With a latitude of 59ºN, Orkney is certainly not tropical, but definitely beautiful in its own right. Off the coast of mainland Scotland, Orkney can be reached by ferry or plane. Made up of 70 islands with over two thirds uninhabited, the storm-battered cliffs give a mystical charm which will never be forgotten. Let’s take a whirlwind tour of our favourite Orkney spots.
Kicking Off In Kirkwall
An important trade centre as early as the 11th century, Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, is rich in culture and history. A hub of activity with theatres, restaurants, bars and shops with local crafts, produce and apparel, there is a great sense of community and pride in Kirkwall.
Built in 1137, St. Magnus Cathedral is a must-see. With its grandiose appearance, visitors can sign up for a guided tour of the sandstone bell tower taking in the vast views.
With Kirkwall the main port of Orkney, you can hop on a ferry over to Stromness and take in one of the most picturesque harbours in the UK.
Discover the Kirkwall Ba in our Essential Guide to Winter in Scotland.
With one of the highest concentrations of ancient sites in Europe and being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, Orkney’s Mainland is full of ancient locations with many treasures to be found.
One of the most notable sites is Skara Brae. Unearthed in 1850 by a storm, the site is one of the best-preserved groups of prehistoric houses in Europe giving an immersive insight into life 5000 years ago.
The island of Lambholm is home to The Italian Chapel. An Italian prisoner of war, Domenico Chiocchetti was given the task of transforming 2 Nissen huts into a chapel, with help of other tradesmen. A prayer card that Chiocceti carried was the basis of his painting above the alter and when the camp commander, Major Buckland, realised his talents, he was given permission to continue painting the chapel transforming it into its charming splendour.
With a plethora of amazing walks, you are spoiled for choice when deciding where to explore. A battering north sea, colourful wildflower displays in spring and cliffs with views of sinister looking sea stacks, the 10-mile hike around the jagged coast of the Western Mainland island will be a hike that you will never forget.
Discover the Vital Role of Orkney in the World Wars
Orkney played a vital role in both of the World Wars. Scapa Flow was home to the British Grand and Home fleets, which were guarded by the civilians who resided there during the wars. Scapa Flow was the main naval base and it was used because of the large landlocked harbour with deep entrances, ideal for large ships.
At the peak of WWII, up to 40,000 men were stationed in Orkney compared with the 2017 population of 22,000.
There are many shipwrecks in Scapa Flow that can be discovered on a diving tour, but many are prohibited.
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