Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Orkney Walking & Wildlife self-guided walking holiday
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Highlights

  • Listen to the cacophony of sea birds on the western cliffs.
  • Step back in time and follow in the footsteps of Neolithic man at Skara Brae.
  • Look out for seals, porpoise and orcas rolling in the deep turbulent waters.
  • Marvel at the rugged rocky architecture of the spectacular Old Man of Hoy.
  • Hike through a land rich in Viking history and Orcadian hospitality.

Hike to ancient stone age sites and cross the turbulent waters between the islands of Hoy and Westray, home to orcas, seals and ship wrecks. Walk to the 140 m sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy, where the cliffs throng with seabirds. Trails lined with rare wild flowers lead you through a land of Neolithic architecture and Viking heritage.

Combine walking and wildlife watching with a 5 night stay on the far flung isle of Orkney. Explore the ancient sites of Skara Brae, and Maes Howe and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ring of Brodgar and the nearby Stenness standing stones at 6m tall. Although these man-made structures impress they are perhaps nothing compared to the towering 140 m sea stack of the Old Man of Hoy. Spend 3 nights in the harbour town of Stromness followed by 2 nights in Kirkwall from where you’ll enjoy a guided wildlife and history tour of the nearby Isle of Westray.

Day 1—Arrive Stromness on Orkney

Upon arrival in Orkney, by ferry or plane and make your way to Stromness where you’ll stay for 3 nights. Stromness is a traditional stone built port sheltered by the islands of Outer and Inner Holm. With a history built on whaling and trading the town is a labyrinth of steep winding street well worth exploring. The Stromness Museum has an interesting Victorian natural history gallery and should not be missed.


Overnight: Stromness Hotel, Stromness


Day 2—Walking on the Isle of Hoy

After the short ferry crossing from Stromness harbour to Moness pier on the Isle of Hoy follow the path over heather moorland home to birds such as red grouse, hen harrier and short eared owl. The trail passes the most northerly native wood in Britain before heading out to the coast. The Old Man of Hoy sea stack towers above the waves, and the nearby sea cliffs are filled with seabird colonies including puffins, guillemots, and kittiwakes.


Moness to the Old Man of Hoy: 23.5 km / 14.5 miles


Day 3—Walk from Skara Brae to Stromness

A morning transfer from Stromness takes you to Skara Brae; the best preserved Neolithic site in Northern Europe. Hidden for generations beneath sand dunes the village was discovered in 1850—protected from the elements the level of preservation was so great you can still see the stone furniture today. After exploring the village follow the route south along the cliffs of Yesnasby and their incredible rock formations to return to Stromness, en route keep a look out for the rare Scottish primrose or for seals hauled out on rocks to rest.


Skara Brae to Stromness: 19 km / 12 miles


Day 4—Walk from the Ring of Brodgar to Stenness and transfer to Kirkwall

A morning transfer takes to the ancient Ring of Brodgar stone circle for your starting point for a walk to Stenness. The Ring of Brodgar is beautifully situated between the lochs of Stenness and Harray and at 100m across it’s an impressive site to behold. Just a mile south are the huge 5000 year old Stenness standing stones. Follow the path past the restored Neolithic Barnhouse village and then onto Maes Howe Visitor Centre in Stenness. Visits inside the Maes Howe chambered cairn are only possible by pre-booking a guided tour, and it’s well worth it to see the best example of the Viking runic writings within.  Meet your transfer in the little town of Stenness from where you’ll head to Kirkwall, the island’s capital, for your overnight stay. 


Ring of Brodgar to Stenness: 7.5 km / 4.5 miles


Overnight: Hildeval B&B, Kirkwall


Day 5—Guided tour on the Isle of Westray

An early start is the order of the day with a morning ferry from Kirkwall to the Island of Westray. On the crossing keep a look out for porpoise and seals along with the ubiquitous fishing gulls and terns. Upon arrival you will be collected for a guided tour with local experts who will take you around the island to experience the sights, sounds and solitude of this 'Queen of the Orkney Isles'.  Slow down and take in the history and heritage of this tiny island—Noup Head is a highlight with its huge seabird colonies including; auks, fulmar, shag and skuas. Take the ferry back to Kirkwall for your final night on Orkney.


Day 6—Onward travel

After breakfast the trip is complete, though should you have time it is recommended that you explore the Kirkwall with it’s rich Viking history. Depart Orkney for the mainland via air or sea. 

Accommodation

One of the highlights of this walking holiday is the high standard of the accommodation. We use hand-picked 3 and 4 star properties to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay. All offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food. We do recommend that you book this trip early as the area is always popular and the hotels and inns do fill up early, especially in high season. You will find descriptions, photos and weblinks to a selection of the accommodation below.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

This independent walking holiday is available to solo walkers but as all our holidays are priced per person based on two sharing there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs we incur. If you require single rooms within your party we will of course try to accommodate your request subject to availability.


Meals

Breakfast is included each morning while lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Your accommodation will be more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival, alternatively your guidebook also includes details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants and your info pack will of course have recommendations.


Water

There are several places to buy water however be prepared and remember to re-fill your water bottle at you accommodation before leaving each morning.


Additional Nights

Many of our clients choose to add extra nights and these can be added at the time of booking. Kirkwall is a great place to have an extra night at the end of your walk.



 

 

 




Stromness Hotel - Stromness

The Stromness Hotel is located in the heart of Stromness. Established in 1901 this historic hotel offers very comfortable accommodation and stocks over 100 malt whiskies!


 

 

 


 

 

 




Hildeval B&B - Kirkwall

This well reviewed traditional B&B affords wonderful views of Kirkwall Bay and Orkney's North Isles. The owners will look after you well and make sure you have a comfortable and relaxing stay.


 

 

 

Westray Guided Tour - Availability

We recommend you don't begin your holiday on a Wednesday or Friday as this will coincide with the Westray guided tour falling on a Sunday and a Tuesday respectively (unfortunately these dates aren't possible because of a limited ferry timetable). Please speak to our Destination & Adventure specialists if you have any questions about this.


Time of year

This walking holiday is best enjoyed between early April and mid October. Orkney can be popular during the summer months, so we advise you book as far in advance as you can. Orkney has a cool temperate climate and being an island in the far north experiences changeable weather from sunshine to windy days and rain.


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

This route is largely not waymarked so you should be able to read a map and follow route descriptions closely. We supply detailed maps, route notes and GPS tracks via our Macs Adventure smartphone app so you shouldn’t have any problem finding your way. The trip is graded moderate with the exception of the Ring of Brodgar to Stenness walk which is an easy going route at only 7.5 km / 4.5 miles.


Phone Reception

Mobile phone signal reception varies depending on network provider throughout the route with sections where reception is unavailable.

Experience & Fitness

As all the walks are self-guided you will be responsible for navigation, decision–making and safety during your trip. The walks are graded between easy to moderate—they are not strenuous and although there may be some uphill and steeper sections, these are not particularly challenging. This trip is graded Moderate. The routes follow footpaths, bridleways, coastal trails, cliff top walks, open fields and some minor roads. And may involve some relatively steep ascent and descents. The longest day is 23.5 km / 14.5 miles in length.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascent / descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and trousers), sunglasses, and sun screen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer.

Getting to / from Orkney

Loganair operate direct flights to Kirkwall from Glasgow (1hr 15m), Edinburgh (1hr 15m), Aberdeen (50m), Inverness (45m), which all have good UK/International connections.


The Northlink ferry company operates services between Aberdeen and Kirkwall (6hrs) and between Scrabster and Stromness (1.5hrs).


Inter Island Travel on Orkney

By Air:  Loganair operates regular services between the Orkney Islands.


By Ferry:  Northlink ferries operate services between the Islands though it is important to note days of operation.


By Bus: Bus services are operated by Stagecoach Orkney .


 


Included

  • 5 Nights in hand-picked accommodation
  • 5 Breakfasts
  • Detailed trip documents, GPS tracks, and maps on the Macs Adventure smartphone app
  • Taxi and baggage transfers (as per itinerary on days 3 and 4)
  • Guided tour of the Isle of Westray
  • 24/7 Emergency telephone support from our office should you need it

Excluded

  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Ferry/air travel to and from Orkney
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Personal equipment
  • The return ferries to Hoy (day 2) or Westray (day 5)
  • Entrance fees to specific sites and attractions
  • Taxi transfers not included in the itinerary
  • Public transport

Extras

  • Single room supplement
  • Additional nights pre and post tour

Planning a trip on the Orkney Walking and Wildlife tour can be daunting, especially if this is your first long distance walking holiday. We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful.

How fit do I need to be?

The Orkney Walking and Wildlife itinerary is classed as moderate walking so if you are a regular walker or lead and active lifestyle you'll enjoy the walk. If you currently don’t enjoy an active lifestyle we suggest regular walking in hilly terrain for at least 6 months prior to your walk. A good gym or personal trainer will be able to draw up a personalised training programme.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the Orkney Walking and Wildlife trip is popular especially over April/May and July/August. You will find up to date availability on our website and we will always try and accommodate your plans.

What personal equipment do I need?

Do not forget binoculars for wildlife spotting! Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes and a day pack.

When is the best time of year?

Traditionally April/May has always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better. Although any time between April and October offers a wonderful experience. Be aware that certain distilleries on Orkney may be closed at weekends especially early or late in the season. We suggest that for any specific distillery visits you research beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Am I able to take my dog?

Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets.

What happens if I can’t walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop. Just give us a call at Macs HQ and we can help you.

yes

4

well organized, everything worked like clockwork.

Iris

australia

true

An "out of my world" trip!

5

A yet to be spoilt area of the British Isles where the locals are still managing to smile for the steady ( and sometimes less steady) trickle of tourists passing through. A region in a bygone age where nature is allowed its relevance and value. Humbling and refreshing.

Perpetual Student

London

true

Fantastic trip

4

The trip was well made rganised and the excursion to the smaller islands was a highlight. The details were clear and the hole thing ran really well. A great trip.

Headman

Cambridge

true

Awesome adventure

5

First time to do a walking tour. I will definitely do it again.

Clif the adventurer

Yukon, Canada

true

Westray tour is a real highlight.

5

The Westray tour was a real highlight of the trip - excellent.

Wayne

Abergavenny

Great way to see Orkney

4

My wife and I went took this tour in early April and loved it. We wound up not doing the Hoy walk due to rough weather. The West Coast Trail walk can be ambitious if you want to take time to see Skara Brae (which I'd recommend) or weather turns rough. Orkney often has heavy winds that should be considered when judging the walks. We particularly loved the day near Stenness and worked a visit to Maeshowe in. We would have enjoyed more time on Westray (ferry schedules allow later returns in high summer but not spring). The hotels and transfers arranged by Macs were straightforward and it was easy to work with Macs and the providers to adjust anything that was needed. Macs' itinerary and arrangements made possible a very special trip that we would not have had time to research and organize for ourselves. We would do this or another walking tour with them again.

Grant

Washington, DC

true

This was a great trip and ver well organized.

5

Include information on what birds are generally out when. I would have liked more walking on Westray. Travellers should be warned to check on scheduled of cruises landing in Kirkwall and Stromness.

Amanda

Virginia

Awesome archaeology

3

Lets get the negatives out the way... Some poor information supplied such as details of the Hoy Hopper bus service (it hasn't run in 5 years according to locals) or where the ferry terminal was in relationship to the first accommodation. You could pretty easily put this tour together yourself - having used Macs three or four times I was left wondering why I was paying for this one. WiFi was patchy. It was wet underfoot and I'd definitely recommend taking waterproof boots or wellies to others. Positives included some good days out - brilliant archeological sites with a mix of walking and some nature around the coast too. You pretty much get to see what you want of Orkney mainland. The Westray tour was excellent. Great organised taxi service.

Long time walkers

London

false

Magical Orkney!

5

It's easy to travel solo with Macs in beautiful Orkney!

Vicky

Duxbury MA USA

true

A wonderful holiday

5

We had a wonderful five days on the Orkney Isles. This is billed as a walking holiday, but in fact it's somewhat different. The first two days were indeed long lovely walks - about 20 km each (though you could do less on the first day if you wanted). But day 3 was less - about 7km but it included a lot of historical sites (standing stones and an archaeological dig) together with time to explore Kirkwall ... and day 4 was a guided tour of Westray - we were a bit unsure about this as we came to walk, but in fact it was the best day of the holiday - it was brilliant!!! So for me, this holiday is ideal if you want a mix of long walks and interesting visits, and if you want to leave with a real feeling that you've really "done" the Orkney Isles in a relatively short period of time. Thanks to Mac Adventures for a wonderful trip.

Andy F

Brussels

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Orkney: Walking & Wildlife

4.6 16

92.9

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