The mysteries of the Orkney Islands never fail to attract young and old from far and near. The long-gone voices from the ancient sites dotted around these islands could tell us many tales of ancient civilisations, religious customs, and much more at which we can only guess. The voices may be quiet now, but they have left extraordinary remains of villages, howes, stone circles, and tombs which fire the imagination of all who visit them.
Of Orkney’s incredible allure and huge range of attractions, though, there is perhaps less mystery. Green, rolling fields bordered by huge seascapes, the festivals and shows, stacks and crashing seas, the sunken fleet at Scapa Flow, wonderful food and drink, island-hopping, golf at midnight in mid-summer, Orcadian music and crafts and of course spectacular wildlife.
In Orkney you can even feel the air and the pace of life doing you good.
Located close to the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, VS Distillers are an exciting new company creating bottles of hand-crafted rum, named after Orkney's pirate, John Gow. NorthLink were pleased to speak to Collin Van Schayk, who spoke passionately about distilling Scottish rum and the story of VS Distillers so far.
For an Orkney adventure to remember we’d highly recommend a visit to the Brough of Birsay. This is a tidal island on the north-west tip of the Orkney mainland which can be reached by a causeway when the tide is low. On the island itself there are the remains of a Viking settlement and the earlier Pictish community. The Brough of Birsay is also one of the best places on the Orkney Mainland to see puffins. We have compiled a list of fascinating facts you need to know about the Brough of Birsay and surrounding area before you go!
Thinking of booking a tour of Orkney? Why not see Orkney from a uniquely thrilling perspective while riding in style with Orkney Trike Tours! We caught up with John Foster, owner of Orkney Trike Tours, who talked about his passion for bikes, Orkney adventures and his journey to becoming self-employed and doing his dream job.
Shapinsay is a picturesque agricultural oasis which is only a short, 30 minute ferry trip from Kirkwall. It's a great island for walking, or you can bring your vehicle for a lovely road trip around the island. Shapinsay has a rich history, fascinating archaeological sites, beautiful ayres, charming Balfour village and Balfour Castle, and a unique, small island atmosphere. We've compiled a list of things we love about Shapinsay, and we are certain that you will too!
We visited the Orkney island Wyre on a a sunny but windy April day, catching a ferry from the Orkney mainland and hoping to visit Cubbie Roo's Castle. We found an amazing island and in the castle, testament to how a big personality can live on for many years after they pass away.
It's hard to imagine the soundscape of Orkney without hearing bird calls. The wild landscapes of Orkney and the rich seas that surround the islands attract a large variety of birds. We hope you enjoy our beginner's guide to 30 birds to see in the Orkney islands, and where to find them. Can you see them all during your holiday in Orkney?
Thinking of diving in Orkney? Scapa Flow in Orkney was the main naval base for the British Home fleet during both World War 1 and World War 2. It was also the site of the deliberate scuttling of The German High Seas Fleet on 21st June 1919. As a result there are now many shipwrecks in Scapa Flow that can explored by divers. Read our comprehensive guide to the ship wrecks of Scapa Flow to organise your Orkney diving adventure!
Orkney really is a photographer's paradise; make sure you don't forget your camera when visiting! We hope you enjoy our 25 outstanding pictures of Orkney's birds, seals, ancient monuments, beaches, cliffs and sunsets.
One of our favourite archaeological sites in Orkney is the Broch of Gurness near Aikerness Beach in Evie. Situated along the North Coast of the West Mainland, the Broch of Gurness is an especially great place to visit with kids who will have fun exploring the site and playing hide and seek amongst the surrounding ruins. We've compiled a list of ten fascinating facts about the broch.
Orkney has a packed calendar of diverse events. We’ve collected a list of annual events and festivals, from summer agricultural shows to the mass yuletide game ‘The Ba’. With classical, jazz, rock and traditional folk music mixed in between, Orkney has every possible taste covered.
If you're searching for an amazing dessert with an Orkney flavour to wow your guests at a dinner table then our Highland Park Clootie Dumpling is well worth a try! George o’Neill, Sous Chef on MV Hamnavoe offers us his take on a beautiful traditional Orcadian pudding.
Orkney and Shetland have been populated for over 6000 years, and through the course of these Islands' history the languages spoken there have changed many times. However it is Old Norse that has had the greatest influence on modern place names. Read our guide to find out what the island, area and house names of Orkney mean!
For visitors to Orkney, a culinary experience we’d recommend is trying a Pattie supper in a local chip shop. This is mince, tattie and onion mixed together, battered and deep-fried. NorthLink Ferries Sous Chef George o’Neill kindly lends us his foolproof recipe and top tips to make approximately 12 perfect Orkney Patties in your own kitchen! Enjoy a pattie supper tonight!
To celebrate the Year of Young People 2018 NorthLink Ferries ran a writing competition for P6 and P7 pupils in Orkney. We asked them to tell us five reasons why they think the Orkney Islands are a great place to visit. The winning article, written by Amelia Tomalin from Evie Primary School, features rich descriptions of the folklore and landscape of Orkney which we think you'll love!
Visitors to Orkney in autumn and winter will hope to see the Northern Lights, known locally as the Merry Dancers. Those who get to see them will be enchanted by the curtains of green, yellow, blue and red light swaying and shifting in the night sky. If you’d like to take good photos of the Northern Lights, you may find that it is easier than you might think!
Make approximately 10 fat slices of this moreish Yuletide Rocky Road Log as a sweet treat or homemade gift. Our fail-safe recipe comes from George o’Neill, Sous Chef on MV Hamnavoe. This amazing chocolate delight doesn't take long to make and is quite delicious indeed!
When the weather is nice, we would highly recommend a visit to the island of Hoy. It's the second biggest Orkney Island, and it's quite distinctive; characterised by heathery hills and vast red sandstone cliffs. Hoy is a favourite destination for those looking to visit an enchanting island to get away from it all! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite places to visit during a trip to Hoy.
During the summer months in Orkney, an amazing archaeological dig takes place at The Ness of Brodgar. This archaeological site offers a glimpse into the Neolithic world and it's location, size and contents indicate that it was very important to the people who used the buildings for ceremonies and feasts 5000 years ago. As archaeologists continue to uncover more clues, we thought we'd write a beginner's guide to the Ness of Brodgar, with ten essential facts to help you understand the site!
The Orkney Museum, situated opposite St Magnus Cathedral, in Tankerness House in Kirkwall, is a very rewarding place to visit. Within its walls are some of Orkney's most prized artefacts, and we’d highly recommend spending some time here if you have been captivated by Orkney's history. We've compiled a list of 15 of our favourite things found in the Orkney Museum at Tankerness House.
If you're looking for a delicious sweet treat with an Orkney flavour for parties and treats, then look no further! Try our easy recipe from the Chef on MV Hamnavoe to make approximately 16 delicious Orkney Fudge Chocolate Brownies in your own kitchen.
Learn how to make traditional Orkney Bere Bannocks with this easy recipe from the Barony Mill in Birsay. Bere is an ancient form of barley ideally suited to grow in Orkney's climate - it has grown in the islands since the Stone Age. A Bere Bannock is a unique flat bread which makes an excellent starter or snack, best served warm with butter!
We spent a fantastic day in the Orkney island of Rousay in the late summer. Rousay is often described as the Egypt of the North because there are over 140 archaeological sites to be found within its 19 square miles! We saw chambered cairns, Iron Age brochs, amazing art and beautiful beaches!
Emma Neave-Webb is the Sanday Ranger and in the winter months she has been remotely operating the Sanday Seal Cam, which is proudly sponsored by NorthLink Ferries. Broadcasting from a remote beach on the island, the Sanday seal cam shows two pupping beaches in the months when grey seals haul ashore to give birth. We spoke to Emma and she offered a fascinating insight into seal behaviour!
If you're looking for a great place to go in Orkney, then we'd heartily recommend Fern Valley. Based in Rendall, Fern Valley is a fabulous animal centre and tearoom under the one roof which opened in the summer of 2017. All of the animals that live there are exotic rescue animals; visit for a chance to get up close to African Pygmy Hedgehogs, Meerkats and Raccoon dogs!
It's easy to see why the lovely Orkney islands attract so many writers, artists and makers to its shores. There is inspiration to be easily found just outside your front door! In recent years, the Orkney craft industry has developed a reputation for producing many talented designers of beautiful and unique jewellery. Find out what inspires these amazing people!
The town of Stromness in the Orkney Islands has a fascinating salt-encrusted history and this year the town celebrates 200 years since it became a Burgh of Barony and 150 years of the Stromness Lifeboat. We've delved into the history of Stromness to find out about the events which shaped the town through the years!
When visiting the Orkney Islands you’ll find that, as well as having a unique history and heritage, Orkney also has some unique and very tasty food to try! The Orkney menu owes much to the fresh air, fertile fields and rich seas around the islands. Make sure you sample some of our suggestions before you take your ferry home!
The Barony Mill in Birsay is a working watermill, the only one in Orkney. During the winter, the miller makes beremeal, from an ancient form of barley, which has been used in Orkney since the stone age. We'd highly recommend the Barony Mill as a must-see to any visitor to Orkney; it has a fascinating tour. The children particularly enjoyed making the mill come to life!
Looking for puffins, standing stones, sea stacks, owls, otters, groatie buckies or Viking runes in Orkney? We've written a handy guide to the Orkney islands which should answer your questions and point you in the right direction!
Stromness is a remarkable and beautiful town. It has a salt-encrusted history full of pirates, whalers and explorers. NorthLink Ferries are very proud that our ferry, MV Hamnavoe arrives in Stromness; the town offers a wonderful first impression for visitors to Orkney. We’ve compiled fifteen fascinating facts about Stromness you may not know!
Stromness is a unique and picturesque town in the Orkney Islands, and we'd highly recommend a visit! The town is hemmed in by a steep hill on one side and the sea on the other. It has a lovely waterfront of houses, piers and jetties. Stromness has a colourful maritime history and this year it celebrates 200 years as a Burgh of Barony. We've compiled a list of 12 great places to see around the town!
One of the many attractions of Orkney are the expansive lochs which dominate much of the West Mainland. These are filled with Brown Trout and are popular with fishermen from Orkney and further afield. We asked Neil Chalmers, the Freight Supervisor for MV Hamnavoe and a keen fly fisherman all about his experiences fishing in Orkney!
If you are an animal-loving family planning to visit Orkney you may even be looking forward to the opportunity to see seals and puffins. Alpacas may be the last animal you would expect to see! However we spent a wonderful afternoon at Skate Rumple Farm in Deerness, Orkney. There we met Orkney Alpacas, baby goats, North Ronaldsay Sheep and more!
There are so many great places to see in Orkney - and it's a shame that not all of them are as well known as Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Old Man of Hoy. We've compiled a list, an insider's guide, to some less familiar but still brilliant places to see in Orkney - we hope that you'll agree these are gems indeed!
If you are interested in history, heritage and archaeology, Orkney is one of the most essential places in Scotland to visit - there's an average of three archaeological sites per square mile! We've compiled a list of twelve essential historical places to visit across the Orkney islands.
We think that the award for the best name in Orkney archaeology should go to the Knowes of Trotty - the largest Bronze Age burial site in Scotland. They are located in Harray in the West Mainland at the foot of a heathery hill. My family and I chose a fine autumn day to go on a brilliant walk to find this hidden archaeological treasure!
One of the most remarkable places to visit in Orkney is the perfectly preserved Stone Age village of Skara Brae. Unlike the burial chambers and standing stones that make up the majority of the amazing archaeology in Orkney, Skara Brae is unique in that it offers us a glimpse into Neolithic everyday life. We've compiled some fascinating facts about Skara Brae you may not know!
The culture, landscape and history of the Orkney Islands are a great source of inspiration for poets and writers. If you're keen to do a bit of holiday reading then we've picked hand-picked 12 books that make essential guides to understanding the Orkney Islands. Not only that; they make very fine and entertaining reads!
Photographer Charles Tait is, to us, a figure central to the Orkney Tourism industry. As well as being the author of several acclaimed local guide books, his photographs have illustrated visitor brochures, calendars and postcards for many years. We asked Charles to share his story along with some tips for budding photographers keen to capture the drama of the Northern Isles!
Nestled on the wild west coast of Orkney, just 2 miles from the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, is the Orkney Brewery Visitor Centre. It’s an easy destination to recommend to visitors exploring Orkney. Located in a former Victorian schoolhouse; the Orkney Brewery offers informative tours, mouth-watering local food, a warm welcome and spectacular beer.
Skaill House Falconry is one of Orkney’s newest attractions. It’s easily found, situated in the grounds of Skaill House next to Skara Brae in the West Mainland. The business is a family affair, run by Keith Austen, along with his wife Andrea and son Lewis. Together they offer a brilliant and personal falconry experience for visitors and Orcadians alike. NorthLink Ferries were delighted when Keith agreed to answer some questions about his birds and the experience folk can expect to have at Skaill House Falconry!
The Orkney Islands are fantastic to explore by bicycle - cycling is a great pace at which to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and enjoy the fresh air. Bicycles can also be taken free of charge on our ferries! We asked Sean Chalmers, NorthLink's resident cycling expert about his favourite places to go and he came up trumps with six brilliant Orkney routes for keen cyclists!
The North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory is located on the most northerly of the Orkney Islands – one famed for rare and interesting migrating birds. We were delighted when Alison Duncan, the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory warden agreed to answer our questions about the Observatory and the fascinating work they do there.
We'd always recommend visiting Orkney for a few days to get a full flavour of the isles. However, if one or two days in Orkney is all you have, here are the essential sites we'd recommend you visit during that time!
An Orkney Chair is unique part of the rich heritage of the Orkney Islands. They are wooden, handcrafted and have a straw back. We approached master craftsman Robert H. Towers, who has been making Orkney Chairs for over 38 years, to ask him some questions about the history and process of making them...
We've been told that our previous guides to the less well known, but just as lovely, highlights of Orkney have been helpful for frequent visitors looking for something different to do! So we've written another guide, with ten more brilliant places to go in Orkney that are less well known than Skara Brae and the Italian Chapel.
In Orkney there's a natural and safe landscape, with fascinating history and wildlife and delicious food and drink. Orkney is a great place to take children and here are a few reasons why!
At NorthLink Ferries, we've long been admirers of the artwork of Jon Thompson and Lesley Murdoch, who reside in the north west corner of Orkney, near the Brough of Birsay, and who run the fantastic Yellowbird Gallery. We asked if they would be happy to answer some questions about themselves, the Gallery and their work.
Last year we wrote about some of the great places to visit in Orkney that don't make the front cover of the tourist brochure! Here are ten more brilliant places to visit, that are a bit more unusual and less well known than the Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae!
Throughout the islands of Orkney there are many distinctive beaches to discover. In anticipation of warm weather this summer, we thought we’d display a list of the ten best – most beautiful, peaceful, atmospheric, and fun – beaches to visit in Orkney!
The Orkney Islands are a brilliant place to explore, and taking a caravan, motorhome or tent is a brilliant way to see the best of the islands. We've written a handy guide, which we hope will help you, to the many great caravan, motorhome and camping sites in Orkney!
At NorthLink Ferries we'd like to think we're 'glass-half-full' kinda guys, so as a companion piece to the recent 'Things to do on a rainy day in Orkney' article, we have compiled a list of great things to do in Orkney when the sun is shining and you have no business being indoors!
The Ness of Brodgar is a new archaeological discovery in Orkney located between the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. The site has a huge amount of Neolithic art, a massive enclosing stone wall, houses, and a large building of great significance. Nick Card, Director of the Ness of Brodgar, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute very kindly answered our questions about the Ness.
The two archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland, it would seem, are naturally drawn to one another in terms of friendships and rivalries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the annual Junior Inter-county sports competition! Read on to find out more about the yearly competition, how it was set up, and how this amazing sporting performance has changed over the years.
There are a great many cracking museums to visit in Orkney, but we particularly recommend the Orkney Museum, Stromness Museum, Scapa Flow Visitor's Centre and Kirbuster Farm Museum as great places to go in Orkney - read on to find out some fascinating facts about each!
We recently spoke to Ian Robertson, a keen fisherman who has fished Orkney's lochs for many years. Ian kindly offered some tips about Brown Trout and Sea Trout fishing in Orkney, including favourite lochs and best techniques to catch fish. We hope these tips help those visitors coming to the isles in search of a Trout!
Orkney is a great place to take dogs and there are some great walks to be had. There are wide sandy beaches, amazing cliffs, hills with stunning views and lovely moorland walks dotted with wild flowers. Your dog will have a great time in Orkney, and you’ll love the fresh air and peeping birds overhead! Here are some great walks for you and your dog in Orkney!
If we were asked to explain to someone who had never been before what makes Orkney so special it would be hard to name just one thing! There are many different facets that make up the essence of Orkney. To help explain, we've compiled a list of ten reasons why Orkney is a great place to visit!
When imagining birdwatching, one pictures folk hiding in long grass, peering through powerful binoculars. However, the truth is very different in Orkney. Short eared owls fly along roadside verges as commuters travel to work, and long tailed ducks are found in the Peedie Sea in Kirkwall! Alan Leitch, the RSPB Site Manager of Orkney Reserves offers a fascinating insight (and an indispensable holiday guide) to the amazing birds you can easily see in Orkney!
Premysl Fojtu is a photographer from the Czech republic who has brought a fresh eye to Orkney photography. He has recently embarked on an ambitious project to photograph a different Orkney island each month. Premysl very kindly agreed to answer our questions about his photography and also offers tips to help you take photographs of the beautiful Orkney Islands!
On Christmas Day and New Year's Day, the traditional Ba' game is played by hundreds of men through the streets of Kirkwall in Orkney! James Linklater has played the game for many years and was the winner of the Christmas Day Men’s Ba' in 2011! We were delighted when he agreed to answer our questions about the game!
When visiting Orkney there's lots to see outdoors - standing stones, neolithic villages, birdlife and wartime relics - there’s plenty to see and explore in Orkney! However, what do you do when it's a rainy day in Orkney? We've compiled a helpful list of things to do and places to go so that you can make the most of your time in Orkney without getting soggy!
NorthLink Ferries are very proud to sail past the Old Man of Hoy on the Scrabster to Stromness route. The sea stack is the tallest in Britain and stands 40m taller than Big Ben! In geological terms The Old Man of Hoy is relatively juvenile - having stood as a sea stack for less than 400 years - find out how it was created here!
The Sanday Sealcam is displayed on the NorthLink website during the winter months thanks to the hard work and dedication of Sanday Ranger, Roderick Thorne! We were delighted when he agreed to answer some questions about his work, the sealcam and about how to spot seals in Orkney!
The Dwarfie Stane lies in one of the most desolate and beautiful places in the Orkney islands. It is a giant block of sandstone dropped by the glaciers that cut the valley in Hoy; an amazing structure surrounded by folklore! Read on to find out more about this amazing tomb that was carved out of rock using the most primitive tools!
One of the best coastal walks in Orkney is to the whalebone at Skiba Geo. This mysterious sculpture was created from a jaw and skull bones of a whale. It has downcurved 'wings' and looks like an owl in flight. We investigated who put it there, when they did it and why? The story is a fascinating one - read on to find out more!
Orkney Voles are twice the size of field voles found on mainland Britain. They have a stocky body with a blunt, rounded snout and they feed on the leaves, stems and roots of plants in the rough grassland of Orkney. We thought we'd try to catch one, to see an Orkney Vole up close. We succeeded, but in the most unexpected way!
Orkney has a fascinating wartime history as the vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow was used as the Naval Base for the British Fleet. Many of the batteries, searchlights and gun emplacements remain - read on to find out more about the relics of war left scattered through the islands!
When people come to visit Orkney they usually go to the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and the Italian Chapel. Here you'll find a list of ten hidden gems in Orkney to visit - places that don't make the front cover of the tourist brochure!
Low lying with lovely beaches, old customs, the UK's tallest land-based lighthouse and a 19km sheep dyke which extends around the island to keep the sheep on the beach: find out a bit more about the remote Orkney island, North Ronaldsay here!
The Italian Chapel was built by Italian Prisoners of War in 1943 and is now visited 100,000 times a year. Read on to find out more about how the Italians created this beautiful building in their spare time, using only scrap metal and concrete!
The Old Man of Hoy is a 449 ft tall sea stack and St John's Head is one of the highest vertical sea cliffs in Britain. You can get a superb view of both when travelling MV Hamnavoe. Did you know these fascinating facts about these amazing landmarks?
The most popular pudding on our ships - easy to make but hard to keep around for very long! You'll find a delicious recipe to make your own Orkney Fudge Cheesecake here!