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Orkney and Shetland Islands Travel Guide

  • Photo: Jule_Berlin / Shutterstock
  • Photo: MarcAndreLeTourneux / Shutterstock

Plan Your Orkney and Shetland Islands Vacation

A Scandinavian heritage gives the 170 islets that make up Orkney and Shetland a history and an ambience different from that of any other region of Scotland. Both Orkney and Shetland are essentially austere and bleak, but they have awe-inspiring seascapes, fascinating seabirds, remarkable ancient ruins, and genuinely warm, friendly people. Although a trip to these remote islands requires

time and effort, your reward will be a unique experience.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Standing stones and ancient sites Among the many Neolithic treasures in Orkney are the Ring of Brodgar, a 3,000-year old circle of standing stones, and Skara Brae, the remarkable remains of a village uncovered on the grounds of delightful Skaill House. In Shetland, Jarlshof has been the home to different societies since the Bronze Age. Don't miss Mousa Broch and Clickimin Broch in Shetland, two Iron Age towers.
  2. Music and arts festivals The Shetland Folk Festival in May is a fiddling shindig that attracts musicians and revelers from around the world. Orkney's St. Magnus Festival is less of a pub crawl and more of a highbrow celebration of classical music, poetry, and performance.
  3. Seabirds, seals, and more These islands have some of the planet's most important colonies of seabirds, with millions clinging to colossal cliffs. You're guaranteed to see seals and may spot dolphins, orcas, or porpoises. In Shetland, Noss and Eshaness nature reserves are prime spots, or you can check out the puffins by Sumburgh Head.
  4. Pure relaxation There's a much more laid-back approach to life on these islands than on the mainland. Shetlanders are particularly renowned for their hospitality and are often happy to share stories and tips that will enrich your adventure.
  5. Outdoor activities by the coast and ocean The rugged terrain, beautiful beaches, and unspoiled waters make a perfect backdrop for invigorating strolls, sea fishing, diving, or exploring the coastline and sea lochs by boat.

When To Go

When to Go

Although shivering, wind-flattened visitors braving Orkney and Shetland's winter are not unheard of, the travel season doesn't really start until M...

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