- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
During the night, sail out into the waters between the Outer and Inner Hebrides, and in the early morning, reach the town of Kirkwall on the windy Orkney off the mainland of Scotland. Orkney is old Norse for the "seal islands", and, like the other North Atlantic islands, Orkney has a rich Viking story.
Kirkwall is the capital of Orkney. Orkney has a fascinating history and contains one of the highest concentrations of Stone Age remains anywhere in the world, preserved in the islands' softly blowing sand. These sites range from the dramatic stone circle of Brodgar to the touchingly intimate Neolithic houses of Skara Brae, preserved so perfectly they could almost still be inhabited. Unlike the Scottish mainland, Orkney and nearby Shetland were colonized by Norse settlers, and were a part of the Kingdom of Norway until the late 1400s; the islands' language, culture, and architecture are subsequently distinct from the rest of Scotland. Locals are proud of their Nordic heritage, which is evident almost everywhere you go in the city, from the magnificent St Magnus' Cathedral (the founding of which is detailed in bloody sagas; it is also one of the only churches in the world to have its own dungeon), to street names, to the world-renowned Highland Park distillery. More recently, the islands were of huge military importance to the British state, and an entire German fleet lies scuttled at the bottom of Scapa Flow, just outside the city. The barricades between several of the islands were conducted after a daring U-Boat raid in the Second World War; along with the magnificent Italian Chapel (built by prisoners of war) bears testament to the islands' intricate history.
Today, the islands have again reinvented themselves; visitors are warmly welcomed, and the bustling port is littered with equipment and parts devoted to tidal and wind energy, as Orkney seeks to capitalize on its abundant green energy.
For those who participate in the optional excursion: “Highlights of Orkney”:
Depart Kirkwall and head into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. Along the way, pass through rolling gentle landscapes into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney, an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Passing the Standing Stones of Stenness, stop at the 5000-year-old ceremonial circle: the Ring of Brodgar.
You continue to the pretty fishing village of Stromness. After a briefing and orientation enjoy free time to explore the picturesque harbor in Stromness and stroll along the quirky flag-stoned streets. Maybe visit the beautifully refurbished Pier Arts Centre with exhibitions by both local and international artists and relax with a hot beverage in a café or explore the craft shops selling local knitwear, pottery, and artwork.
Finally, you return to the coach and continue your circular route following the coastline of Scapa Flow, a famous British Naval Base in both World Wars.
(The excursion is part of the optional excursion package and not included in the price of the trip).
For guests wishing to stay in Kirkwall, a short walking city tour will be arranged, passing by St. Magnus cathedral as well as the picturesque ruins from Bishop's and Earl's Palace.