Highlights of Orkney and Shetland: the 'Islands of the Simmer Dim'

6 Days

From £995pp

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  • Spectacular sea cliffs at Eshaness
  • Multitudes of seabirds at Sumburgh Head (May-July)
  • The multi-period settlement of Jarlshof
  • Neolithic Orkney – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  • The Churchill Barriers and Italian Chapel, poignant reminders of more recent history

History and heritage, local culture and landscapes, not to mention the wonderful wildlife...high-achieving Northern Isles Orkney and Shetland do an awful lot extremely well indeed. With that in mind, we thought it only right to celebrate all the wonders they hold with a carefully curated tour of their very best bits — why don’t you join us? 

Orkney and Shetland are unique in many ways. For one, they possess a tangible magic quite separate from that of the mainland, felt as soon as you slip its bonds. The other is that they really seem to encompass the breadth of time from the prehistoric to the present. 

On tour, we take it all in, from the standing stones of Brodgar and Stenness, mysterious remnants of Orkney’s Neolithic past, to the Churchill Barriers, constructed in response to German U-boat attacks in the Second World War. Squarely in the middle, there are the Vikings, former kings of Scotland’s Northern Isles. Visit Tingwall Valley, both a physical and etymological remainder of Nordic rule — its Old Norse originator, Þingvöllr, translates as ‘Field of the Thing Assembly’ — and Kirkwall, with its 12th century St Magnus Cathedral, dedicated to the town’s Norwegian founder. 

Then there’s natural majesty, which the islands have in spades: colonies of seabirds crowd the rocky coast at Sumburgh Head, and cliffs take a sheer drop into the waves at Eshaness. It takes a special vantage point to be able to fully absorb these islands’ majesty, though. We think a couple of evenings overnighting on a ferry in the still quiet of the North Sea ought to do it... 

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Day 1

We depart from our designated departure points and travel north, stopping en route for lunch. We continue to Aberdeen where we board the Serco Northlink Ferry (Hrossey or Hjaltland) overnight to Lerwick. 

Once on board we shall check-in to our comfortable, twin-berth cabins which all have en-suite facilities. The ship has a delightful restaurant, where dinner is served this evening, together with a bar and lounges where you can relax.

Day 2

After breakfast we leave the ship and commence our tour of Shetland. We depart for North Mainland where we visit the spectacular cliffs of Eshaness. We travel through Tingwall Valley, the site of the old Norse parliament (Ting) and through the picturesque areas of Whiteness and Weisdale. After lunch We stop at Scalloway, the former capital of Shetland where we visit the ruined castle built in 1600 by the infamous Earl Patrick Stewart. 

Following our visit here we transfer to our comfortable accommodation at the Queens Hotel, Lerwick. All rooms have en-suite facilities. Dinner will be served in the evening.

Day 3

We start with a visit to the outstanding Prehistoric and Norse Settlement of Jarlshof, with over 3 acres of remains, spanning 3000 years. From there we travel to the southern tip of mainland Shetland, Sumburgh Head. Here we visit the RSPB Reserve, which is home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills. In the afternoon we travel through small communities such as Gulberwick and Cunningsburgh before we explore the island’s capital town of Lerwick, where we have lunch and some free time. We re-join our ship, which sails for Orkney. Dinner is served on board.

On arrival in Orkney we transfer to the Kirkwall Hotel.

Day 4

We have an all-day excursion of mainland Orkney visiting the many archaeological sites including the, great stone circles of Brodgar and Stenness. Lying to the north side of the Orphir Hills. We continue to Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe. It houses the largest collection of runic inscriptions to be found in any one place in the world. A visit to Skara Brae is also included, with its new visitors centre depicting the history of this world famous monument.

Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.

Day 5

This morning, you have some free time to explore Kirkwall and its environs at leisure. After lunch we depart on a tour of the south end of mainland Orkney, crossing the Churchill Barriers which were built after the sinking of the HMS Royal Oak in October 1939. We also stop off at the beautiful Italian Chapel, built on the site of a former prisoner of war camp. Several hundred Italians, captured during the North African campaign of World War II were sent here to work on the Causeways and converted two huts into a chapel.  Dinner shall be served this evening at a local restaurant. Later tonight, we board the Northlink vessel for Aberdeen.

Day 6

After our breakfast on board we will disembark in Aberdeen at 08.30hrs approximately.  We will then return you to your original pick up points by late morning/early afternoon.

What's Included

  • Five nights' accommodation: one at the Queens Hotel, Lerwick & two at the Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney; two in 2-berth cabins on Serco Northlink Ferries – dinner, bed & breakfast
  • Five lunches
  • Visits to the Italian Chapel, Skara Brae, St. Magnus Cathedral, Maeshowe, and Jarlshof
  • Services of a professional tour manager

Supplements per person

  • Single room/cabin: £225.00     
  • Outside cabin supplement: £25.00
  • Insurance: £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)

Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation before or after the tour in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Perth available on request.

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Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

Please also note that identification is now required by Serco Northlink Ferries and you will need to bring with you either a passport, photo driving licence or concessionary card (e.g. photo bus pass).

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Departure points and times

Depart Return
(Outside Millennium Hotel)
1145 1300
(Marriott Hotel)
1300 1145
(Outside Fife College)
1330 1115
(Moto Services, M90)
1345 1100
(Canal Street)
1400 1030
(Outside Discovery Point)
1430 1000
(Skene Street)
1645 0830

The same 5-night package including flights from London (and other regional airports on request) to Aberdeen is available from £1095.00 per person in a twin/double (single supplement - £225.00)