Highlights of Orkney and Shetland - 6 day tour
Highlights of Orkney and Shetland
6 day/5 night
This island adventure starts with a tour to Aberdeen to catch the overnight ferry service bound for Lerwick in the Shetlands, Britain's most northerly island archipelago. Spend two days exploring some of the many island treasures, including Scalloway Castle and Jarlshof, an outstanding example of a prehistoric and Norse settlement. Next, sail southwards to reach the Orkney Islands, where we'll discover the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle. Free time will let you explore Kirkwall and St Magnus Cathedral before setting sail for the mainland.
Price range: £1,195 - £1,770
Jarlshof - explore this historic site, where people lived for more than 4,000 years, to see outstanding examples of Bronze Age and Viking houses
Scalloway - tour through this attractive fishing port that was once the island capital to visit the imposing ruins of 17th Century Scalloway Castle
Maeshowe - investigate this impressive chambered tomb and see the Viking graffiti left 1,000 years ago
Skara Brae - discover how early man lived at this amazingly well-preserved Stone Age settlement of dwelling houses complete with beds and chairs
Kirkwall - enjoy a three-night stay in this bustling port dominated by 12th Century St Magnus Cathedral
Movie locations – Moondogs, The Long Hope and The Spy in Black
Hotel accommodation included
Full Tour Itinerary
Day 1 - Edinburgh/Glasgow - Aberdeen - Overnight Ferry
From Glasgow and Edinburgh, we travel northwards through the Kingdom of Fife to reach Dundee, which sits overlooking the River Tay. Our journey continues through the fertile farmland of Angus to reach the granite city of Aberdeen by late afternoon.
At Aberdeen Harbour, we join the Northlink ferry for the overnight crossing to Shetland. Once checked-in onboard head to your comfortable twin-berth cabin with en-suite bathroom or enjoy time exploring the ship's many facilities.
We depart Aberdeen at 19:00 hrs, and a short time later, dinner will be served in the ship's restaurant.
The rest of this evening is free to relax and, perhaps, enjoy a wee night-cap in the bar or get some fresh sea air before retiring for the night.
Overnight: MV Hrossey or Hjaltland
Day 2 - Exploring Shetland
We arrive in Lerwick around 07:30 hrs. Breakfast is served onboard from 07:15 hrs after which we board the coach and disembark to begin our island tour.
A short drive to the western side of the Shetland mainland brings us to the old fishing port of Scalloway, which sits overlooking a sheltered bay. This was once the Shetland capital and is the site of Scalloway Castle which was built for the notorious Earl Patrick Stewart in the early 17th Century. We will discover more about this rather unpleasant character and his tyrannical ways during our visit.
Later we travel to the dramatic sea cliffs at Eshaness which have been created by the constant pounding of the Atlantic waves. Look out for the lighthouse, opened in 1929 its powerful light can be seen from 46 km away.
Our journey south takes us through Mavis Grind, an isthmus so narrow it is said to be possible to throw a stone from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It's a convenient crossing point for otters too, who, in these islands, are sea-dwelling.
Our home for tonight is in the delightful village of Bray which overlooks Busta Voe.
Overnight: Busta House Hotel, Shetland (or similar)
Day 3 - Jarlshof - Ferry Crossing - Orkney Islands
After breakfast, we travel to the very south of the mainland to visit Jarlshof, where waves of settlers lived for more than 4,000 years.
At this fascinating site, we will discover the remains of oval houses from the Bronze Age, an Iron Age broch and Viking longhouses. Later, in medieval times, farmsteads were also built here. Finally, a laird's house was constructed on the site in the 1600s. The breadth of history to be discovered here is without parallel in Scotland and is sure to amaze you.
Later we make the short drive to Sumburgh Head, where the waters of the North Sea meet the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Standing guard to warn the passing ships is the Sumburgh Lighthouse, designed by the grandfather of the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson.
During our time here will visit the RSPB reserve which is home to many species of seabirds including puffins, guillemots and razorbills.
This afternoon we tour through the island, and as we make our journey hopefully, we will see some native Shetland ponies grazing in their fields.
Our destination is Lerwick, the island's attractive capital. Here we will have some free time to explore this charming town with its stone-paved alleys, granite houses and independent shops. The innovative Shetland Museum and Archives tells the fascinating story of these islands and is well worth visiting.
Later this afternoon we travel to the port to join the ferry bound for the Orkney Islands. Dinner will be served on board and we will arrive in Kirkwall around 23:00 hrs. It's a short drive to our hotel for the next three nights.
Overnight: Kirkwall Hotel, Kirkwall (or similar) (3 nights)
Day 4 - Discovering prehistoric Orkney
Today we explore the heart of Neolithic Orkney. These treasures are of such importance that UNESCO has designated them a World Heritage site. Our first visits are to the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. These mysterious stone circles are amongst the most significant in Europe and are some 5,000 years old.
Next, we make for Maeshowe, a magnificent chambered tomb that dates from around 2,500 BC. It was raided by Norsemen in the 12th Century. They left carvings behind which are considered to be some of the finest examples of runic inscriptions in the World.
Our last visit of the day is to Skara Brae. This amazingly well-preserved village was built 5,000 years ago. Overlooking Skaill Bay, we'll discover a settlement of Stone Age houses complete with chairs, beds and dressers all made from stone. Discover more at the visitor centre which provides touch-screen presentations and a wide range of artefacts that have excavated from the site.
Later return to Kirkwall where dinner is served in our hotel.
Day 5 - Scapa Flow and Italian Chapel Excursion
Enjoy free time in Kirkwall this morning. You could visit the mighty Cathedral of St Mangus, which was begun in 1137. It took 300 years to complete and is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Europe. Nearby sits the Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace, which was reputedly built using forced labour.
If you fancy some retail therapy, Kirkwall has a wealth of independent shops and craftworkers studios to be explored.
Orkney played a vital role during both World Wars, and this afternoon we will travel to see Scapa Flow which provided a sheltered anchorage for the British naval fleet. This expanse of water has played witness to some monumental events. In 1919 the German Navy scuttled itself as a grand act of defiance and, in 1939, HMS Royal Oak was sunk here by a U-boat.
To prevent further attacks, a series of four barriers were constructed using Italian prisoners of war. Known as the Churchill Barriers, we will use these causeways to reach the little island of Lamb Holm.
The Italian Prisoners constructed a chapel out of a pair of Nissen Huts. We'll make a visit to view the remarkable paintings that can be found inside the simple corrugated metal exterior. Several of the prisoners have returned to Orkney over the years to assist with the restoration of the building.
Day 6 - Orkney - Cairngorms National Park - Edinburgh/Glasgow
Today we bid farewell to island life and make the journey to St Margaret's Hope where the fast Pentland Ferries catamaran waits to transport us across the Pentland Firth. During the hour-long sailing look out for porpoises, dolphins and minke whales that can often be seen.
On arrival at Gills Bay, we join the famous North Coast 500 route as we make the coastal drive southwards across the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths towards Inverness.
The beautiful Cairngorms National Park will bring us to the Pass of Drumocher and Highland Perthshire beyond. There will be a stop where can enjoy time off the coach and buy refreshments.
The last part of the journey takes us through the Kingdom of Fife and across the Forth Estuary into Edinburgh. The coach will continue on to Glasgow, for passengers wishing to end their tour there.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect on this Escorted Tour?
If you enjoy the art of first-class travel whilst enjoying amazing value then an Escorted Tour is just for you. These tours are carefully researched and combine quality hotels, luxury travel, informative visits and leisure time. You’ll find our Escorted Tours to be memorable - for all the right reasons!
You will travel aboard a state of the art motorcoach with air-conditioning, reclining seats, oversized windows and emergency washroom. Many coaches are equipped with WiFi too.
An experienced tour manager will lead the tour and your coach will be expertly driven by a professional driver. In certain locations you’ll may be joined by a local guide who will provide local insight and show you the highlights.
These tours are inclusive of superior tourist class accommodation, transportation, selected admission fees and many meals.
On many tours you’ll have the chance to personalise your touring experience by participating in some carefully planned optional excursions. These are at additional expense and, if available, details will be provided with your tour documentation.
What type of room should I choose?
Selecting the right sleeping arrangements can be a little bit confusing, so here is a description of what you can expect from the hotel accommodation offered as part of your tour:
Single room - this is a room for one person sleeping in a single bed.
Twin room - this is a room for two people sleeping in two separate beds.
Double room - this is a room for two people sharing one large bed.
Family room - this is a room for three people sleeping in one large bed (2 people) and one single bed (1 person).
Please note that a family room is normally a standard double or twin room with either a sofa bed or a rollaway bed.
All room types, other than twin rooms, are subject to availability.
What is a typical tour schedule?
Usually the tour will depart the hotel between 08:00 hrs and 08:30 hrs in the morning. During the course of the day you’ll normally be travelling for no more than 2 hours at a time before making a stop to enjoy a visit to an attraction or for a comfort break/meal stop.
Usually the coach will arrive at the overnight stop between 16:30 and 17:00 hrs each day.
In some cases, due to ferry or other travel connections, the tour may depart earlier or arrive later – your tour director will advise you if this will be happening on your tour.
Where can I purchase travel insurance?
We strongly recommend that you have travel insurance in place for your trip to Scotland, especially if you are visiting from overseas. To purchase a policy speak to your insurance broker or undertake a search on-line.
We would also suggest checking your home policy or credit card contract as many suppliers include travel insurance as part of their offering.
Who travels on an escorted tour?
These tours are immensely popular so expect to be travelling in the company of like-minded travellers from around the world. It’s a great way to make new friends!
Age-wise it’s really difficult for us to give an accurate figure for any given tour departure, but experience has taught us to expect the median age to be between 45 and 50.
- 5 nights hotel accommodation
- Location: Northlink Ferry (1); Busta, Shetland Islands (1) and Kirkwall, Orkney islands (3)
- Cooked/Continental breakfast (5)
- Table d' hote dinners (5)
Visits, Admissions and Experiences
- Admission to Scalloway Castle, Jarlshof, Ring of Brodgar, Stenness Standing Stones, Maeshowe, Skara Brae and Italian Chapel
- Touring by luxury air-conditioned coach with reclining seats
- All ferry fares and reservations
- All baggage handling and hotel tips are included
- Services throughout the tour of a professional Tour Director
- Service charges and taxes
North Hanover Street Bus Stance, Glasgow, G1 2BP
Check-in: 11:30 hrs
Tour Departs: 11:45 hrs
Tour Returns: 21:15 hrs
Outside Marriott Hotel, on Glasgow Road, Edinburgh, EH12 8NF
Check-in: 12:45 hrs
Tour Departs: 13:00 hrs
Tour Returns: 20:00 hrs
Please contact us for information on child prices.
The price of this tour includes hotel accommodation/ferry cabin with en-suite bathroom.
Please see the FAQ section for more information on this tour.