15 Day Northern Isles of Scotland
May 16th - June 1st, 2025
On this tour we spend one week each in two of our favourite places on earth! We both have Orkney ancestry and when we are here, we are home! We would love to find some Shetland ancestry because we feel just at home there as we do in Orkney. How could it be any better than spending one week in each location? Join us for an unforgettable journey that you will treasure always.
Shannon and Mario
Nothing captures the Romantic wonder of Scotland more than the Highlands and Islands. If you have never experienced the Isles of Scotland, I cannot do them justice in just a few words! We have been including the Orkneys into our Highlands and Islands tours for several years and Shetland for about the last five years, even so, we can never get enough of them! So putting together a tour that includes one week on each set of Islands seemed like the next natural progression to allow you to get the most of your North Isles Scottish experience.
Our Islands tours are ever changing as ferry crossings may be delayed or cancelled or venues change times or dates. We try to keep to the itinerary exactly as it is, but sometimes things out of our control happen. We will have many wildlife adventure on this tour, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee the sighting of any listed wildlife. You must be able to easily go with the flow on this tour because changes can happen. Although we provide the very best level of accommodation available, we are sometimes limited for choice when we are out in the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands. Even so, the two accommodations we have chosen for our islands adventure are indicative of what you will find on Orkney and Shetland and as far as we are concerned, the very best choices available.
Our Shetland accommodation is at Busta House Hotel on the shore of sheltered Busta Voe on mainland Shetland. The earliest part of the house was built in 1588 and then extended in 1748 and it has quite a history! If you have ever watched the Shetland TV Series you will recognize parts of the house. You can watch the sun set on the sea as you enjoy specially prepared Shetland lamb and seafood in the understated elegance of the Pitcairn Room restaurant. The unfussy cooking features good quality basic ingredients which include Scallops from Busta Voe and Locally Sourced Haddock or Plaice. We would not stay anywhere else on Shetland and once you experience its rich history, beautiful settings and warm hospitality we think you’ll agree!
Our Orkney accommodation is at Lynnfield Hotel just on the outskirts of Kirkwall. This small country-house hotel looks northwards over Orkney’s capital, to Kirkwall Bay and the north isles beyond. It offers beautifully furnished accommodation, with each room being unique. They are also renowned for the exceptional food which is presented from their restaurant, perfect for a special meal whilst looking over the Orkney countryside. All of the hotels bedrooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, furnished with antique beds and complemented by very modern en-suites. You won’t find better accommodation throughout Kirkwall, or indeed the whole of Orkney!
Tour price includes 15 nights of accommodation including overnight ferry. Full Scottish breakfast each morning, 12 dinners and 13 lunches, porterage of one suitcase per person, minibus travel including tour guide, knowledgeable guide for all tourist venues, all sightseeing as indicated in itinerary including any entrance fees and all taxes and service charges.
$10,995 per person.
$1495 single supplement.
$1000 per person deposit to reserve.
Pre Tour - May 15th - Arrive into Edinburgh International Airport and spend the day getting rested up at our airport accommodation before the tour starts the following morning.
Day 1 - May 16th - We will meet this morning at our Edinburgh Airport Accommodation and begin our journey north to Aberdeen. We will take the spectacular eastern coast of Scotland with a few stops along the way. Our first stop will be Arbroath and Arbroath Abbey, founded by William the Lion in 1178, in memory of martyr Thomas Becket. Here we explore the origins of the most famous document in Scottish history – the Declaration of Arbroath. Scotland’s nobles swore their independence from England in this letter to the Pope, sent from Arbroath Abbey in 1320. The abbey remained one of the nation’s grandest monasteries for almost 400 years and much later, the Stone of Destiny had a starring role in Arbroath Abbey’s story. We will have Afternoon Tea along the way before making our way to the ferry terminal in Aberdeen to prepare to board our Overnight Ferry up the North Sea to Shetland. As soon as we are settled into our cabins on the ferry we will gather for a Welcoming Drink before you find some dinner onboard. Overnight at Sea. (B,L)
Day 2 - May 17th - This morning we arrive into Lerwick, Shetland, a natural world where wildlife is truly wild and where you can watch otters and seals at play and where the air is filled with the sound of seabirds crowding extraordinary cliffs in huge, noisy colonies. We will make our way out of Lerwick to Eshaness and the Eshaness Lighthouse in the area of Northmavine. Eshaness boasts one of the highest energy coastlines in the world. Blasted by the full force of the North Atlantic it displays a stunning array of stacks, blowholes and geos (narrow inlets). The area of Northmavine boasts a wonderful range of wildlife and habitats. Seals, Otters, Porpoises and occasionally Dolphins and Whales can be seen from the shore. Inland expanses of peat and heather are home to Mountain Hares, Rabbits, Polecats and a multitude of birds, including the elegant Red-throated Diver which can be seen on many lochs. The lighthouse, which is visible for miles, is perched on the rim of fabulous volcanic cliffs where the full Atlantic fury has shaped some of Shetland's most dramatic cliff scenery. You can walk along to the head of Calder's Geo, where the sea has gouged out a deep inlet along a line of weakness in the rock. Fulmars float on air currents above the surging waves and nest among the crannies of the vertical rock faces, which are transformed into hanging gardens. We then get settled into our home for the week before we meet up for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 3 - May 18th - This morning we take in the multi-period Jarlshof Prehistoric Norse Settlement. Jarlshof lies at the most southernly tip of Mainland Shetland and provides an insight into the way of life of the inhabitants at particularly interesting periods – the late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish Era, Norse Era and the Middle Ages. It includes oval- shaped Bronze Age houses, Iron Age Broch and Wheelhouses, Viking Long Houses, Medieval Farmstead and a 16th Century Laird’s House. Next we make our way to Sumburgh Head, one of the most accessible Seabird Colonies in Britain and is a well-established RSPB Nature Reserve. The cliffs surrounding the site are teeming with seabirds throughout the summer, including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. On our way to Lerwick, the largest town in the Shetlands we will visit the The Croft House Museum, a mid- nineteenth century Shetland Croft, which was lived in until the late 60’s. A typical family unit included grandparents, parents and children. The sea, not the land, was the main provider and the crofter was a fisherman, seaman or whaler. His wife and family worked the land in his absence. You will then have some free time to wander around Lerwick before we return home for dinner. Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - May 19th - This morning after breakfast we grab our to go lunch bags from the hotel and then make our way to the very most Northerly Point in the Shetlands on the Island of Unst. Our journey will take us north on Mainland Shetland to Toft where we board a wee ferry to cross the Island of Yell. We will stop at the Shetland Gallery on Yell before traveling further northward to the top of yell to Gutcher where we board a wee ferry for the crossing to Unst. We will explore the wilds of the Shetlands and drive to the most northerly point of Unst where we can look out to Out Stack, and uninhabited island that is the last land mass before the North Pole! While here we will have our Picnic Lunch while we gaze upon the most Northerly House in the whole of the UK and then you can stand at the point where the Oceanic Crust meets with the Continental Crust. While here, We will visit the most Northerly Village as well as the most Northerly Church. After a lovely days outing of exploring and amazing photo ops we make our way to our where to Lerwick and the harbour which is an excellent location to seal watch before you find some dinner on your own. Overnight Shetland. (B,L)
Day 5 - May 20th - This morning we make our way back to Lerwick where we join a Seabirds-and-Seals Three Hour Boat Trip around Bressay and Noss National Nature Reserve, where you will get to enjoy more of Shetland's Abundant Seabirds and Seals. The views are awesome, giving us photographic opportunities with the awesome Noss Cliffs in the background. You won't believe how close they'll take us to the 25,000 Gannets, Thousands of Guillemots and Hundreds of Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Gulls, Shags and Skuas! You sometimes even meet Porpoises and occasionally Whales, Otters and Dolphins! We’ll sail through the magnificent rock of the Giant’s Leg and then into the beautiful Orkneyman’s Cave. Once back in Lerwick we will stop for lunch and then visit the Shetland Museum and Archives which sits on the restored Historic Hay's Dock providing a gateway from which to explore Shetland's rich heritage and culture. The ground floor concentrates on the history of Shetland up till 1800, from environmental, geological, and geographical factors, early settlers in the islands, through early agriculture, fishing, early boats, and the rich folklore of Shetland with exhibits from the last 200 years. We then return home before dinner. Dinner and Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 6 - May 21st - This morning we take a full day journey with Shetland Sea Adventure to the Island of Foula, full of wildlife and beautiful landscapes. A trip you would be hard pressed to match on one of Britain’s most remote inhabited islands. The passage to and from Foula passes through some of the best whale spotting waters in the UK. The island is home to Da Kame, the second highest sheer cliff in Britain and also Soberlie towering over one of the most remote inhabited communities in Britain. Lying 20 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean west of the Shetland mainland, Foula is also home to Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Fulmars, Arctic Skuas, and one of the largest colonies of Bonxies (great Skuas) in the world, along with around 30 people and lots of sheep and ponies! We will bring along a packed lunch to enjoy on Foula which as well as seabirds and cetaceans, Foula’s coastal and cliff scenery – including Gaada Stack and Da Sneck ida Smaalie offering big skies, wild flowers, and moorland and migrant birds making the perfect opportunity to enjoy a peaceful ‘away from it all’ experience. We will stop for dinner along the way before returning home. Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - May 22nd - Today will be a lovely day starting out with an outdoor pursuit with the Shetland Pony Experience. No visit to Shetland is complete without getting up close and personal with some more friendly Shetland ponies. The experience is very hands on and includes plenty of picture perfect photo opportunities while you lead the ponies through the idyllic, picturesque, rugged coastal fields to a secluded beach. We then make our way to Scalloway, once the ancient capital of Shetland. We will stop at “The Scord”, one of the most iconic and breathtaking views that Shetland has to offer, with harbour, castle, bridge and the scattering of smaller isles in the harbour approaches, only the larger of which are occupied. Then you can explore Scalloway and find some lunch on your own before we visit Scalloway Castle. The castle was the home of Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney and Shetland. ‘Black Patie’, as he became known in Shetland, was notorious for his oppression of the Shetland people. He was accused of using forced labour in Scalloway’s construction in 1599, and was eventually executed in Edinburgh in 1615. The castle itself stands as a sophisticated and impressive example of a late 1500s tower house. One of only two castles constructed in Shetland, for many it stands as a symbol of Earl Patrick’s harsh rule. Dinner and Overnight Shetland. (B,D)
Day 8 - May 23rd - We start our morning with a short ferry ride across to explore the enchanting Island of Moussa. With its magnificent Iron Age broch and wonderful wildlife this really is the perfect place for visitors to experience the essential nature of Shetland. Mousa Broch is the best preserved Iron Age tower in existence, where the visitor can still climb the staircase to marvel at the commanding view and workmanship of this 2000 year-old building. The broch is truly legendary featuring in a couple of the old Norse Sagas as a place of captivity and hiding, and in comparatively more recent times as the secret store for smugglers. We next visit Clickimin Broch on the shore of Clickimin Loch, an outstanding example of a sophisticated type of stone-built round house found only in Scotland. The broch has evidence of a settlement spanning over a thousand years. We then stop back in Lerwick where you will have time for another trip around Lerwick for some last minute shopping, visit the fudge shop or chocolate shop or just linger for awhile on the harbour to enjoy your last few moments on Shetland before we board our ferry for an evening excursion to Kirkwall on Orkney. You can find dinner onboard once we get settled in. Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B,L)
Day 9 - May 24th - After our late night journey this morning will wake up in Orkney’s Vibrant Capital of Kirkwall, a Viking Town at heart, with a skyline dominated by the magnificent 12th century Norse Cathedral of St Magnus. You can have breakfast at your at the leisure and as we are half way through the tour, the rest of the day will be entirely at your leisure as well. There is any number of things you can do nearby or you may just want to have a down day. You can visit Highland Park Distillery for a Distillery Tour. The distillery is almost next door to our accommodation and here you will find whisky that is made with the same enduring belief and integrity, to the same exacting standards, as it has been since 1798. You will also want to spend some time in Kirkwall, the largest city on the islands. From anywhere in Kirkwall you will St. Magnus Cathedral. Begun in 1137 this cathedral built from alternating bands of local red and yellow sandstone is one of the finest and best preserved medieval cathedrals in Scotland. We will be taking in the cathedral late on in the tour so you can explore more of Kirkwall this afternoon. The town officially has Scotland's Most Beautiful High Street full of wonderful shops and interesting streets. Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B)
Day 10 - May 25th - We make our way west this morning to Skara Brae, a neolithic village dating from 2,500 BC which has been hidden under sand dunes, perfectly preserved, for thousands of years and was only rediscovered 150 years ago. We will also visit the Broch of Gurness, one of the most outstanding surviving examples of a later prehistoric settlement that is unique to northern Scotland. The Vikings who settled in Orkney from around 800 often used the mounds of earlier settlement sites as burial places, and this was the case at Gurness. Next is the Ring of Brodgar, a stone ring built in a true circle originally containing 60 megaliths. Next we visit Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe. Built before 2700 BC, it was raided by the Vikings in the mid-12th century and plundered of its 'treasures'. Maeshowe is interesting because of the various runic inscriptions carved into the walls. This is one of the best known collections and includes the Maeshowe Dragon - a very well known Orkney icon. Finally we visit the Standing Stones of Stenness dating from 3,100BC making the stones complex one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. We then make our way back to our accommodation for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B,D)
Day 11 - May 26th - After a late breakfast we make our way to Stromness, Orkney's Second Largest Town and an architectural gem. It is known as an inspiration for artists and writers, and a firm favourite with visitors. This famous seaport that has remained unchanged in centuries, retaining its original maritime charm with narrow winding streets, terraces of houses and steep passageways all leading to its iconic waterfront and harbour. Some of Orkney’s Best Crafts, Textiles and Jewellery can be found in the delightful independent shops to be discovered around every corner, while in local galleries and the Five-star Pier Arts Centre the work of artists and sculptors from Orkney and beyond takes centre stage. After some exploration we will meet up for lunch. Following lunch we make our way back to Kirkwall with a stop at one of Orkney's Most Popular Beaches, Scapa. With views out into Scapa Flow, the beach is a brilliant place to be on a bright afternoon with the sun casting its colours over the sky. There is an excellent walk along the cliffs at the west side of the beach taking you past the Scapa Distillery, a waterfall and plenty of seabirds, en-route to a small sandy bay. Then out to dinner before we join Peatfire Tales, a unique Island Evening of Storytelling. Dinner and Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B,L,D)
Day 12 - May 27th - This morning we will visit St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and have their Upper Levels Tour where they unlock the secrets of one of Orkney's Most Beautiful Buildings. We will walk up the narrow, spiral, stone staircases of this stunning sandstone cathedral. You will see galleries and collections of artefacts, the clock mechanism, the huge bells and the base of the spire, before getting the chance to take in a bird’s eye view of Kirkwall too. You will then have some free time in Kirkwall before we stop for lunch. After lunch we will take in the ruins of the Bishop's and Earl's Palaces. The medieval Bishop’s Palace was built around the same time as St Magnus Cathedral, in the early 1100s. The builder may well have been Bishop William the Old, crusader and friend of Earl Rognvald, St Magnus’s nephew and patron of the new cathedral. Across the road you'll find the Earl's Palace, which was constructed around 1606 by Patrick, Earl of Orkney - one of Orkney's most notorious rulers. His Renaissance palace was built to impress and featured a first-floor hall with elaborate staircase, inner, outer and guest chambers and accommodation for staff. Huge fireplaces dominated the main hall. Dinner and Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B,L,D)
Day 13 - May 28th - This morning we will take the short journey to the Isle of Hoy. Synonymous with the world famous sea stack the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney's second largest island rises dramatically from the sea. With mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, you will encounter a dramatic highland landscape. Hoy is unlike anywhere else in Orkney. Once on Hoy we visit Dwarfie Stane, a huge block of sandstone in which a Neolithic Burial Chamber has been cut. It is believed to date from around 3000 BC and the tomb was formerly sealed by the blocking stone which now lies in front of the entrance. Hoy is also famous for its birdlife, including the Much Loved Puffin! We will have a Packed Lunch Picnic before we visit Hackness Martello Tower and Battery, part of the extensive military remains on the island. The tower and battery were built in the early 19th century to provide defence for British convoys at the height of the Napoleonic War. Barrack room furniture and other military memorabilia give an idea of life at the barracks and you can stand on the tower and take in the view towards Scapa Flow. Then back to the mainland and to our accommodation for dinner. Overnight Kirkwall, Orkney. (B,L,D)
Day 14 - May 29th - This morning to take the early ferry back across to the mainland at Gills Bay. We will make a stop at John O'Groats before continuing south toward Inverness. John O'Groats in know for its iconic 'End of the Road' location as many people journey here by hiking, bicycling, motorcycling or driving from Lands End in Cornwall. They are the two farthest points in the UK connected by road. I like it best for the ice cream here! From here we take the spectacular east coast drive of Northern Scotland down through Wick, Dunbeath, Helmsdale and then to Brora and the Royal Marine Hotel where we will stop for Afternoon Tea. Our drive continues with a stop near Invergordon at the Storehouse. This Fantastically Stocked Farm Shop is inspired by the love of farming and of great food! Specially selected products from near and far make this a must stop destination for gourmet treats. The Gorgeous Little Gift Shop is packed with beautiful gifts and lovely pieces for your home and wonderful things for any last minute purchases! Our southern drive then continues through Dingwall, Beauly, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and to near Invergarry where we stop for the night. Dinner and Overnight near Invergarry. (B,L,D)
Day 15 - May 30th - This morning we continue our southward drive to eventually end up near Edinburgh where we started this amazing adventure! More spectacular scenery abounds as we make our way through the Cairngorms National Park to the lovely wee town of Pitlochry, situated in the heart of the stunning scenery of Highland Perthshire. The name comes from the Gaelic 'Pit Cloich Aire', meaning 'Place of the Sentinel Stone' and it was originally a Pictish Settlement. It gained fame during the Victorian Era when Queen Victoria called it 'the Loveliest Spa Town in all of Europe!' We are sure you will agree with this assessment and so we will take some time to enjoy this lovely spot before meeting for Afternoon Tea on the main street. Pitlochry is home to the Heather Gems Factory and Showroom as well as many lovely shops that line the very charming High Street of this delightful Highland village. You will have some time for exploration and also a bit of shopping before continuing on to our accommodation in Edinburgh and dinner on your own. Overnight Edinburgh. (B,L)
Day 16 - May31st - We return you to Edinburgh International for your flight home.