Orkney and Shetland Islands

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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.

An Orcadian has been defined as a crofter (farmer) with a boat, whereas a Shetlander has been called a fisherman with a croft. Orkney, the southern archipelago, is greener and is rich with artifacts that testify to the many centuries of continuous settlement here: stone circles, burial chambers, ancient settlements, and fortifications. UNESCO has recognized the key remains as a World Heritage Site called the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

North of Orkney, Shetland, with its ocean views and sparse landscapes—trees are a rarity because of ever-present wind—seems even more remote. However, don't let Shetland's desolate countryside fool you: it has a wealth of historic interest and is far from being a backwater. Oil money from local mineral resources and its position as a crossroads in the northern seas for centuries have helped make Shetland a busy, thriving community that wants for little.

For mainland Scots, visiting these islands is a little like traveling abroad without having to worry about a different language or currency. Neither has yet been overrun by tourism, but the people of Orkney and Shetland will be delighted that you have come so far to see their islands and learn a little of their extraordinary past.

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Language

English

Nearby Airports

LSI

Electrical Outlets

230v/50 cycles; plugs have three rectangular blades

Currency

British pound

Language

English

Electrical Outlets

230v/50 cycles; plugs have three rectangular blades

Currency

British pound

Nearby Airports

LSI

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

Discover the best neighborhoods in Orkney and Shetland Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

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

Discover the best neighborhoods in Orkney and Shetland Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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

Discover the best neighborhoods in Orkney and Shetland Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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Fodor's Essential Scotland
Whether you want to explore Edinburgh, sip Scottish whisky, or hike the Highlands, the...

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Fodor's Essential Great Britain
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