• Italian Chapel, Orkney - image by Colin Keldie

Eight favourite things to do in Orkney

We often get asked for our top tips on what to see and do in Orkney and it’s always a difficult question to answer - there are so many options right across the islands.

But we know some of you will be visiting Orkney for the first time over the coming weeks and months, so we’ve put together a guide to just some of our favourite things here that you simply don’t want to miss.

With craggy cliffs, sea stacks, wonderful nature and wildlife, and incredible scenery, there’s nowhere else quite like this stretch of coastline. From Costa Head in the north, all the way to Stromness in the south, this is one of the best places in Orkney to experience the elements.

Explore more than five thousand years of history in our World Heritage Site, including the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, the ancient stone circles at the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, and the fascinating chambered cairn at Maeshowe. You can even visit the sprawling excavations at the Ness of Brodgar too.

Orkney’s larder is full of some of the finest food and drink to be found anywhere, while local cafes and restaurants have menus packed with Orcadian ingredients. You can also get a taste of Orkney in our local shops. Make sure you pay a visit to our producers too, with tours and tastings available on the Taste of Orkney Food & Drink Trail.

It’s not just our food and drink producers that get creative in Orkney. From jewellery to furniture, and pottery to painting, our Creative Trail gives you the chance to see Orkney at its best and meet our makers, as well as an opportunity to take a special hand-crafted souvenir home with you.

The magnificent 12th century St Magnus Cathedral sits in the heart of Kirkwall, with its red sandstone glowing in the summer sunshine. Take a walk around its grounds and head inside to explore Orkney’s Norse heritage.

The islands are a wildlife lover’s paradise with a fantastic array of species to spot. Look out for seals, whales and otters, or take in the abundant birdlife of Orkney’s many nature reserves.

Orkney is made up of around 70 islands, making it the perfect place for an island-hopping adventure. Highlights include a walk to the Old Man of Hoy sea stack in Hoy, the ancient tombs of the island of Rousay (known as the Egypt of the North), the white sandy beaches of Sanday, and the seaweed-eating sheep of Orkney’s most northerly island, North Ronaldsay. Or why not book a seat on the shortest scheduled flight in the world, a 90 second jaunt between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray?

Did you know that Orkney played a vital role in two World Wars? There is a rich wartime heritage to uncover here, including the iconic Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners during WWII. Travel across the wartime era Churchill Barriers, created to protect the naval anchorage of Scapa Flow, or walk the Flotta Trail to see the remains of some fascinating military buildings. The newly refurbished Scapa Flow Museum also offers a fascinating look into Orkney's wartime past.

These are just some of our top tips to get you started. Visit our things to see and do section for more ideas, and take a look at some of our blogs on our Inspiration page.

Orkney.com Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to receive our newsletter and get the latest updates from our beautiful, vibrant islands.
Sign Up Now