The ancient magic of Orkney

When we sat down to write about this, we spent hours trying to put into words the magic and wonder of the experience that our guests experience on our Orkney tour. There is so much we could talk about, from the Stone Age sites to the interaction with local people to the stunning views.

But Five Senses has never been about just seeing the sites, or even just about responsible tourism.

We’re about changing the world by teaching people how to use their senses to connect with the world around them. Why? Because we want to make the world a better place. Because we want people to enjoy life and be happy.

We try to bring the two together by teaching people how connect to the world with their senses. Amazing things happen when people do that. We’ll show you what we mean.

Here are the five ways we think your life will change when you connecting with the world on this Orkney Tour Experience:

Orkney’s ancient magic will rub off on you

Whether it’s the creating of massive stone temples 5,000 years ago, or wave turbines for electricity today, Orkney’s magic springs from its location and its occupation for millennia. The ancient temple at the Ness of Brodgar and its nearby standing stones are older than Stonehenge and the pyramids. They are likely also the original model for Stonehenge and other British stone circles like Avebury.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Standing Stones of Stenness

Pottery made here also predates and influenced designs throughout ancient Britain. In other words, 5,000 years ago, Orkney was an epicentre of culture, innovation and influence. A knowledge of science, art, music and how to be self-sufficient whilst also being connected to a tight community has been passed down from generation to generation. This is reflected in more recent times by the Folk Festival, St Magnus Festival and Science Festival and major wind and wave energy firms locating here from around the world.

During the tour, you’ll see for yourself how the uniquely mild climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream, means there have always been ample natural resources. Its far north location, on the same latitude as Siberia, meant comparatively little competition — but just enough challenges to demand self-sufficiency and problem-solving. Right through the ages, it has been a major transport hub.

The Vikings ruled here for 600 years, sailing between Iceland and Denmark, Ireland and France. Today most people also come by boat, via the ferry from Thurso. If you take the ferry, you’ll sail past the Old Man of Hoy into the harbour village of Stromness, where we begin our tour and are based for 4 nights. With its windy lanes and one-off shops, this is where you begin stepping back in time.

Houses in Stromness

Stromness, Orkney

You’ll actually enjoy being ‘mindful’

How many times have you heard being mindful is good for your health? That you’ll be happier, healthier, think more clearly and generally enjoy life more if you’re mindful?

The problem is, when we think of mindful, we imagine sitting painfully upright in a meditation posture or savouring a bite of food for an agonisingly long few minutes. In the modern world, it often feels, well, boring to be mindful. Luckily, we discovered a while ago that being mindful is great fun when you actually enjoy what you’re doing. So we made it a mission to seek out as many experiences as possible that will make it effortless for you to slow down and savour the moment, whether that’s beach combing on the otherworldly beach of Rackwick or watching the seals play.

Orkney beach sunset

Being mindful is easy when the present moment is so beautiful

You’ll never have to worry about how to get where you’re going, when things are open, or any other travel logistics

How many hours do you usually spend planning your holiday? How many hours do you then spend on the actual holiday trying to figure out where to go, how to get there, frustrated that the internet isn’t working right or your phone keeps dropping signals, or that the place you thought was open has closed?

On a remote place like Orkney, logistics can be incredibly challenging: ferries get cancelled, shops close unexpectedly, public transport timetables change. We worry about all that so you can focus your attention on actually being on Orkney.

Two women in a field of heather

Relax in the heather

Every tour is different, as we adapt each day to best meet your needs.

You’ll connect to your ancestors and bring the past to life with ancient firemaking, natural navigation and crafts

As part of your tour, you’ll have the opportunity to live in some of the same ways your ancestors did 5,000 years ago. You’ll learn how to make fire with a wooden bow drill, create knives out of a beach stones, and string for a necklace out of plant fibres. Rather than just looking at artefacts of the ancient past, you’ll time travel, connecting to the ways your ancestors did things.

So much of tourism is based on looking at things — you go into a castle but you’re not allowed to sit in the chairs or beds or touch the objects. The kitchens don’t have fires burning and food isn’t being cooked. When you make fire outside in the elements, you understand that fire is life, it’s the centre of the home for a good reason. When you walk outside at night without any lights, which is actually possible on Orkney owing to its extraordinary lack of light pollution, you relate to the stars and moon above you as guides, just as your ancestors did.

We tend to think of life in the past as one of hardship and lack of luxury. But the fact is, these people had more leisure time than we do now: they didn’t have taxes, mortgages, debt — or wars. In many ways, their lives were far more luxurious than ours. Thanks to a bounty of food and a relatively mild climate, they had plenty of time to be creative, to carve things, to build giant stone structures. Enjoy that luxury of time and creative relaxation yourself.

Firemaking at Fishermans Huts Orkney

Firemaking at the Fishermans Huts

You’ll connect to the local community and nature in a profound way

For a time, become part of the community on Orkney’s islands. When you use the same shops and services local people do, you not only get to chat with people, you help to sustain these lifelines that can be under threat of closure. Local families run all the accommodation we stay at — we don’t do generic hotels or B&Bs — and thanks to the self-catering kitchens, you’ll be able to buy fresh, local food in the small shops.

You’ll also connect with nature.

Puffin on the cliffs

Meet a puffin

By walking and exploring places on foot, you connect with all your senses. There’s the smell of the salt of the sea, the taste of fresh scallops, the sound of waves pounding against the cliffs and the silence as you enter an underground cairn. Being outside in the evenings, watching the sunset or seeing the stars, you get to to see the seals that only emerge when all the people have gone.

Who comes on our tours?

Our guests are often global travellers, seeking knowledge that you can’t get through the internet or on TV. They want firsthand experience that teach them new skills. After the tour, guests seem to become more open to possibilities and ideas. More than a few have come to Orkney and realised they’ve become stuck in a rut, or need to make major changes in their relationships, career or lifestyle.

Our guests have a more can do attitude after they’ve been there. They’re energised by their time on Orkney and forge a new path in life. The energy and inspiration they receive means guests frequently come back.

Itinerary

Day 1 Saturday – Stromness

  • Meet in Stromness
  • Settle into accommodation
  • Tea and snacks
  • Get to know your fellow explorers.
  • Evening stroll around Stromness with stone houses, seals on the shore, bars and locals going about their lives
  • Introduction to natural navigation.
  • Various options for evening meal.

 

 

Day 2 Sunday – Neolithic World Heritage Site

Standing Stones of Stenness with sheep

  • Stenness Standing Stones
  • Ring of Brodgar
  • Ness of Brodgar
  • Unstan Chambered Cairn
  • Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement
  • Maeshowe

Today you will be introduced to Orkney, its environmental changes and what life was like 5,000 years ago. We’ll also look at modern day living, and innovations happening on Orkney. Finally, we’ll begin learning the basics of living with nature, fire and foraging.

 

Day 3 Monday – Skara Brae

Skara Brae stone age village

  • Skara Brae Neolithic Village
  • Dramatic clifftop walk and the Outrun
  • Marwick Head
  • Birsay, Earl’s Palace
  • Brough of Birsay or Kirbuster Farm Museum
  • Barony Water Mill

 

Day 4 Tuesday – Island of Hoy

Stone cottage on beach at Hoy

  • Ferry to Hoy
  • North Hoy Nature Reserve
  • Walk to Rackwick village
  • Dwarfie Stane
  • Return to Stromness
  • Beach combing
  • Foraging
  • Friction fire making lesson

 

Day 5 Wednesday – Kirkwall, Island of Westray

Lighthouse on Westray

  • Kirkwall morning (options incl Tankerness House Museum,
  • St Magnus Cathedral)
  • Ferry to Westray
  • Bus transfer to accommodation, settle in
  • Short walk to Noutland Castle and beach
  • (archaeological dig and amazing storm battered beaches)
  • Option of fish & chips (a highlight of the tour every year).
  • Evening relaxing in the lounge or watching seals in the bay

 

 

Day 6 Thursday – Island of Papa Westray (Papay)

Papa Westray post office

  • ferry to Papa Westray
  • walk east side to accommodation (luggage transfer arranged)
  • Knap of Howar Neolithic site
  • St Boniface Kirk
  • Heritage Centre
  • Beach walks
  • Wild food foraging
  • Evening twilight walk to Knap of Howar and West side rocky coastline

You will have plenty of time to relax and explore the island or visiting the Heritage Centre. Optional boat out to Holm of Papay by arrangement.

 

Day 7 Friday – Papa Westray and Kirkwall

St Magnus Cathedral

  • Explore Isle of Papa Westray
  • Browse in the Bothy Museum, the community shop and local crafts
  • St Magnus Cathedral
  • Kirkwall Museum
  • Earl’s Palace
  • Highland Park distillery (optional)
  • Scapa Flow, Italian Chapel (optional)

Arrival in Kirkwall may be delayed up to an hour, if there are cattle of goods to be loaded onto the ferry (by crane. Luckily we walk on board)

Guests may choose to walk more on the coastal path or get a lift to the ferry with your luggage.

Arrive back in Kirkwall, where your bags will be looked after so you have another hour or two to explore Kirkwall (the main town), gather souvenirs or a cup of coffee!

Tour officially ends 17.00 / 5pm but this is flexible.

Post tour accommodation and onward travel

The tour is designed to allow flexibility for means of arrival and departure because, after years of running these tours there is no one preferred route and we wish to encourage guests to explore further and fit the week into other travel plans.

For these reasons, guests should either plan accommodation, in Orkney for the Friday night, or transfer to the airport for flights direct off Orkney that evening, or book a cabin on the Northlink Ferry northbound to Shetland (departs 23.30 and arrives in Lerwick, Shetland 07.00 Saturday morning).

Need advice for post-tour options? Or more detailed information about the itinerary, walks and accommodation? For an information pack, contact us now.

Details

Saturday-Friday

19-25 May 2018

7-13 July 2018*

15-21 September 2018

Start location: Stromness, Orkney

Start time: Saturday 4pm onwards (to fit your travel)

Finish location: Kirkwall, Orkney

Finish time: Friday 5pm, or earlier by arrangement

Price: £795/person (May and September)

or £855 (July)

7 days, 6 nights

single supplement of £90

* cost of July tour higher due to peak season accommodation prices

Price Includes:

  • 6 nights’ accommodation
  • all transport
  • all entry fees
  • professional walking guide
  • craft instruction
  • Orkney local guide

Details

Saturday-Friday

19-25 May 2018

7-13 July 2018*

15-21 September 2018

Start location: Stromness, Orkney

Start time: Saturday 4pm onwards (to fit your travel)

Finish location: Kirkwall, Orkney

Finish time: Friday 5pm, or earlier by arrangement

Price: £795/person (May and September)

or £855 (July)

7 days, 6 nights

single supplement of £90

* cost of July tour higher due to peak season accommodation prices

Price Includes:

  • 6 nights’ accommodation
  • all transport
  • all entry fees
  • professional walking guide
  • craft instruction
  • Orkney local guide