Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland
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 an afternoonís wildlife boat trip. Thousands of seabirds including gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes nest and feed in the Noss Nature Reserve. As you sail below, the screeching is deafening, and youíll feel very outnumbered, a stranger invading their territory. Meanwhile seals laze on rocks beneath the cliffs or nose around the boat. It is a wonderful way to get a real feel for both the culture and the wildlife of these islands, with knowledgeable guides on hand to inform.
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.
25 Reviews of Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland
Reviewed on 26 Sep 2023 by Neil MacfarlaneIt was all good from seeing the sights of the Northern Isles to hotels, food and o/n ferry trips. Read full review
Reviewed on 01 Sep 2023 by Chris Mitchinson101%! Read full review
Reviewed on 04 Jul 2023 by Fiona PharoahCan't pick one thing. It was all great. Though the bird watching boat trip on Shetland was spectacular. Read full review
Reviewed on 11 Jun 2023 by Deirdre KellyIt was all memorable. We loved the environment, the history and people we met... A spectacular place.. We wished we'd stayed longer Read full review
Reviewed on 16 Sep 2023 by Diane BakerWell organised, excellently guide Read full review
Reviewed on 20 Aug 2022 by Shelagh KirklandExcellent and thank you for putting together such an interesting and varied itinerary... We shall definitely recommend you and hope to use your services again. Read full review
Reviewed on 13 Jul 2022 by Jim WatsonThe most memorable part of my holiday was seeing sea birds. Read full review
Reviewed on 08 May 2022 by Dorothy TurpyWe had an excellent holiday Read full review
Reviewed on 17 Apr 2022 by Kieron MeadowsLoved it Read full review
Reviewed on 06 Sep 2021 by Tristan Dugdale-PointonSuperb an amazing place...Amazing food at Lynfield Hotel and the breath taking scenery Read full review
Reviewed on 06 Jul 2021 by Tim CarneyIt has been a memorable wonderful holiday. Read full review
Reviewed on 11 Oct 2021 by Jenny MartinVery good. Read full review
Reviewed on 18 Aug 2021 by Robert FourtA very enjoyable and active break... Read full review
Reviewed on 04 Oct 2019 by Mary Ann KesslerI enjoyed the in-depth nature of the interaction with the locals on this trip. I learned so much about the culture and history of The Shetland and Orkney Islands Read full review
Reviewed on 01 Sep 2019 by Sebastien DelpontThe most exciting part of the holiday was the Shetlands landscapes Read full review
Reviewed on 13 Aug 2019 by Elizabeth and Mervyn KohlerThe boat trip to see birds and seals, but all of it was great. Read full review
Reviewed on 31 Jul 2019 by Derek GouldOrkney: Ring of Brodcar, Broch of Gurness, Skara Brae, Kirkwal Cathedral and Shetland: Noss bird reserve were the most memorable parts of the holiday. Read full review
Reviewed on 16 Jul 2019 by Pauline WestonWe thoroughly enjoyed meeting the people who were proud to show us their skills. Read full review
Reviewed on 15 Jul 2019 by Tricia StradlingThe most memorable and exciting part of the holiday was the archeology and history in both Orkneys and Shetlands. The Noss boat outing and Sumburgh Head photo opportunities with puffins. Read full review
Reviewed on 14 Sep 2019 by Malcolm PetytThe most exciting part of the holiday was the boat trip around Bressay and Noss Read full review
Reviewed on 12 Aug 2019 by Alan WhitneyConsidering everything we did quite a bit, our daughter had a horse ride / kayaking booked which went well, we were lucky with the weather, a few days with rain/wind but generally better than expected. Read full review
Reviewed on 21 May 2019 by Philip RosserThe most memorable and exciting part of the holiday was the Orkney historical sites Read full review
Reviewed on 25 Jul 2018 by Richard GentleWe enjoyed the whole trip but most of all we liked the archaeology - it was easily accessible and everywhere. Read full review
Reviewed on 04 Sep 2017 by Christine DerrickDay trip to Papa Westray was the best highlight. Read full review
Reviewed on 25 Oct 2016 by Moira ParkerIt 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. Read full review
PlanetWe 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.
We are corporate members of the John Muir Trust, an organisation committed to protecting the wild land of the Scottish highlands and islands.
PeopleFor 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!
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An epic road trip around Scotland's highlands and islands