Walkabout Scotland
Orkney Encounter

Orkney Encounter

A fascinating journey through a distinctive rolling landscape sculpted by vast sheets of ice during the last glaciation from 70000 to 10000 years ago.
For bird lovers Orkney is a paradise with four distinctive habitats including sea cliffs, maritime heath, marshland and loch shores as well as heather-clad moorlands. Visitors to the islands from April-June will be able to see puffins, kittiwakes, gannets and guillemots. For lovers of history explore kirk and castle and learn about the Islands Norse Past. For lovers of photography Orkney will provide you with an unbelievable landscape of ever shifting light states, unspoiled, dramatic and unforgettable.

Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: (Sunday): Departing Edinburgh at 09.00am, with a pick-up en-route at Inverness, we take a leisurely drive up to Gills Bay and the fast ferry to Orkney. On arrival, we will have a quick look at the Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel before settling in at our accommodation in Kirkwall, the island's capital.

Day 2: (Monday): On Day 2 we visit the historic port of Stromness and focus on the Western Shore of the Mainland. The day begins with a leisurely walk around Stromness taking in the Maritime Museum, Login’s Well which supplied water to the ships of the Hudson’s bay Company and the Ness battery with a view over Graemsey to the hills of Hoy. A short drive takes us to Yesnaby where we will undertake to walk a stunning section of coastline to the world famous archaeological site of Skara Brae which takes us back 5000 years into the past. There is also an opportunity to visit Skaill House, a fine mansion and garden adjacent to Skara Brae. Another drive and we arrive at the Brough of Birsay, a tidal island with its own lighthouse and finally to bring a wonderful day to a close, we take in the Ring of Brodgar, described as one of the largest and best-preserved stone circles in Great Britain.

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Day 3: (Tuesday): On Day 3 we will explore the Island of Hoy. To start the day we will take the passenger ferry from Stromness to Moaness Pier. From there we walk via Sandy Loch to Rackwick and from there to the Old Man of Hoy. The Old Man is a single sea stack, which is perhaps the most iconic of images associated with Orkney. Retracing our steps we follow the road down to the Dwarfie Stane, a dramatic rock cut chambered tomb and from there to the bay of Quoys with its sandy beaches. The early evening ferry returns us to Stromness where we will eat before returning to Kirkwall

Day 4: (Wednesday): We begin with a thrilling 9.30 flight, from Kirkwall. The Loganair flight, in an eight-seater plane, will fly you first to Westray and then to Papa Westray (or Papay as its colloquially known) on what is officially the World’s Shortest Scheduled Flight. Weather permitting, the views of the islands below are stunning and what better way to arrive on Papay, home to the oldest house in Northern Europe. You’ll be met at Papa Westray Airport by your guide who will have ferried your bags across from the Mainland to Westray and spend the day circumnavigating the island taking such sites as Mull Head, Fowl Crag and Cott with its fishing boats and beautiful views. We will then take the five o’ clock ferry across the sound, where orca have been filmed, to Pierowall on Westray and from there to your accommodation.

Day 5: (Thursday): We start with the West Westray Coastal walk. This is a 5.5 mile (8.8km) linnear cliff top trail, which is described as ‘one of the finest and wildest cliff walks in Orkney with wonderful scenery and seabird colonies.’ Here there is a chance to see the rare Scottish Primrose and experience a sea bird city of guillemots, razorbills and puffins. On the rocks, below the cliffs, grey seals may be seen and, marking the north-western tip of the most north western of Orkney’s islands you will observe the Noup Head Lighthouse (built 1898). From mid to late afternoon we will focus on Westray’s ‘capital’ Pierowall which the Vikings named ‘Hofn’, which means harbour, and explore both Kirk (Church) and Castle. Time and energy permitting we may walk to the beach at Grobust to enjoy the wild flowers and savour the remains of the day.

Day 6: (Friday): We bid Westray adieu and take an early ferry back to Kirkwall where we will spend our last night on Orkney. Arriving back in town around 10.30 we will visit the St Magnus Cathedral for a guided tour and then, after lunch, begin our final hike to Wideford Hill (1000ft/305m), a conical hill with a Neothic chambered cairn near the summit. The walk is 6 miles/9.6km (there and back) and, weather permitting, affords wonderful views out over Scapa flow, a wonderful way to draw our odyssey to a close. Time permitting, there may be time to visit a distillery, the Bishop and Earl’s Palace or a Museum, or should you wish it take some time for yourself to shop for souvenirs and reflect on your journey.

Day 7: (Saturday): We leave the Orkney archipelago via the early morning ferry and drive back to Inverness for midday and onwards to Edinburgh for late afternoon.

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Your accommodation for the week is in personally selected hotels and guesthouses on Orkney. We only use places we have personally visited and approved and you will be warmly received by your host. Please note that single rooms are increasingly hard to obtain in this more remote area and that en-suite facilities for singles may not always be available. Check with us when you book.
Evening meals for the whole group on this trip are normally taken at a local inn or restaurant. On all our tours we make a special effort to ensure that your evening meals are a highlight of the trip and seafood is a particular speciality on this trip. Specific dietary requirements can normally be catered for if we know in advance. Packed lunches are not included.
Return transport from Inverness will be by minibus, ferry transfer included.
Grading of Walks
The walking throughout this tour we class as “easy” – suitable for people of reasonable fitness who enjoy walking or the outdoors but who needn’t necessarily have any previous hiking experience. Most of the walks are on easy trails and tracks with some gentle ascents - however the distances involved means that there is a reasonable challenge involved. If you have any doubts about your suitability for the trip please just ask! Please read our grading guide here.

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