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The journey begins close to Thurso on the north coast of Scotland, with a 90-minute crossing to Orkney, with your first base a short drive away in the main island town of Kirkwall.
Situated close to the famous Highland Park distillery, your Kirkwall hotel couldn’t be better-placed for your discovery of Mainland Orkney. The in-house restaurant is regarded as one of Kirkwall’s best and serves a superb menu reflecting the fine local produce available, including Orkney beef, dairy specialities and, of course, wonderful seafood.
In Kirkwall itself do visit the imposing, Romanesque, St Magnus Cathedral – the British Isles’ northernmost – whose development continued from its founding in 1137 for some 300 years. The islands’ capital also features two fascinating museums, one of which, the Tankerness, is housed in a beautifully preserved 16th-century townhouse, and contains several artefacts of genuine national importance. Whisky-lovers will wish to visit the Highland Park distillery, whose story is rich in unique detail outside of its ‘most-northerly’ status.
There is nothing to match the perspective of a local, so on your first full day we will arrange for an expert guide to accompany your exploration.There is much to see on Mainland outside of Kirkwall, not least UNESCO World Heritage Site Skara Brae – the beautifully preserved remains of a Neoilithic village often referred to as ‘Scotland’s Pompeii’ and one of the four sites that constitute ‘the Heart of Neolithic Orkney,’ the others being the chambered cairn and passage grave of Maeshowe, the standing stones at Stenness, and the Ring of Brodgar. Though Orkney needn’t be all history and archaeology – your itinerary will be designed to best-reflect your specific areas of interest, with wildlife-watching, scenery and superb walks all possible, for example.
Perhaps a drive across the Churchill Barriers to the islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay, each of which features its own character and a wealth of historical sites to discover. The Italian Chapel on the tiny, uninhabited island of Lamb Holm is a must-see, and a visit to the village of Saint Margaret’s Hope feels like a step back in time, though there are one or two places to eat a fine seafood lunch – locally caught lobster being a particular favourite.
Today, you’ll be making the short ferry-hop to the island of Rousay, sometimes referred to as ‘the Egypt of the North,’ owing to its wealth of archaeological sites (166 at the moment). The island has an atmosphere all its own, just under 19 square-miles in size and with a population of around 220. Despite its diminutive size, Rousay is rich in history, sandy beaches where seals congregate, and lochs and hills affording some fabulous walking.
Just a short distance from the ferry terminal, this family run hotel features only four rooms, so you’re sure to experience a feeling of cosy exclusivity as you sit on the deck, sipping an authentic Orkney beer or a dram, overlooking Eynhallow sound and across to Evie and Randall on the Orkney Mainland. The restaurant serves a simple, locally sourced menu that you’re sure to enjoy after a long day taking in the unique island air on Rousay.
Enjoy a leisurely day to explore the island, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife-watching and visiting sites where evidence of 5000 years of human settlement can be seen. Orkney in high-Summer doesn’t experience true darkness, rather the phenomenon of the ‘simmer dim,’ like an extended twilight, so evenings on the deck at your hotel – weather permitting! – could be something special.
Up early this morning to travel back to Kirkwall, drop off your car and catch the short flight to the island of Westray. The flight will be in an eight-seater plane – more like an airborne taxi service – gives you the chance to see Orkney from the air and to see more of the archipelago. On landing you will be transferred to your small hotel.
A quite unique property, created from what was a near-ruined Victorian community hall adjacent to the local kirk. With just two comfortable, en-suite rooms, you’ll feel a sense of detachment so rare in UK travel. The proprietors live in the nearby manse and come to you each morning to cook breakfast in your own private kitchen, while the comfortable lounge area with TV, books and all-important wifi is the perfect place to unwind after a long day out.
Today another local tour guide will help you experience the island’s rich and ancient history, its breathtaking coast and landscape and, if you’re lucky, some of the UK’s most spectacular wildlife. With Neolithic and Bronze-age sites, the 16th-century castle at Noltland, the Romanesque Cross Kirk, the Castle O’Burrian sea-stack (once used as a hermitage, now home to a colony of puffins between April and late-July) wonderful coastal and inland walks rich in wild flora, deserted sandy beaches perfect for fishing or just relaxing all day, and a superb local heritage centre where you can discover a treasure-trove of information and stories of Westray’s history, choosing what not to do is the real challenge. Again, your own, personalised itinerary will ensure you get the most from your visit to this enchanting island.
Today you’ll be transferred from your hotel to Westray airport, whose staff you may well have already got to know during the preceding two days (just about everyone on Westray has at least three jobs). Upon landing at Kirkwall airport, collect your car, so you can begin your journey home via the ferry back to the Scottish mainland.
This holiday has three bases, Kirkwall, and the islands of Rousay and Westray.
£965 per person for April, May, September and October, £995 per person for June, July & August.
Prices based on two sharing double or twin ensuite rooms for seven nights on a bed & breakfast basis.
Price includes ferry travel for car and passengers to Orkney from the Scottish mainland, and return to the island of Rousay, as well as flights to and from the island of Westray. We also include a full day small group guided tours on the Orkney mainland, the island of Rousay, and the island of Westray.
The holiday can easily be adapted for those who prefer to fly to Orkney, and for those who prefer not to hire a car and use public transport.
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.
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.
Last month I was in Orkney for the first time. I have never been that far north before. I flew from Glasgow to Kirkwall, the main town, instead of tak...
Who would guess all that the Orkney Islands hold… I could have spent a month there… and many many good places to eat.Maxine & Kurt, Victoria, Canada
This holiday can be arranged from April 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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