Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

“A week long holiday to the unique and ancient Scottish islands of Orkney and Shetland, following a tailor made, self-drive itinerary.”


Scrabster | Orkney | Kirkwall | Orphir | Skara Brae | Birsay | Evie | Ring of Brodgar | Standing stones of Stenness | South Ronaldsay | Italian Chapel and Tomb of the Eagles | Shetland | Lerwick | Seabirds & Seals Boat Trip | Noss Nature Reserve | Mousa | Jarlshof

Description of Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

Orkney and Shetland holidays can feel a little overwhelming as they are so far away, and also there are so many things to see it is hard to know where to start. Which is why we created this itinerary for a self-drive holiday, with three days in Orkney and two full days on Shetland. On our Orkney and Shetland holidays there are also options to discover some of the other smaller islands such as Hoy, Westray, or Stronsay off Orkney, or Unst and Yell off Shetland, as this is a tailor made holiday, so we can fit it around your interests and wishlists.


The trip starts in Scrabster on the mainland west coast, where you catch the ferry to Orkney, a ninety minute journey. Head to the islandís capital, Kirkwall, to check into your hotel. With a few days to enjoy the island, we recommend Orphir as an excellent starting point, where the pretty round church and Viking interpretive centre, known as "Orkneyinga", are perfect places to introduce you to the ancient history of this island. A history that goes back a long way as you will see, for example, on the islandís west coast at Skara Brae, one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements in Europe.

Other natural highlights on your road trip around Orkney include Evie and the broch of Gurness, a broch being the Scottish word for a prehistoric circular stone tower. Another must see is the Neolithic cairn and passage grave at Maes Howe, as well as the standing stones of Stenness. One of our favourite spots is the famous Italian chapel, a tiny and highly ornate church at Lamb Holm, built during WWII by Italian prisoners of war who were on the island with the given task to build the Churchill Barriers. These are four causeways that link different islands in the chain.

You may also want to take some time to ferry out to one of the small Orkney Islands such as Hoy, a much more rugged island famous for its sea stack Ė the Old Man of Hoy. Each island offers something special, however, and we are happy to advise on each.


You will spend two days on Shetland, accessible by overnight ferry, but arriving in time for breakfast on board the ship, and then leaving you all day to enjoy this second island adventure. Your base is in the islandís capital, Lerwick, and the first adventure will be a "Seabirds & Seals Boat Trip", which we have included in this Orkney and Shetland holidays itinerary because it has to be one of Scotlandís most wonderful wildlife safaris. Revolving around bird nesting nirvana of Noss Nature Reserve , you will see thousands of birds of many different species dipping and diving in around the dramatic cliffs. You will see seals basking on shoreline rocks and throughout, your naturalist guide, and Noss Nature Reserve warden, Dr. Jonathan Wills, will fill you in on everything you need to know about wildlife in and around Shetland.

From your base in Lerwick, you will have plenty of time to explore other parts of the island, drive around its coastal magnificence, not missing the beaches at St. Ninianís or the stunning prehistoric archaeological site at Jarlshof. More historic remains are to be found on a quick boat ride to Mousa, where birds and seals are the only stewards left to guard the magnificent ancient broch here.

Your return journey is by ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen, travelling Cruise Class in an outer cabin, and arriving in time for breakfast.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700


Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland


We are committed to helping our clients 'see Scotland differently', and thatís why we take great pride in showcasing the natural beauty and rich heritage of each of these magical islands as well as the inhabiting wildlife on both Orkney and Shetland.

On the 'seals and seabirds' trip whilst on Shetland, guests will not only view wildlife in a responsible way but will benefit from first-hand knowledge from expert - Dr. Jonathan Wills who will be on hand to share his in depth knowledge of some of the islandsí most spectacular wildlife; from gannets to seals.

Moreover, as much of the long distance travel is by boat (rather than plane or car for example), it's a more sustainable way to travel and gives employment to local ferry companies.

It is the history and incredible Neolithic sites which make the Orkney Islands very special. The main island (Mainland) of Orkney hosts a UNESCO World Heritage site which includes the breath-taking Standing Stones of Stenness, some up to 6 metres high. The nearby Neolithic Ring of Brodgar is particularly magical in the evening light. We include a Historic Scotland Explorer pass in the price of this holiday, which covers entrance to managed sites on Orkney, including Skara Brae and Maes Howe. This means that our clients can experience first-hand these wonderful, historical sites and contribute to their continued preservation by supporting the local communities involved in promoting them.


For us, true sustainability means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life, where the economic benefit from tourism can make a genuine difference. Thatís why we work almost exclusively with local, family-run businesses, not with large corporate organisations. We build close and lasting relationships with our business partners, based on mutual trust and an unerring commitment to customer satisfaction. We carefully select these partners to ensure that they share our values of sustainable and responsible travel.

Your hotel on Shetland for example dates from the 1500ís, thus is a real historical cornerstone in the area in which it is situated. Moreover, this hotel prides itself in using only the best, locally sourced produce in its restaurant.

This holiday also offers clients the opportunity to visit some of Shetland's most remote, rural villages on the islands of Unst and Yell as well as other locations. This gives clients the opportunity to positively impact these local communities in terms of bringing tourism to these lesser known areas.

All of our holiday packs include "Robert's Recommendations", our specific tips on places to visit, places to eat and places to shop locally, all of which have been researched by us, and many of which are off-the-beaten track. For example, the quirky bus shelter on Unst is well worth a visit!

3 Reviews of Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 25 Jul 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We enjoyed the whole trip but most of all we liked the archeology - it was easily accessible and everywhere.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Make a special trip to the Skerries Bistro and enjoy not just a wonderful meal but also a multi-chambered cairn in the car park. We had the personal services of an archeologist on a tour of the Tomb of the Otters for a small fee.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We tried to support local crafters and museums.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

An excellent holiday which was quite an adventure.

Reviewed on 04 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Day trip to Papa Westray

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

If you want a good restaurant you need to book before you leave home.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. We went late in the season and people such as the Spiggie Hotel, the boat out to see whales etc would have been empty otherwise.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Reviewed on 25 Oct 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Getting to travel around both Isles and seeing how beauiful they are and getting to fuss wild Shetland Ponies

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

For the time of year we went, which was mid October, make sure you have got warm, thermal clothing. If you are wanting to see the Puffins, Dolphins etc to go before September.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely, because some of the local areas rely on tourism, the local people are some welcoming and enjoy speaking with tourists. Also any donatins are ploughed stright into the local areas to help keep local tourist sights in a good condition and to preserve them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was fantastic to see the contrast in both Isles and to see the nature, unspoilt beauty. The wealth of wildlife and to see them in a nature environment.
The wealth of history and to see how the areas have evolved throughout the years. Also the possibilty of seeing the northern lights.

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