Costs for a trip to Orkney by campervan
The Orkney Islands, situated a short 90-minute ferry ride north of mainland Scotland, consists of around 70 islands where traces of human settlement can be traced back over 8,500 years. They are a fantastic destination to consider, whether you’re looking to take a detour from the popular NC500 route or fulfil a long-standing wish to explore these islands.
Orkney offers plenty of free attractions and interesting things to see. You can explore ancient sites like the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, and the historic Churchill barriers.
The Orkney Islands offers a wide array of experiences, from savouring locally produced food to encountering diverse wildlife and enjoying the crystal-clear waters of picturesque beaches. Their historical significance, stretching from ancient Neolithic sites to their role in World War I and II, adds to the intrigue.
If you’re wondering about the costs associated with visiting Orkney, especially with a campervan or motorhome, it’s worth considering the financial benefits of bringing your own vehicle. Campsite fees are generally more budget-friendly compared to hotels.
I personally enjoy a mix of dining out and cooking meals in my van, often using ingredients sourced from local shops. During my time in Orkney, I enjoyed Orkney cheese, oatcakes, and other local delicacies. To provide you with a practical idea of the expenses, I’ll share below a breakdown of the costs from my 6-day/5-night campervan trip to the Orkney Islands.
1. NorthLink Ferries
Compared to other ferries in the UK, the NorthLink Ferry from Scrabster on Mainland Scotland to Stromness on the Orkney Islands offers reasonable pricing for the distance it covers. If you’re planning a trip to Orkney, it’s a great idea to take this 90-minute ferry ride, as it provides breathtaking views of the Isle of Hoy, including the Old Man of Hoy, one of the UK’s tallest sea stacks, and St. John’s Head, one of the UK’s highest vertical sea cliffs.
Onboard, there’s a dog-friendly lounge, perfect if you’re travelling with your furry companion. You’ll also find amenities like showers, a fantastic gift shop featuring souvenirs from Orkney and Shetland, and a restaurant that serves a variety of dishes made with locally sourced Scottish ingredients.
Please keep in mind that the prices listed below are for a round trip in September 2023:
- Round Trip for Campervan: £120
- Round trip for one passenger: £38.70
- Total cost: £158.70
During my campervan adventure in Orkney, I stayed at various campsites and motorhome stopovers. I also spent a night at the Rackwick Beach car park on the Isle of Hoy, where no fees were involved.
Here’s a breakdown of my accommodation:
- Point of Ness Campsite (x2 nights): I opted for a grass pitch with no electrical hookup, costing me £21.30 per night. So, a total of £42.60 for these two nights.
- Peedie Farm Motorhome Stopover: This stopover, while not offering an electrical hookup, provided a simple and cost-effective overnight stay at £10.
- Orkney Caravan Park at The Pickaquoy Centre: I enjoyed a night on a grass pitch with an electrical hookup, which cost £16.50.
(Peedie Farm Motorhome Stopover)
Considering these four nights I paid for, the average price for an overnight stay at a campsite or motorhome stopover came to £17.28.
It’s worth mentioning that the Peedie Farm Motorhome Stopover on the Isle of Rousay follows the French model of motorhome aires, offering essential facilities like a toilet dump, recycling, and a secure and sheltered parking spot for the night.
(The Orkney Caravan Park in Kirkwall)
There are many fully-equipped campsites across the Orkney Islands, complete with showers, toilets, laundries, kitchen facilities, electric hookups, and waste disposal. Two examples are the Point of Ness Campsite in Stromness and The Orkney Caravan Park in Kirkwall.
I’d recommend booking your campsite spot in advance, especially during peak season, and particularly if you’re interested in securing an electric hookup point as these tend to be popular.
When I first arrived on the Orkney Islands, my campervan fuel tank was about a quarter full. While I was there, I made a single refuel stop at a Kirkwall petrol station. Diesel was priced at £1.62 per litre, and my total bill came to £60.39.
This fuel supply lasted me throughout my entire stay on Orkney. I found that the fuel prices on the Orkney mainland were quite comparable to those on the Scotland mainland.
4. Activities and Attractions
Orkney offers plenty of free attractions and interesting things to see. You can explore ancient sites like the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, and the historic Churchill barriers. Nature lovers can also enjoy scenic walks, such as the beautiful cliff-top path at Yesnaby or the trek to the Brough of Birsay.
There are also some attractions absolutely worth the entry fee. Here are the prices I paid for the attractions I visited:
- Skara Brae: £12.50 (cheaper if booked online in advance)
- Highland Park Whisky Distillery Tour: £30
- The Italian Chapel: £3.50
- Scapa Flow Museum: £5 (an optional donation)
I didn’t manage to get a ticket for the Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, which is priced at £10 for entry. This site is among the must-visit attractions in Orkney, and it’s advisable to make early bookings because they have a daily visitor limit.
I was pleasantly surprised that many of the activities I enjoyed on the Orkney Islands were free.
5. Inter-island ferries
Orkney Ferries operate regular services between the islands, making it convenient for travellers. You can easily reserve your spot on these ferries through their website or by giving them a call. Even if a ferry appears fully booked, you might have the option to join the standby list.
When it comes to payments, you can settle the fare on board using either cash or a card. Alternatively, you can prepay when you make your reservation.
During my stay in Orkney, I explored the lovely Isle of Rousay and the picturesque Isle of Hoy.
The round-trip fare for a passenger and a campervan (approximately 5 meters in length) to the Isle of Rousay or the Isle of Hoy was £23.50 each. Keep in mind that prices for larger motorhomes may vary slightly from what I paid. Please also note that the ferry to Rousay requires you to reverse onto it.
6. Food and eating out
Food expenses can vary based on your personal preferences and how often you choose to dine out or cook in your van. Personally, I enjoy a mix of both. Exploring local cuisine is a highlight of my travels.
Here’s a breakdown of what I spent:
• Lunch at The Orkney Brewery: £10.95
• Orkney Patties & Chips at the Harbour Fry: £5.30
• Groceries from local shops: £33.16
• Lunch at a local bakery: £4.50
I had a few other dining spots on my radar, like the cafe at Sheila Fleet Jewellery, the renowned Helgi’s in Kirkwall known for its fantastic food, and the burger van in Finstown. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to these places due to my conflicting travel schedule and their opening times, but I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance to visit Orkney!
After adding up all my expenses for a 6-day and 5-night trip in the Orkney Islands, which included exploring the Orkney mainland and two other islands in the archipelago, the total cost comes to:
TOTAL COST: £435.10
Please keep in mind that these prices are accurate as of September 2023.
This total covers things like campsite fees, fuel, ferry fares between islands, activities, and meals, including both groceries and eating out. When you break it down over 6 days, the daily expenses are quite reasonable.
The longer you stay on the Orkney Islands, the more affordable your daily spend becomes. This is because the initial cost of the ferry journey from mainland Scotland is spread out over more days.
The Orkney Islands have a lot to offer, and if you have the time, I highly recommend extending your stay to fully appreciate these unique islands. While many visitors focus on the mainland, there are numerous smaller islands, each with its own special charm. Make the most of your ferry investment and enjoy as much time as you can in Orkney, exploring these incredible islands at your own pace.
Ruth Aisling is a Scottish content creator with a passion for adventure, campervan travel, and the great outdoors. You’ll often find her showcasing unique off-the-beaten-path destinations and inspiring others to explore. Discover more at www.instagram.com/ruthaisling