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Trip created by Rachael Gavan
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Winter is a spectacular and invigorating time to visit Orkney. Moody skies, crashing waves against stoic cliffs and salty gusts carrying the taste of the sea through this ancient landscape. Winter is the perfect time to escape and be recharged by the unbridled power and majesty of nature. Outside the traditional tourist season, you’ll enjoy the company of locals – hardy wildlife and welcoming people. Connect with the landscape and the earliest Orcadians as you journey through time with visits to Neolithic and Bronze-age sites where you’ll learn about the lives that were shaped by the untamed natural elements of these special islands.
On this 4 night/5 day trip you’ll hike each day, breathing the fresh sea air and marvelling at the sweeping views. You’ll spend relaxed evenings in front of a crackling fire with hearty food, good whisky and even some traditional stories and music to warm your soul as well as your toes. Chat with traditional craftspeople, visit the local distillery for a tour and tasting and spend time wandering through the locally-owned craft shops of Kirkwall. The Orkney Isles is one of the best places in the UK to see the Northern Lights so if the sky is clear, we’ll wrap up warmly and head out under the stars to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive “Mirrie Dancers.”
We meet in Inverness and transfer north. Our journey to the Orkney Islands follows the north-east coast of the Highlands and onwards over the Pentland Firth. We reach Orkney this afternoon where we’ll enjoy a short clifftop walk, offering superb views over Scapa Flow, Flotta and Hoy. Continuing to Kirkwall, we’ll visit the Italian Chapel, two Nissan huts converted into a place of worship by prisoners of war. Arriving at our hotel this evening, there is time to settle in before enjoying a welcome dinner to toast the start of your trip. (L, D)
Walk details: 2.7km / 1.75 miles | approx. 1 hour
This morning starts with a visit to the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, discovered in 1850 after a storm cleared away the sand dunes that were covering it. Built 5,000 years ago – long before Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids – Skara Brae is the best-preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe. Setting out from Skara Brae, we’ll head out onto the cliff tops to hike to the impressive Yesnaby Castle sea stack. As we walk, watch the powerful waves roll in from the Atlantic throwing themselves against the rocks as the gulls hang at eye level in thermals that rush up the cliffsides. It’s easy to see how these powerful elements hid an entire village and then revealed it again all those years later. (B, L)
Walk details: 10km/ 6 miles | approx. 4-5 hrs
A short drive along the edge of Scapa Flow takes us to Stromness where we catch the ferry to the Island of Hoy. A beautiful and dramatic walk takes us to the famous Old Man of Hoy sea stack and some of Britain’s highest sea cliffs. Here we watch the seabirds wheeling in the wind and shags drying their outstretched wings. Returning to Rackwick Bay, keep an eye out for hunting hen harriers and the white winter coat of mountain hares. Once back on the main island this afternoon, we head to the heart of Neolithic Orkney to visit a World Heritage Site, the Ring of Brodgar. Placed in the centre of a massive natural cauldron formed by the surrounding hills, the stones have stood firm through sunshine and storms, withstanding the elements for thousands of years. We’ll appreciate quiet moments as we watch the last of the light cast long shadows as the sun sinks below the horizon. (B, L)
Walk details: 10km/ 6 miles | approx. 5 hrs
Today our walk starts at the Gloup, a partially collapsed sea cave, which gets its name from the sound the sea makes as it rushes in and out of the cave. From there, we head north along the coast to Mull Head to watch the restless sea and ever-changing skies. This afternoon we take a tour of the local distillery that uses the Orkney Islands fiercely-Viking heritage as inspiration for their warming spirits. Returning to our hotel, warm up from the whisky and the walk, with time to freshen up before a final dinner tonight. (B, L, D)
Walk details: 9km/ 6 miles | approx. 4 hrs
After breakfast this morning, we’ll spend some time wandering the picturesque streets and quaint shops of Kirkwall as well as visiting St Magnus Cathedral. Heading to the ferry terminal, there will be time for one last quick walk along the beach before returning to Inverness and the mainland via the rugged but spectacular coastal scenery of the northern tip of Scotland. (B, L)
Our accommodation in Orkney is in a 4-star small hotel, close to Scapa Flow and, somewhat temptingly, next to the Highland Park distillery. Accommodation is in twin or double rooms with en-suite bathroom facilities.
For solo travellers: Accommodation is based on sharing a twin room with another solo traveller of the same gender. A limited number of rooms for single occupancy are available on a first come first served basis, subject to a single supplement of £285. Please enquire for availability.
The hotel’s restaurant is popular with locals and has a strong focus on local Orkney produce. Naturally, any special dietary requirements can be catered for and the restaurant is fully licensed offering a selection of Orkney malts and ales.
On this trip, we generally eat dinner as a group however if you would like to make alternative arrangements you are free to do so. Your guide will have an evening off during this trip where they do not eat with the group. They will recommend options for dinner that evening and will help you make any necessary reservations.
|Trip Dates for 2021||Availability||Status||Price||Book|
|19th Feb - 23rd Feb 2021||7 place(s) left||UNCONFIRMED||£995||Book Now|
|5th Mar - 9th Mar 2021||7 place(s) left||UNCONFIRMED||£995||Book Now|
|19th Mar - 23rd Mar 2021||8 place(s) left||UNCONFIRMED||£995||Book Now|
Sometimes it's nice to get family and friends together and travel privately for some quality time. This means you benefit from all the features of the group departure, including hand-picked accommodation and expert local guides and we'll take care of it all. Then you can make your choice of departures dates and we'll get back to you to finalise the details.
Rachael is a true gem and we regularly receive feedback thanking her for designing inspiring itineraries and for being such a pleasure to chat to. In many cases the people Rachael designs tailor-made trips for, actually become friends with and she’s had more than one invite to far off lands as a result. Rachael’s favourite time of the year is winter and she loved putting together this unique winter itinerary that whisks you away to the wild and beautiful landscapes of the Orkney Isles.
- Rachael GavanAsk Rachael a Question
Green Graded Walking Holidays
Green graded walking holidays are suitable for active travellers who are reasonably fit and enjoy moderate hikes. We walk at a comfortable pace and you can expect to be out for 5-6 hours a day. The terrain will be mostly good paths and hill trails but these can still be muddy and rough in places. Some hikes may involve an ascent up to a max of approx 1,500 feet / 450m. Distances will be typically 8-10km but there may be the odd slightly longer day. Daily hike details are available in the itinerary.