Orkney and Shetland Islands, Scotland

October 23, 2013

General Information

Orkney Islands

Stretching out into the North Sea among strong winds and rough seas, are Scotland’s most northern isles, the most southerly and a short distance from the northern Scottish mainland is the Orkney Isles, rising modestly from the sea, this cluster of more than seventy islands is a sparsely populated but very fertile land ideal for farming. During the long summer days the land is awash with wild flowers covering the meadows with enormous bright skies, with the sound of millions of sea birds along its stunning coastline.

Shetland Islands

About sixty miles further north you have the very remote Shetland Isles, a completely different type of islands with rugged cliffs and weather beaten land, exposed to the fiercest of weather from the north sea. On these Islands magnificent cliffs reach out of the sea like towering skyscrapers forming heather coated hills, with deep fjords chiseling deep into the rugged landscape, its a forbidden and very powerful landscape, with populations scattered along its coastline, consisting of fishing communities and sea faring people, making a living out of the sea.

Life on the Islands

Life on both Orkney and Shetland relies very much on the sea as a source of sustenance, but the sea also provides disasters and a route for many invaders over its much talked about history, consisting of invasions from northern Europe with the Vikings and many more unwelcome visitors claiming rights for these islands. The islands have a rich history and are scattered with many archaeological sites, that passing invaders left leaving evidence of the past cultures that once used these islands as refuge.

the orkney islands, scotland

Green Meadows of Orkney

The Islands have become a Mecca for visiting tourists and both groups of the islands offering many great walks along with superb fishing opportunities and a must visit for birdwatchers, the coastal areas are also ideal for those interested in sailing and other sea sports. Although the oil industry does have a footing on these islands, there is no evident effect on the environment, the islands are still pristine and free from any pollution.

The islands have an obvious beauty, with both sets showing vistas from lush meadows to strong rugged cliffs and hills, the islands gives fantastic opportunities for photographers who take delight in the wonderful light and ever changing skies and seas, whilst those looking for history and archaeology can harbour a wonderful and heroic history, where island survival is a Hugh achievement considering the past history of these stunning islands.

Getting to the Orkney and Shetland islands has never been easier with ferry companies supplying routes from mainland Scotland, you can set sail from Scrabster near Thurso and also sail from Aberdeen, There are also flights to the islands from a few airline companies if you want to get there much faster, although there is no better feeling than the sail towards the islands from a ferry.

The Cliffs of Shetland

The Cliffs of Shetland

Things to do in Orkney Islands

Skara Brae

This Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is near the Bay of Skaill with its white beach, it is most defiantly one of the best preserved prehistoric settlements in Europe, visitors can enjoy and experience ancient homes at this wonderful site, defiantly worth a visit

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

A lovely cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkneys main town, built in 1137, with great examples of Norman architecture and built from sandstone quarried locally it provides a nice place to visit when visiting Kirkwall.

Ring of Brodgar

The largest Neolithic standing stone circle in Scotland, that stands over 340ft in diameter, situated between two lochs Harray and Steness, and thought to be constructed between the dates of 2000BC and 2500BC, it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and managed by Historic Scotland.

These are just a small sample, many more places to visit can be seen here


Things to do in Shetland Islands

Shetland Museum and Archives

Located on Hay’s Dock this award winning visitor attraction is worth a visit, discover many of the islands secrets detailing lots of information about this great island. The admission is also free and caters for a great day out for all the family when on holiday in Scotland.

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement

Thought to be at least 4,500 years old, but items have been dug up on the site dating back 7000 years, some structures found here are thought to be from the Pictish times right through to medieval times, defiantly worth a visit, especially if you are interested in archeology.

Clickimin Broch  

Situated near Lerwick the Broch was once situated on an island within Clickimin Loch, it is now connected to the mainland by a stone causeway after drainage reduced the size of the loch, discover the stone slab with carved footprints on the causeway, a must see attraction on this stunning island.

These are just a small sample,  many more places to visit can be seen Here

If you need any advice on how to get to any of the islands, or any general information please feel free to contact us via our contact page and we will be happy to help you.

2 Responses to “Orkney and Shetland Islands, Scotland”

  1. Shetland Geotours Says:

    Shetland is a UNESCO desiginated Global and European Geopark – surely you should at the very least mention this in your poorly written article.


    • Greg Murray Says:

      Thanks for your comments, this article was written by someone who lives on Orkney, If you would like to add to it or even write an article yourself with more information, please feel free to do so and we will be happy to post the article. I am sure you have much more to tell us.


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