Landscapes and seascapes that make you feel as if you have found one of the most remote coastlines in the world; superb wildlife and a history that stretches from the last war right back to the dawn of civilisation - you can experience all this on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
Hermaness, Isle of Unst, Shetland Islands
The islands that make up the Northern Isles lie far out in the North Atlantic. They are geographically and historically closer to Norway than to Scotland.
The landscapes of the fertile agricultural islands of Orkney, thanks to its base of Old Red Sandstone, contrast with the more rugged Shetland islands 100 miles further north with its poorer soil and therefore depending much more on the wealth of the sea. Hence the well-known saying that 'an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat, while a Shetlander is a fisherman with a croft'.
Midhowe Broch, Isle of Rousay, Orkney Islands
Orkney is a place of big open skies, rounded hills, beautiful beaches and well kept farms. Only on Hoy does the landscape take on a wilder feel, with rolling hills and towering cliffs.
Orkney is also notoriously rich in archaeological remains. It is said that if you scratch the soil it bleeds archaeology. Above all, in visiting Orkney you get a feeling of continuity, the sense that for thousands of years people have worked the land and left their mark. The number and quality of ancient Neolithic monuments, designated the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Sites, testify to Orkney's pre-eminent position at the centre of Neolithic Britain. Later the Vikings came, first visiting in the summers to fatten their livestock and later, colonising the islands, occupying and reusing farmsteads that had stood for millennia. And today, farming continues. Beneath many of today's modern farms are the remains of Viking farms and, beneath that, layers of occupation stretching even further back in time.
The walks of our Orkney walking tour take us to Birsay, Rousay, Yesnaby, Hoy and Deerness, and we will also visit many of the numerous historic and ancient monuments including Skara Brae, Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar and we will visit the Ness of Brodgar excavations.
Ness of Brodgar excavations, Orkney Islands
Shetland is an archipelago of islands 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland. At 60 degrees north, Shetland enjoys almost 24 hours of daylight during the summer, and the sun, low in the sky, brings a quality of light that is quite unlike anywhere else in Scotland.
The geology of the islands is ancient and complex. That, together with the erosive effect of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, has created a landscape characterised by dramatic cliffs, long fjord like 'voes' and beautiful sandy beaches.
The islands are a haven for wildlife. Walking through the landscape birds are ever present, grey and common seals are numerous and even sighting of otters and orcas are not uncommon.
The human history on the islands stretches back to Neolithic times. Iron age brochs and Norse archaeological sites are among the best anywhere in world. The Norse heritage of the islands has had a profound effect on the dialect, culture and way of life. The Shetlander's welcome is warm and adds greatly to a visitor's enjoyment of these wonderful islands.
Our Shetland walking tour takes in the southern and northernmost parts of Shetland, including the islands Papa Stour, Mousa and Unst. Our base is Shetland's capital and main town, Lerwick. Although there aren't always paths, short grass underfoot makes for easy going. On a number of the days we'll use boats and ferries to access remoter islands.
Fethland, the most northerly point of Mainland Shetland
Every year we schedule Orkney and Shetland Islands walking tours back-to-back, so you can combine the tours if you would like to visit both archipelago's into a two-week holiday with 6 walking days on the Orkney Islands and 6 on the Shetland Islands.
You will start your holiday joining the Orkney walking tour group. On Friday, when the group boards the ferry back to Aberdeen in the evening, you will stay another night on Orkney. You will fly to Shetland on Saturday with an early morning flight, where the Shetland walking tour group will meet you at the airport.
Old Man of Hoy, Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands
You can also do the Orkney and Shetland Islands as a 10-day private guided walking tour. During this tour you will walk 3 days on the Orkney Islands and 5 days on the Shetland Islands. Being a private guided tour, the programme is flexible and we can amend the itinerary depending on you interests.
Accommodation is either in good quality Bed & Breakfasts/Guest Houses or hotels. The tour can start any date.
Please get in touch if you would like to do this private guided tour with your own party.