View Map

Overview

Spilling across the Atlantic from the north coast of Scotland, Orkney — never "the Orkneys" — is rich in history. These wind-buffeted islands have been inhabited since at least 3500 BC, and history literally spills out of the ground in the form of castles, prehistoric villages and mysterious tombs and stone circles. Even the names of towns and islands recall Celtic tribes and Viking marauders. Only sixteen of the seventy islands are inhabited – the remainder form a natural haven for seals and vast populations of seabirds. If history and bird-watching leave you cold, consider scuba diving on Scarpa Flow, final resting place of the largest ...

Spilling across the Atlantic from the north coast of Scotland, Orkney — never "the Orkneys" — is rich in history. These wind-buffeted islands have been inhabited since at least 3500 BC, and history literally spills out of the ground in the form of castles, prehistoric villages and mysterious tombs and stone circles. Even the names of towns and islands recall Celtic tribes and Viking marauders. Only sixteen of the seventy islands are inhabited – the remainder form a natural haven for seals and vast populations of seabirds. If history and bird-watching leave you cold, consider scuba diving on Scarpa Flow, final resting place of the largest collection of WWII wrecks in Europe. The most impressive sights are on Mainland – the largest island – but Orkney’s unique sense of community can be experienced in any of the islands’ village pubs, which frequently host spontaneous performances of traditional Scottish music. Flights and ferries connect Kirkwall to the Scottish mainland, and link the islands to each other – the ninety-second flight from Westray to Papa Westray is the world’s shortest scheduled flight.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

view full overview

Joe Bindloss for Triporati

Compare Flight, Car Rental, and Hotel Rates

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Series of islands off Scotland's northern coast
  • Language: English, Scots (not Gaelic)
  • Currency: Pound Sterling
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May to September for the best weather — you can even sunbathe on the beaches in mid-summer. This is also prime season for bird-watching, diving and sea-kayaking.