The programme will be tailored to your wishes and interests, but this is an example of how the holiday may look like.
Day 1 Aberdeen - Kirkwall
We will meet in Aberdeen where we will board the ferry to Kirkwall on Orkney, where we will stay 3 nights.
Day 2 The UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Mainland Orkney
We will visit several important Neolithic sites on mainland Orkney, from the Ring of Brodgar, to the Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, which is Britain’s largest chambered cairn. This, the ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney,’ which also includes Skara Brae, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We also visit the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) reserve that surrounds the Ring of Brodgar. Its wild flower meadows and wetlands attract waders, ducks and raptors.
About 2 miles/3.2 km, flat
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
Day 3 Western Mainland: Skara Brae, Yesnaby
We start the day at Skara Brae, possibly Orkney’s most exciting archaeological site, which was buried by a sandstorm in about 2450 B.C and then revealed by another storm in 1850.
We will then walk south along spectacular Old Red Sandstone coastal cliff scenery with geos, natural arches, caves, and sea stacks.
Afterwards we visit the characterful and historic town of Stromness to take a walk through its winding main street all the way to the ness, or headland, of Stromness, where we get good views of Hoy. Stromness was the home Orkney’s most notable poet and writer, George Mackay Brown. It was also where ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company took on water, stores and recruited local men before heading out to the Canadian Arctic.
Up to 5 miles/8 km, 245ft/75m of ascent along undulating coastline
Day 4 Isle of Hoy
This morning we will take the ferry to Hoy. Our walk will take us along spectacular cliff-top scenery, through another RSPB reserve, to the world famous sea stack known as The Old Man of Hoy that has attracted generations of climbers, not to mention nesting seabirds. This is quite a hard day’s walking, but very much worth the effort.
6 miles/9.5 km, 550ft/170m of ascent
We board the overnight ferry to Shetland in the evening.
Day 5 South Mainland and isle of Mousa
We arrive in Lerwick in the morning and head south to visit Jarlshof, which was occupied for more than 4,000 years. The site boasts a remarkable sequence of stone structures: late Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age and an Iron Age village, a Norse longhouse, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house.
Hiking to Cuilswick Broch, Mainland Shetland
In the afternoon we take a boat to the uninhabited island of Mousa, another RSPB nature reserve. The wildlife includes harbour seals, arctic skuas, arctic terns and storm petrels. The island is also famous for its Iron Age broch, with 44 feet the world’s tallest and best-preserved Pictish broch.
4 miles/6.5 km, minimal ascent
Day 6 Stanydale Temple and Culswick
On our first day on Shetland we'll go to the Westside for one of the finest walks in this part of Mainland. Our first stop is Stanydale Temple, a Neolithic hall, heel-shaped externally, and containing a large oval chamber. Around it are ruins of houses, walls and cairns of the same period.
The walk at Culswick follows the track through a dramatic valley, which narrows and rises when we reach the cliffs. The valley was once a sea loch. It is now separated from the sea by a shingle bar, creating a fresh water loch. At its lowest point, the track passes between high peat banks.
Near the coast, the track rises and Culswick Broch and ramparts appear ahead, above the Loch of the Broch. The green valley ends in pebble beaches fringed by sea stacks, cliffs and caves. The Pictish Culswick broch looks out on an awe inspiring view over Gruting Voe and Vaila Sound.
From the broch we head southeast along the cliff tops. There are remains of a monastic settlement on one of the sea stacks and a tiny dwelling on another. We continue following the shore back to the start of our walk.
We have a good chance to see lapwings, curlews, ringed plovers and mountain hares.
6 miles/9.5 km, 330ft/100m of ascent
Day 7 Isle of Unst
Unst consists of a block of oceanic crust thrust, which is very much out of place. These enormous masses of thrust rock (called ophiolites) give a rare glimpse into the Earth’s deep interior. Along our way we will encounter some very interesting botany, a Viking longship and replica longhouse, and the northernmost cliffs of the British Isles, which are home to over 100,000 breeding sea birds.
4 miles/6.5 km, 560ft/150m of ascent
Gannets on the Isle of Noss, Shetland
Day 8 Eshaness
The Eshaness peninsula tells a fascinating story of a long extinct volcano. The spectacular cliffs we see today show the best section through the flank of a volcano in the British Isles and it is a geological ‘must’. The sea has carved out a dramatic array of stacks, geos, and blowholes. Another highlight is an active storm beach still being shaped by hurricane force winds from the Atlantic in the winter.
4.5 miles/7.5 km, 200ft/60m of ascent
Day 9 Isle of Noss and Lerwick
After having been on top of many seabird cliffs during our holiday, today we will view them from the sea. Our boat takes us around the islands of Bressay and Noss. Noss - ‘nose’ - is a National Nature Reserve. The old red sandstone cliffs of Noss are carved by the sea into thousands of ledges. These are ideal sites for seabirds’ dream-houses and competition is intense. We will get a close look at the cliffs packed with seabirds and our senses will be assaulted by the sight of thousands of birds, their deafening noise and the overpowering smell.
Finally you will have a chance to explore Lerwick, its shops and its excellent museum, before we board the overnight ferry to Aberdeen.
Day 10 Arrive in Aberdeen
We arrive back in Aberdeen in the morning.