The winter months in Orkney can be wild and invigorating, while the welcome indoors is always warm and inviting.
This is a place where you can adapt to the gentle pace of island life, or blow away those cobwebs in amongst the Orcadian elements.
And if you’re planning a winter weekend in Orkney you definitely won’t be short of things to see and do.
There is nothing quite like an invigorating walk in the islands at this time of year.
From craggy coastline treks to sheltered strolls through our towns and villages, there’s always a route perfect for you. We’d recommend a walk along the coast at Yesnaby to experience the power of the Atlantic Ocean, or the trail at Burwick in South Ronaldsay – perfect for spotting seal pups taking their first swimming lessons.
The stunning stretch of coast between Stromness and Warebeth is well worth seeking out too, with the old flagstone streets of the town offering plenty of warm shops, cafes and pubs to pop into if the weather turns wild.
Remember to always take care if you’re exploring our coastline, no matter the time of year you’re visiting. Paths can be slippy and cliffs can be unstable, so never get too close to the edge. Prepare for all weather eventualities too – four seasons in one day is more reality than myth!
Orkney always offers a warm welcome to visitors, and that includes our feathered friends.
The islands are a hotspot for migrating and wintering birds, with some spectacular species calling the archipelago home over the coming weeks and months. Long-tailed ducks, great northern divers and Slavonian grebes are regular arrivals, and you can expect to see curlews, golden plovers, sanderlings and turnstones too.
Places like Echnaloch Bay in Burray and Hobbister, overlooking Scapa Flow, are ideal locations for birdspotting, and Kirkwall’s Peedie Sea is perfect for ducks of all shapes and sizes. Plus, the town centre is only a short walk away if a warming cup of coffee – or something stronger – is needed.
The Orcadian larder is full of fantastic delights, including the finest gins, beers and whiskies, as well delicious cheese, bread, fudge and so much more.
You’ll find all these incredible products in local shops, but now you can also follow a special foodie trail to meet the talented folk making, baking and brewing across the Orkney mainland.
The Taste of Orkney Food and Drink Trail features ten businesses providing tours, tastings or other visitor experiences – the perfect way to explore island produce at its very best.
The days might be shorter here during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean Orkney shuts down – far from it.
In fact, it can be the perfect time to pay a visit to the islands. Many of our most popular attractions are open and you might even be the only person there. Imagine having Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar or the Standing Stones of Stenness all to yourself? Most of our chambered cairns are open, so you can crawl in and experience the mysteries of Neolithic Orkney first hand. Or take a trip back to the Iron Age at the fascinating Broch of Gurness.
Other popular sites, including Ness Battery, the Orkney Museum, the Stromness Museum and the Pier Arts Centre are all open for business too.
If a holiday in the far north during the winter months isn’t enough of an adventure, you can also plot a course for Orkney’s smaller islands and spend some time in these vibrant communities.
Rousay is home to an incredible array of archaeological sites and is only a short hop from the mainland. Further flung islands like Sanday, Stronsay and Westray all have their own attractions, including incredible beaches and some spectacular stretches of coastline. Our most northerly community, North Ronaldsay, has the tallest land-based lighthouse in the UK as well as its famous flock of seaweed-eating sheep.
And you can also take the ferry to Hoy to explore its high hills and one of Orkney’s most iconic locations, the Old Man of Hoy.
Plan your Orkney adventure
- Getting here
Orkney is closer than you think, with excellent transport links to the rest of the UK and beyond.
You can choose to travel to the islands by ferry or flight from a variety of destinations, with plenty of options available when you’re planning your visit.
There are accommodation options for every type of holiday in Orkney, from fishermen's cottages to stylish guest houses and hotels.
- Late deals
There are often bargains to be had at this time of year.
Take a look at our late availability pages to see if you can make a saving on your ideal holiday accommodation.