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Orkney and Shetland

Planning a self drive trip to Orkney and Shetland any ideas on ferries accommodation and places to visit 


  • ParsmanParsman Member ✭✭✭
    Hi Robin. Ferries to Orkney leave mainland Scotland from Aberdeen, Gills Bay and Scrabster. Ferries to Shetland only leave from Aberdeen. The Aberdeen crossing takes 7 hours to Orkney, and is an all night trip to Shetland. The Scrabster crossing to Orkney is much shorter, taking about 2 1/2 hours. The Gills Bay crossing is the fastest, only 1 1/2 hours. However you should also take into account the time to get to the North coast of Scotland if time is an issue on your trip. If it isn't a concern, the route From Inverness to the Thurso area is part of the North Coast 500 route and has a lot of beautiful scenery and interesting sites to visit on the way. Within the islands themselves there are bridges and causeways between many of the smaller islands and the mainland. Where there isn't a bridge or causeway the island councils operate ferry services to occupied islands and these are regular and affordable. 

    Accommodation on both islands covers all grades of accommodation, from camping to hostels to B&B to Hotels. Availability and cost would depend on when you plan to visit. Bookings can be made with the accommodation provider personally, through the internet (VisitScotland has a very good booking service) or face to face at any VisitScotland iCentre though this will incur a booking fee. 

    Orkney is one of the most recognised centres of neolithic archaeology in the world. Sites such as Skara Brae, the Ness of Brodgar or Maes Howe show you how our stone age ancestors really lived. There are also remains through the period of the viking settlement with St Magnus cathedral a particularly good example. There are also more recent historical sites of interest such as Scapa Flow which was a Royal navy base until the end of WW2 and the Italian Chapel, built by Italian POWs during WW2. Shetland also has evidence of the earliest human settlers especially the Brochs at Mousa and Clickimin. There are also impressive Viking era remains at Jarlshoff. Shetland is also famous for its knitwear, its ponies and its fiddle music, all of which can be experienced. There are tourist information centres on both island in the main towns (Kirkwall and Lerwick) but also at Stromness (Orkney) and Sumburgh Airport (Shetland) where you can pick up a lot more local information.
  • JWGJWG Member ✭✭
    Hi @Robin26.  Just to correct some of the information you have been given already.  The crossing time between Scrabster & Stromness is 90mins and the ferry service is operated by Northlink Ferries.  The crossing between Gills Bay & St Margaret's Hope is 60 mins and is operated by Pentland Ferries.  If you are planning to visit any of these islands,  Eday,  Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre,  North Ronaldsay, Sanday, Westray, Papa Westray, Sanday, Shapinsay, Hoy, Flotta, you would need to take a ferry for more information if you visit the Orkney Ferries website.  The only islands linked by causeways are South Ronaldsay, Burray, Lamb Holm & Glimps Holm.    
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