- The cacophony of puffins and razorbills on the high western cliffs.
- Stepping back in time in the footsteps of Neolithic man at Skara Brae.
- The roll of seals, porpoise and orcas in the deep turbulent waters.
- The rugged rocky architecture of the spectacular Old Man of Hoy.
- Hiking through a land rich in Viking history and Orcadian hospitality.
Hike to ancient stone age sites and cross the turbulent waters between islands, home to orcas, seals and ship wrecks. Walk to the spectacular rock stack, the Old Man of Hoy where cliffs throng with breeding seabirds. Trails lined with rare wild flowers lead you through a land of ancient brochs and Viking heritage.
With 4 walking days and 5 nights, this self guided walking holiday provides the perfect combination of walking and wildlife viewing. The trip starts with an overnight stay in the sheltered old stone harbour town of Stromness. Form here the ferry takes you to the Island of Hoy, where the Old Man of Hoy resides. A days walk to this 140m high stack allows you to experience the cacophony of a ‘seabird city’. Your base in Stromness is perfect for a coastal walk to 5000 year old Skara Brae, the most important Stone Age village in Northern Europe. The following day takes you inland to the Ring of Brodgar, the largest stone circle in Scotland.
Following a night in the 11th century Viking capital of Kirkwall, the ferry will take you through the wildlife rich waters to the Island of Westray where you will be taken on a guided tour to discover the many natural and historical delights. With a final night in Kirkwall you will have the opportunity to explore the inherent old Norse heritage or drop into the ‘Highland Park Distillery’ for a ‘wee dram’ before you depart.
The Orkney Walking and Wildlife trip features hand-picked overnight accommodation in high quality B&B’s, and hotels. We also include a door to door baggage transfer between Stromness and Kirkwall, guidebook with detailed maps and pre-departure information pack as well as emergency support, should you need it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ReceptionMobile 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.
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.
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 .
- Hand-picked accommodation in B&B’s and small Hotels, in en-suite rooms wherever possible
- Door to door baggage transfer between Stromness and Kirkwall as per itinerary.
- Taxi Transfers as detailed in your itinerary.
- Guided tour of Westray where local resident experts will take you to experience the history, culture and wildlife of this beautiful island.
- A detailed information pack for the group leader including guidebook, local information, detailed travel information and a recommended kit list.
- Transfers as per itinerary: Day 3: Stromness to Skara Brae/Day 4: Stromness to Stenness/Day 4: Stenness to Kirkwall.
- Emergency support from our offices should it be required.
- Travel to the start or from the finish of the trip.
- Lunches, dinners, snacks or drinks.
- Travel Insurance.
- Personal Equipment.
- All ferry and air travel.
- Entrance fees to specific sites and attractions.
- Taxi transfers (apart from transfers as above) or public transport should you need to skip a stage.
- Single room supplement.
- Accommodation upgrades.
- 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.