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Scotland's Orkney Islands

5 Days | Whisky and Neolithic history in UK’s northern reaches

4.2 out of 5 based on 26 reviews submitted.
Explorer
From
USD $1,886
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The Orkneys, off the northern tip of Scotland, are well and truly alive with histories and mysteries to discover by land and sea. Spend five days experiencing the best of the Orkney Islands, departing from the highland hub of Inverness, and using Kirkwall as your base. Admire the Neolithic town of Skara Brae that predates Stonehenge, get well off the tourist trail on a leisurely coastal walk on Shapinsay Island, and bookend your days with plenty of local history and perhaps some whisky tastings at local pubs along the way. With a local leader full of knowledge and a group as eager to learn as you, this slice of European history has never been so enticing.

Trip overview

Map of Scotland's Orkney Islands including United Kingdom
Start
Inverness, United Kingdom
Finish
Inverness, United Kingdom
Theme
Explorer
Destinations
United Kingdom
Physical rating
Indicates how physically exerting a trip is, and how fit you will need to be to enjoy it. More info on physical ratings
Style
Original
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 - Max 12
Trip code
BWSO
We’re in the process of figuring out how much CO2-e this trip generates. In the meantime, find out more about our climate commitments and carbon reduction target.

Why you'll love this trip
  • The Orkney Islands are teeming with historic sites to explore. The Neolithic township of Skara Brae, the renowned Ring of Brodgar and 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral – it’s like you’ve been transported back in time!
  • Join your group leader on a walking tour of Kirkwall – Orkney’s main centre. They’ll be able to share with you the history and traditions behind the game of ‘Ba’ in town.
  • Spend the morning discovering the island of Shapinsay on a coastal walking tour, full of rich heritage and small-town quirks. You might even spot some resident seals!
  • What’s Scotland without a tipple? Be sure to join your local leader and group of travellers throughout the trip at a corner pub, tasting some of the finest whiskies on offer.
  • With plenty of time dedicated to exploring at your own pace, you can dial up the history, or instead, balance it all out with some distillery visits. You’ve got the power to choose.

Is this trip right for you?
  • Please ensure you consult your local government’s advice regarding domestic travel prior to booking this trip.
  • Scotland can be cold at night throughout the year, especially at the start and end of the season. Please bring appropriate clothing for adverse weather conditions, including base layers, hat, gloves, scarf, waterproof clothes/umbrella and anything else that you think may be applicable.
  • As accommodation on this trip is twin share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same gender. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge (some exceptions may apply). Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, hotels in Europe can seem small by Australian or American standards, and often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart.

Itinerary

Map of Scotland's Orkney Islands including United Kingdom

Inclusions

Meals

4 breakfasts, 1 lunch

Transport

Train, Public bus, Private vehicle, Taxi, Ferry, On foot

Accommodation

Guesthouse (4 nights)

Activities
  • Kirkwall - Leader-led Walking Tour
  • Orkney Islands - Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones
  • Orkney Islands - Italian Chapel
  • Orkney Islands - Orkney Mainland Day Tour
  • Orkney Islands - Picnic lunch with Local Orkney Produce in an old schoolhouse
  • Orkney Islands - Churchill Barriers & Scapa Flow
  • Orkney Islands - Skara Brae Prehistoric Village Visit
  • Shapinsay Island - Coastal Walk
  • Shapinsay Island - Day Trip

Dates and availability

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Important notes

1.A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights of your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
2.This trip starts at 1pm in the ticket hall of Inverness Railway Station on Day 1. Afterwards, your group will immediately depart for Kirkwall. This trip finishes upon arrival in Inverness on Day 5 at approximately 5pm. Please consider this when booking onward travel.
3.Please note that the journey from Inverness to the Orkney Islands and vice versa is quite long (approx 7.5 hours), involving a train, taxi, ferry and local bus. Our arrival into Kirkwall on day 1 will be at around 9:30pm and arrival back into Inverness on the last day will be at around 5pm.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

4.2 out of 5 based on 26 reviews submitted.
Reviews are from travellers who have completed their trip and want to share their experience. We show all reviews, but may remove any that include profanity or inappropriate content, are unrelated to the trip or reveal personal details.

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Valerie · Traveled October 2023
The Orkney Islands are beautiful to the eye and the soul. Our guide was knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour. Care for the groups was definitely his priority and Alistair managed to accomplish this without being instructive. The meals and spirits of the island should not be missed.
Review submitted 07 Oct 2023

Aleesha · Traveled September 2023
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Being a younger traveller at 26 to those around me I had a blast with every one on tour, I learnt a great deal about Neolithic Culture, got to see the island by foot and tasted some incredible gin! Highly recommend for those wanting to get off the beaten track in Scotland.
Review submitted 24 Sep 2023

Porteous · Traveled September 2023
As I have said the trip was wonderful and Edd was just the best 👍
Review submitted 16 Sep 2023

Jacqueline · Traveled September 2023
The unexpected highlights for me were getting inside 2 chambered cairns!
Review submitted 20 Sep 2023

Edward · Traveled July 2023
The trip started well with us all meeting at the train station at 1 pm, I didn’t know what to expect with the Orkney’s but I was excited to see the landscapes and learn about the history but sadly there were a few reasons why this tour should have been canceled as it felt like a trip we were scammed out of. Some unexpected things happen on trips which is totally the way travel is, such as when we made it to the ferry on time but barley as there isn’t much time between the Train arrival and Ferry departure (only 30 min I believe) so we barley made it onto the ferry as Jen was in the second cab to the ferry and we pleaded with the ferry attendants to wait for us which they did 5 min so we were okay! So two cabs were lined up for the return trip so we would make it to the train and back to Inverness. There were taxis waiting for us when we arrived to the islands which was excellent, they brought us to our accommodation. The itinerary mentions going out to cozy up in a pub this night but our tour leader said they would meet us the next morning, to show us the town or Kirkwall. This was sort of a let down as it’s nice to get to know everyone on the trip but our accommodation is a 25 -30 min walk from where the restaurants are in Kirkwall so it really didn’t make sense to walk an hr there and back when we all had a travel day. But Jen (our guide) could have recommended some places to eat if she had been to Kirkwall before or had notes about good places to sat and when they close. We had to play it safe and buy ferry food instead, which is okay but starting to think about the comment Jen made about how she hasn’t been to the Orkney islands and that “guiding is a good way to see the world”. It made me think that I should be a guide and not only not pay but get paid and I could obtain the same satisfaction from clients as Jen did on this trip. So on the first full day of the tour we did a morning orientation walk and Jen walked us past the cathedral and the museum and ended with us at the tourist information center. She said we could get all the info we need and book any day trips for the last full day afternoon there and that was the end of the walk. The itinerary is very exciting about getting to know the history ect, but Jen knew absolutely zero. It sounds so strange to say that, I don’t mean it in a negative way but Jen was very open with her lack of knowledge about the entire trip. It seems like the tour was subbed out to another company that Jen works when it should have been canceled. I can go walk to the tourist info building myself. Later that we day we we did a hike up the nearby hill, it was longer than we thought it would be, Jen included, the itinerary says it’s a short hike but the elderly people we were with on our tour we constantly complaining about their knees ect. I felt pretty bad for them as they were into something more than they expected on that walk. (14km) I showed Jen where to go on my trail app, she didn’t even know where the trial started. I have started traveling after investing into real estate and setting my business up to run a little more without my daily supervision. So I think these points are very good to note for anyone running a business. You can’t sell a house or provide landscaping services not ever have done it before without risking your brand, you get a mentor to shadow so you can learn the ropes. Things will never be perfect nor should they be as in our mistakes we can shine through with our character and professionalism but i was really wondering why we hired a guide on this trip. We have been wanting to see the world more as we have done tours for 4 months in Africa last year, Asia for 3 months before covid and Aussie and NZ in 2017 for 2 months. We are traveling the UK, Scandinavia and Balkans for 2.5 months this yr and wanted to try a new tour company and this was our honest experience. I would think No tour operator would EVER put a guide in the position that Jen was in never had been to the area she was to guide paying clients on. Jen should have shadowed another group atleast once before taking a group on tour, we have seen other companies do this. The accommodation was okay. It wasnt terrible but it wasn’t good. The best part was the breakfast as the couple that owned the BnB made good food. But the beds were not very good nor their attitude. It was awkward when one of our tour mates asked for a second key for his room, the BnB owner said that’s not what they do here and our tour mate insisted over and over about how he and his roommate are two individuals sharing a room and eventually the BnB owner said he could have their backup key if they make very sure leave it after their stay. It’s not a very hard problem to solve to make your clients feel good and just give them a second key as they are two paying guests, in my opinion. The BnB owners also wanted times for breakfast but you could wait 30 min for yours to come out as the were overwhelmed which makes sense and I am not complaining about that but Jen actually left without us when I was 4 min late because I didn’t get my breakfast until 845am and we were meeting at 850 am! I was there at 854 am so saw the group down the street so didn’t miss the day! Never been left behind before, i know you always need to be on time and respect people’s time but when we even asked the BnB owners if we could move earlier they said it comes when it comes, so a little leeway from Jen would have been nice, right ? I think by the third day Jen was sick of her role as many of the members of the group were miserable and Jen wasn’t always professional. I have seen guides on 3 week tours which include camping for days and long transfers and they keep it together but Jen couldn’t not even for 4 days, she literally yelled at Carol and told her “TO STOP!” I should have videoed it and emailed to you. This tour has been the worst tour I have ever been on and I have been on almost 20 ranging from a week to 3 weeks. The day the transportation was arranged was great, the bus driver was able to fill us in on a lot of the knowledge we were missing from Jen. Jen should have done some geographical and history research before this trip because it was painful to watch her try to guide and talk to the taxi/bus drivers. They asked at the end of each interaction if she was new to being a tour guide. When we went to Shapinsay island Jen literally asked me “so where are these salt water toilets” , it’s just not a good feeling when your tour guide asked you to tell them where stuff is that is on the itinerary that you paid for. So we never saw them or learned about anything in the itinerary but we had come to expect that at this point so we’re just trying to enjoy the fact that we’re are there. For evenings Jen never once recommended a single restaurant or activity for us or anyone that we heard. Ultimately if this is how Intrepid operates then it needs to be identified as a SCAM and a money grab to suck people into what sounds like, from a well written itinerary, substandard transfers, accommodation and guide. This reminds me that Jen asked each of us for 9 pounds for a taxi on the last morning to make sure we make it to the ferry port and don’t miss the ferry. Reason being because there are no bus stops on the island and when a bus comes by (no schedule) you have to flag it down if it isn’t full! So I don’t think Jen wanted to be stuck on Orkney with us so she said we all need to pay 9 pounds for a taxi. Makes sense but this should have been included in the trip. Jen said she used what money she did have in the kitty on the taxi from the ferry to the train (otherwise good chance we would miss it). If Jenn or ANYONE from Intrepid had actually done this tour before they would know the risk involved in not hiring two cabs to make sure everyone makes it to the ferry or to the train. This tour should be canceled until a guide has been familiarized with the area. Everyone that has wasted their ONE time in the Orkney’s by hiring Intrepid should receive a full refund (I have never left negative review before about a tour- I know some people have and we’re telling us about how bad they will rate this one but some of those people are miserable to begin with). The sad point is we only got one chance to fly all the way to the UK and take the time away from work and this was the service we received. It was a complete waste of time for paying a guide as well as I feel like Intrepid is a fraudulent company if this is how they operate other tours ( I’m assuming that this was a terrible mishap in service). I was trying out a new company and feel like I never should have at this moment.
Review submitted 27 Jul 2023
Scotland's Orkney Islands
From
USD $1,886