Both Shetland and Orkney are all about the Great Outdoors. Whether you’re happy to explore with a gently stroll or cycle, or perhaps you fancy some adventure on the waves, or are in search of wildlife, there’s lots of options.
Take to the water: If you get your kicks out on or in the water, then these island groups will delight you. Both Shetland and Orkney are renowned scuba diving spots with a variety of diving experiences available, whether you’re looking to view historic wrecks, submerged cliffs or a profusion of underwater wildlife. Above the waves, you can hire all manner of crafts and vessels including sailing dinghies, kayaks and stand up paddleboards allowing you to explore the extensive coastlines.
Wildlife watching: For wildlife enthusiasts, Shetland and Orkney are alive with the sights, sounds and colours of nature throughout the year. Shetland is a world-class attraction for birdwatchers, thanks to sensational seabird colonies and migrating rarities, click here for details of where to go and what you can expect to see https://www.shetland.org/visit/do/wildlife/birds. Orkney also sees large numbers of migratory birds passing through as well as all manner of rare breeds appearing too. Further details are on this link: https://www.orkney.com/things/nature/birds-bird-watching.
Both Shetland and Orkney are also great places to see marine life, particularly seals. Orkney is of significant international importance as a breeding ground for the grey and common seal and around 15% of the world’s seal population make Orkney their home. Popular viewing places including the Brough of Birsay and the islands of South Ronaldsay, Rousay and the outer isles. Shetland is also a brilliant place to watch sea mammals, particularly common seals, grey seals, otters, harbour porpoises and occasionally, orcas. Seals can often be spotted anywhere along the Shetland coastline.
Walking: Shetland offers some of the finest walking in Europe, whatever the season, thanks to a combination of coastal scenery, quiet inland lochs and gentle heathery hills. Orkney is equally enticing for walkers with mile upon mile of beautiful rolling countryside and breathtaking coastlines.
Cycling: Pedal power is an ideal way to explore either Shetland or Orkney, with mile upon mile of quiet roads. There are numerous bike shops on the Mainland of both archipelagos and, if you’re intending to island hop, you can take a bike with you on the inter-island ferries.
Northern Lights: Shetland and Orkney offer some of the best spots in northern Scotland for spotting the Aurora Borealis, particularly during autumn and winter.
Golf: Shetland has a growing reputation as an unusual and interesting golf venue. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, the island courses offer a golfing experience like no other. During the summer month, you can even indulge in some “midnight golf”!
Island Hopping: Whether you opt for Shetland or Orkney, we’d urge you not to confine your stay to one island, but instead make the most of the excellent inter-island ferries to explore every other corner, or as many as time allows! For the more remote islands, there are inter-island flights too. Flights also operate between Shetland and Orkney which allows you combine both archipelagos in one holiday (see our Shetland & Orkney Explorer tour for details).