommendations, such as the major prehistoric sites of the 5,000 year old village at Skara Brae and the magnificent tomb at Maeshowe through to less famous but no less impressive monuments. Head north and west to the Evie and the mighty broch of Gurness, then swing back past the Earl’s Palace at Birsay. Don’t miss Orphir, with its beautifully proportioned round church and “Orkneyinga” Viking history interpretation centre. There’s simply so much to see it’s difficult to choose!
Make an early morning or late evening visit to the Ring of Brodgar and standing stones of Stenness – there’s no entrance fee, so you can just wander right around and between these mighty stones, wondering at their purpose and the skill and strength it must have taken to excavate and erect them thousands of years ago.
Another day you might head south to South Ronaldsay – now connected by the famous Churchill Barriers to the mainland. On your way past, call in at the Italian Chapel, two Nissen huts remarkably crafted into a place of worship by interned Italian prisoners of war.
A network of ferries connects the Orkney Mainland to a variety of other islands including Hoy, Rousay and Shapinsay. Hoy, Orkney’s second largest island, is more mountainous and made famous by its human-shaped sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy. If your main interest is the archaeology, Rousay boasts one of the finest sites with its Midhowe Broch and Cairn and is readily accessible on a day trip. Here you can see evidence of many different eras dating as far back as Neolithic times. Westray and Papa Westray are a bit further afield so better to visit by plane. If you choose to do so, you’ll experience the shortest scheduled flight in the world between the two islands – do please let us know if you would like us to pre-book this trip for you.
Today you leave Orkney and travel to Shetland by the way of a short flight between these two northern archipelagos. Upon arrival you collect your second hire car and drive to your next base in the central mainland of these isles.
Your Hotel on Shetland
Rich in history, with parts dating back to the sixteenth century, your hotel is full of character, with low ceilings, twisting corridors and creaking floorboards. Rooms vary in shape and size, each named after one of the Shetland islands. The Long Room is an elegant place for afternoon tea or pre-dinner drinks. Local produce, including seafood and Shetland mutton, feature on the evening menu, while the gardens stretch down to the water, inviting you to take an early evening stroll. It is said that Queen Elizabeth once stopped here for tea. Unsurprisingly, given the age of the building, rumours abound of a resident ghost.
What to See & Do on Shetland
You’ll quickly appreciate that Orkney & Shetland are quite different from each other. Now that you are further north, the impact of the sea is all the more profound. Take a trip to Eshaness, where the sea pounds against the coastal cliffs and jagged stacks even on a calm summer’s day. In contrast, you’ll find a sheltered strip of sand at the applecore beach of St Ninian’s Isle. If you like to tick off extremities, take the regular ferries across to Yell and onward to Unst, then drive (watching out for wild Shetland ponies) to the northerly tip. From here you can gaze out to the wonderfully-named lighthouse of Muckle Flugga. At the southern-most point on Shetland, you’ll find Sumburgh Head. You could easily spend a couple of hours in this area exploring the ruins at Jarlshof, from prehistoric to nineteenth century. Or hop on the short ferry journey to Britain’s tallest Broch at Mousa. Enjoy the serenity of the birds and seals, Mousa’s only inhabitants!
Noss Boat Trip
Your holiday in Shetland includes a unique and spectacular wildlife experience. You’ll join a boat trip to the Noss Nature Reserve, where thousands of seabirds nest and breed while seals laze on rocks beneath the cliffs or nose around the boat. Your guides on board will share their in-depth knowledge about the area and its inhabitants while you tour the spectacular cliffs of the world famous bird reserve.
Please note, the Noss Boat Trip only operates from May to September.
Return your hire car at Sumburgh airport and catch your return flight to Glasgow or Edinburgh for onward connections.
Orkney and Shetland, off the north coast of Scotland. The holiday described is based on flying to and between the islands and hiring cars on both islands.
£1355 per person November 2023 to March 2024, £1425 per person for April & October, £1525 per person May to September.
The above pricing does not include stays over Christmas or New Year from 23 December to 8 January . If you are interested in taking a holiday across these dates, please get in touch for a bespoke quote.
Prices are based on 2 adults sharing a double/twin room ensuite for 6 nights on a bed and breakfast basis.
Noss Boat trip only operates from May to September.
Prices include direct flights from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Orkney, from Orkney to Shetland and back from Shetland to Edinburgh or Glasgow, as well as a boat trip around Noss whilst you are on Shetland (for May to September holidays only). The hire of a small manual car on each island is also included.
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.
There is the option to upgrade to a suite at the hotel on Orkney for an additional £65 per person subject to availability. Please do not hesitate to ask for more details.
Due to our car hire insurance requirements, the maximum age limit of a driver on Shetland is 80
We work hard to make sure the unexpected doesn’t affect your trip. On rare occasions, changes or cancellations may occur, affecting accommodation, transport or excursions. We are committed to informing you of any such circumstances and will use our knowledge and resources to offer suitable alternatives wherever possible.
You are requesting availability for
This holiday can be arranged from January to December -though stays over the Christmas or New Year period from 23rd December to 8th January will require a bespoke quote.
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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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
There’s something incredibly liberating about going on holiday to Shetland. I felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life ...
Everything ran like clockwork so a big thank you. A really lovely holiday.Judy & David, Derby, England
It is difficult to agree on a 'favourite' memory because we had so many really good experiences.Alastair & Lynn, Leicestershire, England, UK
The unique environment on the islands was extremely interesting…we loved the historical sites.Merryl & Trevor, South Australia