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How To Reach Orkney Islands
Orkney is a group of islands located off the coast of Great Britain in the Northern Isles of Scotland. An archipelago of 70 islands, it is situated around 16 km north of Caithness, with the largest island in the group, referred to as ‘the Mainland’ covering more than 500 square kilometres. Almost two-thirds of these islands are uninhabited but are packed with ancient Stone Age monuments and signs of settlements that have been here for thousands of years. Often overlooked by tourists as one of Europe’s most worthwhile holiday spots, the Orkney Islands have been of tremendous interest to geologists and archaeologists for its rock formations created by the waves, mysterious stone circles and majestic cliffs. Discover this enigmatic part of Scotland and allow yourself to be swept away by the prehistoric treasures on offer here. Here are the topmost convenient ways to reach Orkney.
The airport in Orkney is located on its mainland and is known as Kirkwall Airport and is operated by Highland and Islands Airports. The main airline operated in Kirkwall Airport is Loganair, which provides services to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow on the Scottish mainland. FlyBe is a flight that operates between Aberdeen and Orkney. There are also flights to and from Sumburgh Airport in Shetland. Since there are no direct international flights to Orkney, travellers from overseas can fly to Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow International Airport first and then catch a Loganair flight to Orkney. The flights to Orkney are typically really small planes that carry a handful of passengers. It is advised to fly with minimal luggage.
Apart from flying directly to Orkney, travelling via ferry is the only way to reach this archipelago of islands from the rest of Scotland. The ferry ports can be reached via buses, trains and taxis from all major cities and towns nearby. There are three main ferry operators available to and from Orkney:
- Pentland Ferries for passengers and vehicles. Runs every day – between Gills Bay and Margaret’s Hope on the island South Ronaldsay (takes about an hour)
- NorthLink Ferries – between Lerwick and Kirkwall, onto Shetland (6 hours), Aberdeen and Kirkwall (6 hours), and between Scrabster and Stromness (90 minutes).
- John O’Groats Ferries for passengers only – between John O’Groats and the port in Burwick, South Ronaldsay, followed by a coach transfer to Kirkwall (40 minutes). This service only runs between May to September
Cars can be hired from Orkney Car Rental at the Kirkwall Airport. The roads in Orkney are pretty great for driving around, considering the entire region is part of rural Scotland. You can also catch the local buses to move around the island if driving is not your cup of tea.
13 of Orkney’s islands are connected to each other through inter-island ferry services. Operated by Orkney Ferries, these ferries assist travellers to move among the different islands of this region. Then there’s always the option of choosing inter-island flights, with the world’s shortest flight – at just about 2 minutes long – operated in this very region between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray.