There’s something happening in Orkney. The archipelago situated off the north coast of Scotland was home to 36,000 visitors. In 2017, the number of visitors could nearly double. Cruise ship passengers have increased too, with cruise ship arrivals dropping and then resuming to shuffle away at more than 95,000 people each year.
They are there because Orkney has something unique to offer: stunning landscapes, fascinating historical places from world-class Neolithic ruin sites to the newly constructed attraction that is the Italian Chapel and an abundant bird population within the RSPB’s most famous reserves.
We’re not averse to cruise ship travel and the numerous issues it creates but we don’t blame people for having an fascination with Orkney. There’s an alternative that is more pleasant and sustainable method to discover these stunning islands: walking.
OUR TOP ORKNEY HOLIDAY
ORKNEY ISLES WALKING HOLIDAY, SMALL GROUP
Explore the Orkney Islands on this wild walking tour
Should you want to have a chat about Orkney or want help in locating the perfect holiday for you, we’d be delighted to assist.
Walking through Orkney is, without a doubt, the best way to take in these stunning sea-slathered landscapes, with their distinctive nature and heritage. According to David Kay from our specialist partner Ramblers Holidays puts it: “When cruise ships come arriving, they will instantly multiply the population of Kirkwall. We must work close with bus operators on days of cruise ships to make sure our groups reach their destinations However, it can also give us the benefit of knowing where cruisers will be and when, so we are able to avoid them. Actually they stay at the honeypots, and after an easy walk, you’ll be enjoying a peaceful environment and again.”
With knowledgeable local guides and guides, who are usually experts on Orkney birdlife or history and wildlife, you’ll wander through remote beaches, turf-roofed fishermen’s huts and stunning clifftop views with well-marked trails that cross open heath, moors and hillsides.
There are numerous benefits when you walk with an expert walking guide when you are in Orkney. A walk with a local will open your eyes to aspects of culture and nature that could be missed if you were staying glued to your map and compasses. A knowledgeable guide will make sure that you follow the clearly marked trails, avoid the destruction of vegetation, and ensure that you stay away from animals. They will be able to bring to life stories of Viking battles, and show the way in which prisoners of war were able to build a beautiful chapel out of the ruins of Nissen buildings They will make you believe that Orkney whisky is more delicious than other whiskies when visiting a distillery located on an island and provide you with a hint on where the best chance is of catching glimpses of whales in the ocean. They will help you avoid big coach groups using a well-practiced skills, and in return you’ll provide income and employment to the communities who rely on it.
The majority all of Orkney islands have low elevations and walking isn’t particularly strenuous when you’re fit enough. This gives you plenty of time to explore Neolithic sites like Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Stenness or the Ring of Brodgar. It is possible to stop at Skaill House which was a 17th-century family home, the 12th century St Magnus Cathedral built from red sandstone or a bustling seal colony.
If you’re staying on Mainland (a somewhat confusing name for the biggest island) It is possible to whiz across the water on a the ferry from Hoy with its impressive sea stack and cliffs and Rousay just only 25 minutes away, which has blowholes and arches on the coast, and an interior of moorland controlled by the RSPB in which you may see Kittiwakes and puffins as well as razorbills and shags.
David Kay agrees the birdwatching here is among the top of The UK: “You won’t see many animals on land however the birdlife is unbeatable. One of our expert guides we employ is a top birdwatcher and has led some incredible tours. The last couple of years he’s noticed an increase in seabirds such as your guillemots and puffins probably due to a shortage of food. There is a chance that you’ll spot whales, but it’s not common. Porpoises are less common, however, you’ll still require binoculars.”
Small group walks in Orkney can be booked with a maximum of 22. This limits any impact you have on community and environment but permitting you to stay in smaller hotels which are unable to accommodate groups of coaches. Half-day and full-day hikes explore routes at a slow pace and have maximal distances of approximately 14km and ascents and descents that are around 600m.
Tours are available from May through October. In the summer, it can get packed as cruise ships dock in larger number, so there’s plenty to gain from traveling earlier or later during the year, not least because you’re distributing income to local residents outside of the peak season.
David Kay has his own tips on when is the best time to visit: “Orkney in winter is very miserable as the days are long. The month of June is ideal because there isn’t much darkness and sometimes it is only two hours. I would also recommend Orkney in September, since there is a chance to view”the Northern Lights.”
For getting to Orkney You can fly or take the ferry across. From Aberdeen it’s a relaxing trip of about six hours and from Scrabster It’s only 90 minutes, but the journey will take some time. A brand new ferry departing from Caithness is, in turn, is claimed to be the greenest in Scotland. The year 2017 saw a proposal for a tourist tax was discussed and met with a sour reaction, however should the situation get worse the tax could be viewed as a an element of the solution which could result in raising funds to support conservation.
David Kay is open to the idea, but with a few doubts: “As far as a tourist tax is concerned, the way in which the money will be spent is the main issue. I believe it’s best to apply it fairly so as to not penalize “good tourism” in Orkney. Our travels directly benefit local communities, whether hiring local guides or staying in local owned hotels and eateries. But I definitely imagine the benefits of putting an additional tax on cruise travelers because they travel in huge numbers, yet it’s not often that they purchase more than a few small items.”
The hotel is located on Mainland and staying in an independently owned hotel just a few minutes from the quays in Stromness the port town with a rich maritime history. In the ago, ships carrying merchants and explorers were set to sail from the town for the Americas.
The evenings are best spent at a local bar and chatting with fellow guests or examining your pictures Do not expect anything spectacular from the Wi-Fi in high season, however it is stressed from the constant use. Another reason to utilize an aid, is that the maps you use like Google Maps won’t be as reliable in this case. When you go on certain trips, you’ll encounter an RSPB ranger will also be visiting in the evenings to chat about their activities at Orkney as well as shake up the Tin. Spend generously as you’ll see after a few days of walking their work here, they are exemplary.