A guide to the Orkney Isles

A guide to the Orkney Isles

A quick guide to the Orkney Isles. From where to eat to where to stay, including some information about travelling to Orkney

The breathtaking, natural beauty of the wild and rugged Orkney Isles stays with you for ever. Exposed to the full force of the Atlantic weather the inspiring landscapes are marked by towering cliffs, deep caves and giant sandstone sea stacks. 

The unpredictable, wild weather is invigorating. The big open skies, rounded hills and incredibly beautiful beaches offer the landscape photographer inspiration and reflection.

How to get to Orkney

By land – Whether you travel by car, coach or train the main approach follows the A9 north through Scotland.

By plane – Direct flights from all major Scottish airports operated by LoganAir, booked through Flybe. You can fly to Orkney with Loganair.  From Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Shetland. Mainland Scottish Airports have excellent UK and overseas flight connections.

By train – You can reach the ferry route ports of Aberdeen and Thurso from most main Scottish railway stations.

By bus – The Citylink network takes you to John o’Groats, Gills Bay or Scrabster for ferry services to Orkney:

Ferry  – 

There are 3 ferry routes to choose from and between 4 and 12 sailings a day depending upon the time of year.

Scrabster (near Thurso) – Stromness:

This popular 90-minute crossing operated by NorthLink Ferries sails between Scrabster (near Thurso) on the north coast of Scotland, and Stromness. You’ll sail past the Old Man of Hoy before landing in Stromness. This is the most reliable sailing. The ferry also has facilities on board such as a restaurant/ bar and accommodation.

Gills Bay – St Margaret’s Hope:

Pentland Ferries run a regular one hour catamaran crossing bewten Gill’s Bay on the north coast of Scotland  and the village of St Margaret’s Hope. This is a gateway to Orkney’s linked south isles and the east mainland of Orkney. Less than half an hour from the main town, Kirkwall.

Aberdeen – Kirkwall: 

The Aberdeen to Kirkwall route is also operated by Northlink. A six-hour leisurely trip, has the option of booking a cabin.

A guide to the Orkney Isles - Stromness harbour

 

WHERE TO STAY ON THE ORNKEY ISLES 

ORKNEY ACCOMMODATION

Storehouse Restaurant with Rooms 

This is a beautifully restored B Listed Store, originally built as a pork and herring curing station situated in the historic heart of Kirkwall. It has been transformed into a large restaurant with eight luxury individually designed en-suite rooms on the top two floors. Al these unique rooms are accessed by a lift.

Standing Stones Hotel 

Another popular place to stay is the Standing Stones Hotel, Stenness. Enjoy a comfortable, peaceful break overlooking Stenness Loch, facing towards Orkney’s famous Standing Stones and the Ring of Brodgar.

Kirkwall Hotel

One of Orkney’s finest Victorian Buildings, The Kirkwall Hotel, is perfectly situated within Kirkwall. It sits on the picturesque harbour front, is close to the marina and the main shopping area and is convenient tor all local amenities.

Ayre Hotel

Situated in the main town of Kirkwall, the Ayre Hotel is one of Orkney’s finest hotels. They also have one and two bedroom apartments available in a new annexe. Very central.

WHERE TO EAT ON THE ORKNEY ISLES 

WHERE TO EAT ON ORKNEY

Judith Glue real food cafe 

The Real Food Cafe and Restaurant is situated at the back of the Judith Glues shop, opposite St Magnus Cathedral.
 
Judith’s ethos is to use as much local fresh Orkney produce as possible and the cafe provides cosy and welcoming atmosphere. A must if visiting Kirkwall!

The Storehouse Restaurant

The recently converted Old Storehouse (previousy a herring station) consistently delivers good quality food. Watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen and enjoy something from the excellent wine list sourced by local supplier Kirkness and Gorie along with a great choice of Orkney Cocktails, Ales, Gins and Malt Whisky in the restaurant bar.

 

The Kirk Gallery & Cafe 

A beautifully renovated former parish church The menu is a lovely mix of local delicacies and produce. Teas have been prepared by the Tea Lovers Company in St Andrews, 

Hamnoavoe restaurant

Tucked away off the main street, this Stromness favourite specialises in excellent local seafood in an inviting and cosy atmosphere. There’s always something good off the boats, and the chef prides himself on his lobster. Booking is a must. Closes in the winter.

Julia’s Cafe 

Julia’s Cafe, located in Stromness and near to the ferry terminal this is a great place to stop by before leaving Orkney. Great for a meal and a cup of coffee. They have classic British breakfasts, baked potatoes, sandwiches and freshly baked treats. They also do a seriously good coffee.

Skerries Bistro

This bespoke glass building is located 80 metres from the cliff with stunning views across the Pentland Firth. Run by Carole & Hamish they specialise in shell food and use the freshest local food and ingredients. A lovely treat!

Birsay Bay Tearoom

This gorgeous little teashop has delicious food, great views and amazing homemade cakes. It is situated on the northerly tip of Orkney mainland. It has panoramic views overlooking the Brough of Birsay and towards Marwick Head. There’s something for everyone to enjoy!

Foveran 

The Foveran has stunning sea views across historic Scapa Flow and is the perfect place to relax, unwind and savour the taste of Orkney. This family run restaurant is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.

The Shore 

Right on the waterfront at Kirkwall’s harbour it’s very easy to find. This popular harbourside restaurant provides high-standard bar meals and delicious evening meals in the restaurant.

Wrigley and the Reel

The Wrigley Sisters’ Centre of Music was created by the Internationally renowned Wrigley Sisters, Jennifer and Hazel as a hub for music in Orkney. A combination of music shop and cafe, the Reel is lively and interesting and sits alongside St Magnus Cathedral, bravely putting tables outside at the merest suggestion of sunshine!

Helgi’s

Helgi’s is a small cosy pub overlooking the harbour. They serve good pub food of the home cooking variety, trying to use local produce where possible. Booking a must in the busy season!