"The Orkney Islands." Top 5 Page for this destination Orkney by leics

Orkney Travel Guide: 238 reviews and 509 photos

I'd wanted to go to the Orkney Islands for many years because of the archaeology (inevitably). I managed my first visit in 2000, and have returned twice since. I hadn't realised what else they had to offer. Now I want to live there.

I spent most of my time on Mainland, but have also visited Rousay and Hoy. Next time I go, I'll go to some of the other islands.

This photo of the Bay of Skaill is typical of Orkney beaches.......... white sand, crystal water and hardly any people. The Gulf Stream keeps Orkney warmer than you might think ......I found coral on the beach.


Orkney is world famous for its prehistoric monuments, which remain in excellent condition. Possibly the best-known is the Neolithic (5000 BC) settlement at Skara Brae. Covered over by sand dunes for thousands of years, it was exposed by a huge storm in the early twentieth century, excavated and preserved. There's an excellent Visitors' Centre and reconstructed Neolithic house to help you understand what life was like for the people who once lived in the houses you can see. What you probably won't know is that even more buildings are thought to survive, and are slowly being eroded out of the cliff. It's too dangerous to excavate them, so we must wait for the sea to do its work.

The Orkney Islands were governed by the Vikings for many years and strong links remain with Scandanavia, particularly Norway. A recent DNA investigation in Mainland showed strong genetic links between the islanders and Viking homelands, and their accent seems to be a mixture of Highland Scots and Scandanavian.

St. Magnus' cathedral in the capital, Kirkwall, is built of red sandstone, much weathered but still beautiful. Its peaceful atmosphere is rendolent of the past. The story of St. Magnus is best told by the Orkney poet and writer George Mackay Brown, who lived all his life in Stromness. I recommend reading some of his novels and short stories if you want a real flavour of the islands and their past.

More detail in the travelogues below. Enjoy!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Peace, solitude, prehistory, history, birds, landscape.
  • Cons:Can't think of any!
  • In a nutshell:The most wonderful islands!
  • Last visit to Orkney: Jul 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (22)

Comments (34)

  • King_Golo's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2015 at 3:16 AM

    I'm with Ingrid on this one - a place exactly like I want it. Thanks for your valuable tips!

    • King_Golo's Profile Photo
      Nov 28, 2015 at 3:33 AM

      Takes rather intensively coloured pictures, your disposable camera... :)

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Nov 28, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      I've tried to fiddle with it and, trust me, they are a lot better than they were. My oldest photos (taken with the disposable) substantially deteriorated on site when VT changed something a few years back. 12 years is a long time!

      I've just booked Orkney accomm for next June and now it's just a matter of waiting for airfares to drop a bit. So thank you for the reminder that I needed to go back! :-)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Sounds fascinating as well. My kind of place with wind and green and rough coast to see. Did you work here? Archaological things I mean? Oh and more stuff to read, with George Mackay Brown :-)

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Apr 22, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    Hi-last night we watched a doco on the amazing Skara Brae iron-age discovories. I was mesmerised. I had NO idea about these, and now they are calling.Thanks for the great info and pics.

  • cpiers47's Profile Photo
    Oct 11, 2008 at 10:19 AM

    Thanks so much for fantastic tips and pictures!

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2008 at 11:01 AM

    Enjoyed the archaeological sites on your page very much. It all sounds so exciting...you must have been in your glory!

  • Feb 22, 2008 at 12:54 PM

    Hi J, when in the Orkneys I visited Skara Brae and was amazed, totally amazed. I have often told others about this place, but I feel you have had been there to understand:) Wonderful pages... Cheers from Aussie land:)

  • columbus756's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2008 at 2:38 PM

    Thanks for posting this info--I've enjoyed reading and viewing.

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2007 at 1:22 AM

    Fascinating page on great places. And to think that a colleague of mine has said there is nothing to see there. Loved the ancient tombs and remains of houses, not to mention the abundance of seabirds. Thanks for the link to the Orcadian too.

  • Roadquill's Profile Photo
    Nov 20, 2007 at 9:22 PM

    "J" Good info on the Orkneys. We were just in Scotland a few months ago in the Highlands and loved it. Not enough to live there though...;-) good travels, Karl

  • EdinburghRoc's Profile Photo
    Apr 8, 2007 at 4:25 AM

    Excellent photo of the inside of the Italian Chapel. Good info. Shown me how much I missed.


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