Shetland & Orkney Islands Holidays
Stretching out into the North Sea off Scotland’s north coast are Shetland and Orkney. More Scandinavian than Scottish, each archipelago has a distinctive culture, stunning coastal scenery, an array of natural wonders, pristine beaches, remarkable wildlife, numerous fascinating geological sites and, If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of the Northern Lights.
Why Visit Orkney & the Shetland Islands?
The ruggedly handsome and wonderfully secluded Shetland archipelago has over 100 islands with just 15 inhabited. On Mainland the capital, Lerwick, offers extensive leisure and entertainment facilities as well as the outstanding Shetland Museum and Archives, which brings to life the story of this archipelago. In nearby Scalloway visit the excellent museum to learn about the top-secret WWII Shetland Bus operation as well as the haunting ruins of Scalloway Castle.
On the southern tip of Mainland is Sumburgh Head where you can visit the extraordinary Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse settlements, with archaeological treasures covering over 4,000 years. Additional Mainland attractions include the Shetland Crofthouse Museum for an insight into a traditional way of life which has long vanished; St Ninian’s Isle with its glorious white sands; and the impressive Iron Age Mousa Broch.
Half way between Orkney and Shetland is Fair Isle, a jewel of an island owned by the National Trust for Scotland and famous for its birds, knitwear and historic shipwrecks. Other Shetland highlights include Unst, boasting a plethora of fabulous walks; Foula, designated as a Special Protection Area for birds; Fetla, known as the Garden of Shetland while beguiling Whalsay inspired some of Hugh McDiarmid’s poetry.
Enchanting Orkney is a smorgasbord of must-see sites and cultural attractions scattered across 70 islands.
On the largest island, Mainland, you’ll find the capital Kirkwall whose sights include St Magnus Cathedral, the Bishop’s and Earl’s palaces and the Orkney Museum. The nearby seaport of Stromness is famed for the Pier Arts Centre which showcases the work of artists and sculptors from Orkney and beyond.
In West Mainland, discover the hauntingly beautiful Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area of great archaeological significance includes Skara Brae, Europe’s best-preserved Stone Age village; the Ring of Brodgar, one of the UK’s finest ancient stone circles; the incredible Stones of Stenness and the magnificent Maeshowe chambered tomb reputed to be over 5,000 years old.
Other notable islands include Hoy to see the dramatic Old Man of Hoy sea stack and visit the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum to learn all about the history of Scapa Flow during two world wars; the Brough of Birsay with its Norse settlement ruins; there’s the ‘Egypt of the North’, Rousay, which contains over 100 archaeological sites; and North Ronaldsay which is Orkney’s most isolated island and has a unique heritage and history.