Time travel to the ancient past
Like stepping through a gateway of standing stones, travel back in time to taste, touch, smell, hear and see how people lived 5,000 years ago. Relax into the wide open skies, sandy beaches, heather-clad hills, and striking cliffs of Orkney, a chain of islands in the far north of Britain.
With World Heritage sites such as the Ring of Brodgar standing stones and the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, Orkney culture is older than the pyramids.
But the culture lives on in the present day, something you will get to experience during our 6-day Orkney walking tour which starts in Inverness and ends in Kirkwall, the capital town of Orkney.
Our tour takes us past some of the most iconic sites in Scotland, starting from Inverness and including the Highland site of Clava Cairns.
Once you arrive in Orkney, you will experience the ancient past in a tangible way, starting with the World Heritage sites of Maes Howe, Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. We will visit the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig site, and a hidden gem, Cuween Hill, an ancient chambered cairn that you may decide was a burial ground, spiritual gathering site, or concert hall.
Bring the guidance of the past into your modern life
Another goal of our tour is to give you an experience that will shape how you live when you go back home. People come from all over the world to Orkney to escape the hectic pace of their lives at home and enjoy a place where they can get perspective and reconnect with the things that truly matter.
Sometimes we can feel unsure of how to proceed, of which direction to take. By experiencing how ancient peoples lived, by walking along the coastline, feeling the salt spray, sampling foraged food, we do what our ancestors did. We connect with our past, with the way our ancestors lived across the world, regardless of where we come from.
We will not only walk as the ancient peoples did, but we will forage for plants, learn to make fire by friction, learn to navigate by the sun and stars, make cordage and beachcomb — and for the brave, taste raw seafood.
As we follow a coastal path above rocky cliffs washed by waves, and watch seabirds including puffins, fulmars and cormorants, you will decompress from the stress of urban life. We will pass sea stacks and the Outrun, made famous in Amy Liptrot’s bestselling book of that name.
Savour the feeling that there’s all the time in the world.
Savour big skies, crisp air and glorious beaches
From the Orkney Mainland, we will be traveling to the more remote islands of Hoy, Westray and Papa Westray. On Hoy we will take a very special walk through the heather and the most northerly native woodland in Britain, arriving in the magical village of Rackwick which could easily double as Brigadoon. Enjoying stunning beach between cliffs, we can walk up the hillside to sit beside the Old Man of Hoy, lie in the heather and sunbathe, or play on the beach.
On the island of Papay, we’ll visit the Knap of Howar, the oldest home in the UK, 500 years older than Skara Brae. Home of the rare Primula Scotica plant, Papay is one of the delights of the week and our walks are usually shared with inquisitive seals or a relaxed chat with a crofter. This is a place to slow down and probably contemplate staying forever.
Finally we return to Kirkwall, enjoying the shops, St. Magnus Cathedral and museums located in Orkney’s capital town.
The tour ends here in Kirkwall but we can also provide assistance with return to Inverness or further south, as well as optional itineraries for Shetland.
Accommodations and interacting with local culture
Become part of the communities you travel through, not an observer of them as you chat with locals on the bus services. They get to meet you and thus learn more about your part of the world as well.
We believe in exploring any destination with all our senses, not being stuck in generic hotels and predictable restaurants. For these reasons we also stay in the best hostels and self-catering cottages. We can buy local foods from community shops and cook as our diets desire, or you can eat out when you prefer.
We use only private bedrooms so no sharing with strangers because, while it’s great to meet people when you feel like it, it’s also essential to be able to relax and have time to yourself and to get a good night’s sleep!
Eat and cook the best foods Orkney has to offer
We show you the places to buy local foods of amazing quality and take you only to the best of the best. Having worked as cook for decades, Malcolm is passionate about high quality produce and how to cook these to subtly enhance flavours. Orkney must be explored with our taste buds as well as our eyes.
We support small, local shops and get to taste our way around Orkney.
Some of the special foods available are: Bere Bannocks, crab meat, cheeses, beef, fish, Ice creams, Seaweed ‘caviar’, beers and whisky. oatcakes and breads, free range eggs seasonal vegetables.
There are also shops selling tofu, gluten free products and a very cosmopolitan selection. Many people living in Orkney have interest in the world and this is reflected in the music, food and culture.
Accessibility and fitness
Persons not wishing to complete all the walks (a more detailed walk itinerary can be provided) may also sometimes miss out on site visits (for example Birsay or Kirbuster Farm) as we use our legs as transport. However, anyone can have an off day, a minor injury or just not feel up to it on the day. In these cases, the person will be treated with respect and understanding and alternatives will be arranged (temporarily outwith the tour). This flexibility can be especially helpful when partners have different abilities or interests.
For this reason, the tour is accessible to those with average fitness. It is not suitable to persons unable to walk and guests must be able to carry their own luggage. We strongly encourage you to use a rucksack, not a suitcase, and to have a small day pack for carrying lunch and waterproof etc. Visual and audio limitations are fine.
Persons with health issues should speak with Malcolm, to see how these might impact on the tour and require special consideration.
Why we’re using public transport
By taking public transport, we get to move at a less frenetic pace, interacting with local people in a way that can’t happen on private coaches and cars. We get the best views from the windows of trains and coaches, elevated above the height of other traffic.
We are also supporting rural communities by using the subsidised buses and ferries, helping to keep services running for people living in these isolated locations, who can then reduce their use of private cars, reduce their carbon footprint and remain living in these islands.
Bonus: A pre-tour, self-guided itinerary for the Highlands and Inverness area will be offered to all guests on this tour.
Day 1: Inverness to Stromness, Orkney
- Train to Orkney
- Highland scenery
- Clava Cairns
- Culloden Battlefield
- Pentland Firth
- Hoy cliffs
Day 2: West coast walk to Birsay
- Skara Brae Neolithic Village
- dramatic clifftop walk and the Outrun
- Marwick Head
- Birsay, Earl’s Palace
- Brough of Birsay
- Kirbuster Farm Museum
Day 3: Island of Hoy
- ferry to Hoy
- North Hoy Nature Reserve
- walk to Rackwick village
- Old Man of Hoy
- Dwarfie Stane
- ancient firemaking
Day 4: World Heritage Heart of Neolithic Orkney
- Standing Stones of Stenness
- Ring of Brodgar
- Ness of Brodgar archaeology dig site
- Barnhouse village
- Maes Howe chambered cairn
- Cuween Hill
- ferry through islands to Westray
Day 5: Island of Papa Westray
- ferry to Papa Westray
- Knap of Howar Neolithic site
- St Boniface Kirk
- Heritage Centre
- beach walks
- wild food foraging
Day 6: Kirkwall
- Explore Isle of Papa Westray
- Bothy Museum
- Small boat to Holm of Papay chambered cairn (optional)
- St Magnus Cathedral
- Kirkwall Museum
- Earl’s Palace
- Highland Park distillery (optional)
- Scapa Flow, Italian Chapel (optional)
End of tour in Kirkwall. Note: The tour is designed with flexibility to enable those wishing to travel to Shetland, return to Scotland or remain in Orkney longer.
Need advice for post-tour options? Or more detailed information about the itinerary, walks and accommodation? For an information pack, contact us now.
Sunday 2 July – Friday 7 July, 2017
Start location: Inverness
End location: Kirkwall, Orkney
- 6 days, 5 nights
- single supplement of £50
- 5 nights’ accommodation
- all transport
- all entry fees
- professional walking guide
- craft instruction
- Orkney local guide