The fabled Orkney Islands boast more pre-historic sites than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Discover the history of the Orkney archipelago, the rugged extremes of Scotland’s northern coastline, Loch Ness and the stunning beauty of the Cairngorm National Park. On this four day tour we’ll have time to discover these Northern Isles and much more besides!
Inverness to the Orkney Isles (2 nights)
Today sees an early start, crossing over the Black Isle, and past Andrew Carnegie's Skibo Castle. From here you drive through the northeast Highland coastline, travelling into some of Scotland's most dramatic scenery, with views of some of Europe's oldest landscapes and the chance to see wildlife such as Golden Eagles and red deer.
We board the ferry, crossing the Pentland Firth into the Orkney Archipelago. On our arrival it is a short drive to the famous Italian Chapel where few will fail to be moved by the dedicated workmanship of the Italian prisoners of war who crafted this place of worship from a humble Nissan hut. Their story and many others will be told as we view Scapa Flow, the scene of momentous events during both World Wars.
The Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, is our home for the next 2 nights.
Orkney is home to many outstanding historic treasures and today will be a unique day of discovery. On our itinerary today are visits to Maeshowe(optional), a magnificent tomb built almost 5,000 years ago and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle that once comprised of 60 megaliths. Today with 27 stones still standing, some over 5 metres tall, it takes little imagination to visualise the extent of this historic monument.
Uncovered by a storm in 1850 Skara Brae (optional) is one of the best preserved groups of Stone Age houses in Western Europe and our visit will reveal the stone furniture, hearths and drains that present such a remarkable picture of Neolithic life.
The day will finish with a visit to beautiful St Magnus Cathedral, one of Europe’s great architectural achievements and over 800 years old.
Orkney to Inverness
It’s an early start as we board the ferry and bid a farewell to the Orkney’s. On our arrival on the mainland we travel through the little fishing villages that hug this storm-swept coastline. These attractive communities are a reminder of the importance of the Herring fishing industry during the 19th Century.
As we travel through Helmsdale which sits at the mouth of the River Helmsdale, one of the best Salmon fishing rivers in Scotland you’ll start to hear some of the heart-breaking stories that are connected with the Highland Clearances. One of the most energetic participants in this sad-era in Scotland’s history was the Duke of Sutherland who, it is said, evicted 15,000 tenants from his land to make way for sheep. We’ll pass his grand castle at Dunrobin and, in Golspie, see a statue to him towering over the surrounding countryside.
This area abounds in wildlife so look out for the seals as we cross the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths and way our way, once more, across the Black Isle. Enjoy the views of the Moray Firth as we cross the impressive Kessock Bridge and make our arrival in Inverness.