The Magic of Orkney
From staggering sea bird colonies to ancient archaeological sites - Orkney holds something for everyone!
Join our Orcadian expert, Robin Noble to explore this fantastic island packed with wildlife, history, archaeology and of course charm. Revel in Orkney’s low lying and gentle landscapes where the sea and the sky are vast. The wind and salt have dispensed with trees but the wildflowers are a botanist’s delight and there is a dazzling concentration of wildlife reserves – more than anywhere else in the UK.
Orkney is made up of over 70 widely spread islands only 10 km from the Scottish Mainland, across the Pentland Firth. Outstanding are the archaeological and historical sites: from the village of Skara Brae, the standing stone circles and tombs of the Stone Age to the towering Brochs of the Iron Age, Orcadian history is mapped by these magnificent ruins and monuments. The exquisite St Magnus Cathedral, which dominates Kirkwall town centre (where we’ll be based), must not be missed.
You will be met by your Aigas ranger and driven to your hotel. During the week some of the sites which you'll visit include:
- Maes Howe, one of the finest chambered tombs in the world and contains the largest collection of runic writing and engraving outside Scandinava; the smaller henge monument of the Stones of Stenness and the larger Ring of Brodgar, built on a raised mound with views across West Mainland.
- A walk along the cliffs at Yesnaby to find the tiny Scottish primrose which nestles amongst the purple of the sea squill. A short drive along the coast to the Stone Age village of Skara Brae; the village and the internal structures of its houses are remarkably well preserved.
- Scapa Flow with its long naval history from as early as the Napoleonic Wars and the Italian Chapel built by prisoners of war as a testimony of their faith. South Ronaldsay, and an archaeologist’s delight, the Tomb of the Eagles with a low passage entrance and a central chamber where the human remains and bones and talons from sea eagles were found.
- Kirkwall, the capital, is dominated by St Magnus Cathedral, built over a period of 500 years from 1137. The Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces, amongst the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Scotland. They are now both in ruin, but a walk through them can recreate a feeling of the majesty and splendour that once existed in these elaborate structures.
- The Island of Rousay contains some of the richest and best preserved monuments in the north of Scotland and in the west the ‘Great Ship of Death’, as Midhowe has been called, lies along a famous route of cairns and brochs, enabling the visitor to wander through 5000 years of history.
- The Island of Birsay and the Broch of Gurness at the north-west corner of the Mainland of Orkney. Birsay Bay and the Brough with its early Christian and Norse settlements. The Earl’s Palace at Birsay is a ruined 16th-century courtyard castle, started by Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney about 1574.
- Birsay Moors and Cottasgarth is a large area of rough moorland of worked peat banks where both hen harriers and short-eared owls can be found as well as golden plover, curlew, snipe, redshank and other more common species
- The Island of Hoy is most famous for the sea stack, The Old Man of Hoy towering over 300m at St John’s Head, providing ideal nesting sites for a large colony of kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars, puffins, razorbills and shags. On the open moors of Hoy there are large colonies of great black backed gulls and great skuas with smaller numbers of arctic skuas. Red throated divers breed on the hill lochans. Golden plover, dunlin and curlew breed among a rich flora of alpine plants such as alpine meadow rue and purple and yellow mountain saxifrage.
Aigas holidays are all inclusive. The Orkney trip will have a single supplement due to the charges made by external hotels. Read more here.