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Orkney & Shetland

Island-hop through the distinctive Northern Isles of the UK, exploring prehistoric sites and experiencing a very different way of life

Our self-drive touring holiday of Orkney & Shetland gives you the opportunity to experience the landscapes, wildlife and archaeological heritage of these magical, and very different, parts of the UK. Whilst Orkney is hailed for its rich folklore, prehistoric sites and abundance of wildlife, Shetland is experiencing ever increasing popularity thanks to BBC’s hit TV series “Shetland” based on Ann Cleeve’s gritty, iconic crime stories.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Mar - Oct

Why not...

add an extra night or two on each island group to explore in depth?

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Day One to Three – Orkney

Travel to Orkney from Scrabster near Thurso, with the crossing taking just 90 minutes. Your hotel is in the island’s capital, Kirkwall.

Your hotel on Orkney

The owners have put tremendous effort into transforming this hotel, located on the outskirts of Kirkwall. A genuine feel pervades the hotel, which is traditionally furnished, offering you the chance to find out just how comfortable Orkney chairs really are. Fast building a reputation as a destination for locals, the restaurant boasts menus packed with local produce. Savour your chance to try lamb with its distinctive flavour due to the seaweed diet of North Ronaldsay sheep, or sample local seafood including mouth-watering prawns, succulent salmon and delicious stir-fried squid. And you just must pop round to see the neighbours – the world famous Highland Park distillery is right next door.

What to see and do on Orkney

Orkney offers world class archaeology as well as superb land and seascapes.  There’s simply so much to see it’s difficult to choose. Our suggested itinerary would be to start at Orphir, with its beautifully proportioned round church and “Orkneyinga” Viking history interpretation centre.  From here head to the West coast and Skara Brae, one of the most impressive stone age monuments in the western world.

Drive north to the Earl’s Palace at Birsay; should time allow, travel round the coast to Evie and the broch of Gurness. Return south to Maes Howe, and finally through the Ring of Brodgar and the standing stones of Stenness.   Another day you might head south to South Ronaldsay – now connected by the famous Churchill Barriers to the mainland.  Don’t miss the incredible example of human dedication – the Italian Chapel and the Tomb of the Eagles, one of the most impressive privately owned historic monuments in the country.

If you prefer, travel by Orkney Ferries to one of the smaller islands such as Hoy,  Papa Westray,  Westray,  Rousay, Stronsay,  Sanday or Shapinsay.  Hoy, Orkney’s second largest island, is mountainous and worth visiting for its famous sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy.  At Westray, visit the ruined Noltland Castle and the Knowe o’ Burristae Broch.  If you’re interested in the archaeology of Orkney, Rousay boasts one of the finest sites, with its Midhowe Broch and Cairn.  Here you can see evidence of many different eras dating as far back as Neolithic times.

Days Three/Four – To Shetland

Travel by overnight ferry to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, arriving at 0730 and enjoy breakfast on board before disembarking.

Your hotel on Shetland

The original, historic building dates from the 1500’s and has benefited from many tasteful additions throughout the centuries. Low ceilings, winding corridors, steep steps and sloping floors all add to the characterful ambiance of the place which, rumour has it, includes its very own ghost.  Guests comment on the friendly welcome and traditional service they have received here, and the hotel even has royal connections. Queen Elizabeth 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.

Day Five – Noss Boat Trip

This afternoon you will enjoy a unique and spectacular wildlife experience. Thousands of birds nest and feed in 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 which is equipped with colour viewing screens and a submersible ROV mounted camera that shows the stunning variety of life beneath the waves.

What to see & do on Shetland

Time to explore. Visit some of Shetland’s rural villages as well as seeing the superb coastal scenery for which Shetland is famous, with an option to travel on to the islands of Unst and Yell.  Another day’s plan could include the famous historic site at Jarlshof, to the stunning beaches at St Ninian’s Isle, and via a short ferry journey to Britain’s tallest Broch at Mousa.  Enjoy the serenity of the birds and seals, Mousa’s only inhabitants!

Day Six/Seven – Return Home

Time to return home.  Depart Lerwick at the end of the afternoon for the overnight journey on the cruise class Northlink Ferries service to Aberdeen.  Accommodation on board in a double/twin en-suite outer cabin is included in the price.  Arrive in Aberdeen at 0700 and enjoy breakfast on board before disembarking.


Map Orkney-&-Shetland

Orkney and Shetland, off the north coast of Scotland.  The holiday described is based on taking your own car, but ask us if you would like a fly-drive proposal, flying to and between the islands and hiring a car on each island.


£890 per person for March & October, £925 per person for April, May, June & September, £945 per person for July & August.

Prices are based on 2 people sharing a room for this 6 night holiday and includes breakfast in both hotels, ferry crossings from Scrabster to Orkney, from Orkney to Shetland and from Lerwick to Aberdeen. Outer two berth cabins included on the Orkney to Shetland and Shetland to Aberdeen crossings. We also include a Boat trip around Noss during your time on Shetland, and an Historic Scotland Explorer Pass covering entrance to their managed sites on Orkney, including Skara Brae and Maes Howe, and to Jarlshof on Shetland.

If you would like to spend an extra night or two on either of the two islands, we’d be delighted to assist. Please contact us for more details. 

All our touring holidays include a map with recommended routes from your specified starting point, suggestions on places to see and visit depending on your personal interests and our expertise to help you get the most from your holiday.

All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

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.


Check availability for Orkney & Shetland

This holiday is available from March to October

To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest-houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.

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