A guide to Orkney

A guide to Orkney

A guide to Orkney

Orkney is an archipelago of 70 islands and skerries, just over six miles off the north coast of Scotland. Only a handful of the islands are inhabited, with the largest island, known as Mainland, home to 20,000 people. Orkney is known for its heritage, culture, wildlife and given that it has over 1,000 miles of coastline, spectacular beaches.

You can visit Orkney at any time of year as the warm waters of the Gulf Stream keep the air temperatures relatively constant all year round. However, being surrounded by the sea also means that it can get very windy.

Things to do

Despite being a collection of small islands with few inhabitants, there are plenty of things to see and do on the archipelago.

Culture

One of the biggest draws of the Orkney Islands is the archaeology and history. The archipelago is home to some of the oldest houses in Europe, Stone Age settlement, standing stones and circles, as well as runes from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Vikings.

You can learn all about Orkney’s heritage at it’s wonderful museums, including the North Ronaldsay Lighthouse, Westray Heritage Centre, Barnhouse Neolithic Village and Stromness Musuem.

128 Victoria Street, Stromness, Orkney, KW16 3BU

Our shop sells local craftwork – silver jewellery, ceramics, staine glass miniature teddies, and all kinds of interesting gifts from near and far.

Events

Depending on when you visit Orkney, you’ll be able to take part in some wonderful events throughout the year.

Whether you like the sound of the Orkney Folk Festival, which celebrates traditional Scottish music, or the International Science Festival, held between Thursday 4th and Wednesday 10th September 2014, there will be something to tickle your fancy.

You can find out more about what’s on all year around at the Visit Scotland website.

Activities

Given that Orkney is archipelago, it’s no real surprise that the most popular activities are water-based. You can benefit from some of the best surfing conditions because of the long beaches and wind speeds. Skail beach is a real hot spot.

Head over to the Pentland Firth for perfect kayaking conditions. Sheltered waters make this the ideal opportunity to see seals and seabirds. First timers would be best testing the waters in Scapa Flow or Churchill’s Barrier.

If you’d rather stay on dry land, there are plenty of walking and climbing routes. Explore the heritage at Skara Brae, Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe Tomb, and The Ring of Brodgar. You could also try climbing St. John’s Head at 351 metres above sea level, or the Old Man of Hoy.

Food & drink

Despite the small size of the Orkney isles, there is plenty to keep foodies happy. The vast coastline means that the seafood is out of this world, although much of it is exported to Europe. That’s not all though, the local farmland also produces some of the UK’s finest beef and lamb.

There are plenty of eateries to dine out in, including Lynnfield, Foveran, and The Creel, but also cafés and tearooms like Haff Yok and Julia’s. The fish and chips are also world class, there are few places in the UK where there are only hours between catching and battering.

Getting there

The journey to Orkney alone is something of an adventure. Despite being situated a few miles off the coast of Scotland, the islands do have good transport links. From Rockinvans HQ in Kilmarnock, it’s a 300 mile journey north to Thurso. From there you will catch the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness.

The inhabited islands are serviced by Orkney Ferries, but book in advance if you’re travelling in one of our campers. If you want to explore without additional transport, you drive over the Churchill Barriers to visit four different islands, but you’ll need to hop on the ferry to go further afield.

Where to stay

If you’re travelling in one of our Rockinvans, you will find plenty of spots to park up for the night.

Wheems Camping and Bothies is a small campsite on an organic farm. The site has beautiful views, overlooking sandy bays and cliffs. It’s open April to October and there are five pitches, charged at £9-25 per night.

Pickaquoy Centre Caravan & Camping Park is Orkney’s largest campsite. There are 80 pitches in total, 28 of which have hard standings with electric hook-ups. The site is open from 1st April to 31st October.