Our Routes

There are several ways to travel to Orkney and Shetland with NorthLink Ferries.

MV Hamnavoe departing Scrabster in the North of Scotland

Scrabster to Stromness

Our ship MV Hamnavoe travels from Scrabster (outside Thurso) at the very North of Mainland Scotland to Stromness in the Orkney islands. This ferry is the only one that sails past The Old Man of Hoy – a famous seastack and Orcadian landmark. The ferry sails up to six times a day.

The first sailing of the day is always from Stromness to Scrabster and the final sailing of the day, at 1900 is from Scrabster to Stromness. This sailing is ideal for travellers departing from the central belt in the morning. MV Hamnavoe docks in Stromness overnight. On the final night of your holiday, you can sleep on board the ship before taking the first morning sailing to Scrabster.

To reach Scrabster the A9 is the road to take. Take the A9 from Inverness and you’ll view stunning highland scenery – mountains in the Highlands, the flat, desolate terrain of the Flow Country and the beautiful coastal scenery of the North Coast.

When you reach Thurso, follow the signposts through the town to the ferry at Scrabster.

Aberdeen Ferry Terminal, in the heart of the city

Aberdeen to Lerwick

We have two ferries that operate this route, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, and they sail overnight, setting off at teatime and arriving at their destination first thing in the morning. Every night, One ship travels from Aberdeen to Lerwick and the other sails from Lerwick to Aberdeen. One of these ships travels directly, whilst the other stops off every night at Hatston in Orkney.

If you are travelling to Aberdeen you’ll take the A90 along the east coast of Scotland, passing some of Scotland’s loveliest beaches.

The Aberdeen Terminal is located at Jamieson’s Quay, at the heart of the city. It is directly over the road from the Union Square Shopping Centre and is a five minutes walk from the bus and train station and ten minutes walk from Union Street.

The Aberdeen to Shetland ship stopping at Hatston, near Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands in the late evening.

Aberdeen to Kirkwall / Kirkwall to Lerwick

An alternative way to sail to Orkney is to take the indirect ferry from Aberdeen to Hatston (outside Kirkwall) in the Orkney Islands. It’s the same ferry that goes to Shetland, departing Aberdeen at 1700, but one certain days of the week (indicated below) it stops in Hatston at 2300, before heading northwards to Shetland again at 2345.

The ferry travels from Aberdeen to Kirkwall (and then from Kirkwall to Lerwick) on a Tuesday (not in winter), Thursday, Saturday and Sunday night.

The ferry sails from Lerwick to Kirkwall (and then from Kirkwall to Aberdeen) on a Monday (not in winter), Wednesday, and Friday night.

Why not consider visiting both island groups, perhaps by travelling from Scrabster to Stromness, spending a few days in Orkney and then travelling from Kirkwall to Lerwick and spending some time in Lerwick? You can then return by sailing from Lerwick to Aberdeen!

Please visit the Your Holiday page for guides on our ports and destinations, which includes useful travel information, maps, accommodation and businesses listings.

The Kessock Bridge outside Inverness carries the A9 road northwards towards Thurso and Scrabster.

Distances by road (in miles)

AberdeenEdinburghGlasgowInvernessKyle of LochalshPerthScrabster
Aberdeen-12714510418288216
Edinburgh127-4615620145268
Glasgow14546-16917559281
Inverness104156169-78113115
Kyle of Lochalsh18220117578-157193
Perth884559113157-225
Scrabster216268281115193225-

Distances by sea (in miles)

  • Aberdeen to Kirkwall is 154 miles
  • Kirkwall to Lerwick is 115 miles
  • Aberdeen to Lerwick is 216 miles
  • Scrabster to Stromness is 30 miles
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