One of the great things about the UK is that there are so many interesting sides to the country and you don’t need to go far from home to discover something new. A trip to Orkney in Scotland is a classic example.
This group of islands is located approximately 10 km from the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland and it’s a wonderful place to explore, with stunning natural landscapes and fascinating historical sites. If you’ve never considered heading here for a holiday, let us tell you what you can expect to find in this unspoilt corner of the UK.
To make sure you don’t miss out on any of Orkney’s most interesting places, you can always book an organised tour with an operator like Explore Worldwide.
Kirkwall is the capital of the Orkneys and this town has a lot of attractions to keep you occupied – and a long and illustrious history that’s fascinating to uncover. You see, Kirkwall was once a Viking town that was founded as far back as 1035.
The history of human settlement in the Orkneys goes back much further than the Vikings though, with Neolithic and Stone Age sites having been discovered. To learn more about these – and other archaeological finds on the islands – head to the Orkney Museum, where you can see artefacts that have been found in the area, as well as view one of Kirkwall’s finest town houses.
Another must-see in Kirkwall is St Magnus Cathedral, which was originally built in 1137 by Norse Earl Rognvald Kolson in memory of his uncle – Saint Magnus Erlendsson. The place of worship is where both of these figures are interred, while the churchyard is littered with medieval graves, as well as more recent additions.
Stenness is a parish on the main island and it’s home to two of Orkney’s most famous historical sites – the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. These are both stone circles that date back for centuries. The former has been dated to the 3rd millenium BC, to give you an indication of its age.
The Ring of Brodgar, meanwhile, is one of the best examples of a stone circle in the world, with this 104 m-wide ring originally featuring 60 stones. Now, just 27 of them remain, but you can still get a sense of its scale and grandeur despite the missing megaliths. This circle is protected as part of the Orkney’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Island of Hoy
Hoy is the second largest of the Orkney isles and it’s a fantastic place for hiking, as well as being home to historical treasures of its own, such as the UK’s only rock-cut chambered tomb. If you want to stretch your legs, you’ll find plenty of wonderful trails here, some of which can introduce you to the Orkneys’ spectacular coastline.
From Rackwick Bay – which is a stunning sandy, boulder-strewn beach – you can walk to the Old Man of Hoy, one of the most famous natural sights in the Orkneys. This is a huge sea stack that towers nearly 140 m out of the Atlantic Ocean – a truly breathtaking sight.
The walk takes you along the clifftops, which stand some 200 m above the ocean below, while the trail back to your starting point will lead you inland through Berriedale Wood, a unique ecosystem in the Orkneys and also Britain’s most northerly woodland.