Link Posted 23/02/2014 - 11:46
I am at the early stages of planning a trip to Orkney in early summer. We will be staying in the campervan.

Two questions for a star

1. What is the best what to get there in terms of routes through Scotland and the choice of ferries

2. What are the places, wildlife, sights etc not to miss?



Link Posted 23/02/2014 - 13:25
As for route, straight up the A9 to John O'Groats and then the ferry to South Ronaldsay, it's the shortest ferry route by far. If you fancy a longer ferry trip head west when you get to Wick (7 or 8 miles) for the Gills Bay ferry which takes you round to the top of South Ronaldsay at St. Margrets Hope.


Link Posted 23/02/2014 - 13:38
You can't miss all the prehistoric stuff like Skara Brae and so on. I agree with Steep's choice of ferry. It's worth remembering that Orcadians refer to the big island in the middle of the archipelago as The Mainland and not to be confused with that bigger island further south where we live. The Churchill Barriers are great, scuttled ships to block U-Boat attacks as is the Italian Chapel built in a Nissen hut by Italian POWs.

Wildlife abounds everywhere both alive and... dead on your plate.

A treeless landscape which I know you will love and really worth taking a trip to Hoy
“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson -
Last Edited by gartmore on 23/02/2014 - 13:39


Link Posted 23/02/2014 - 14:13
It really depends on how long you want to take getting there. You can go from Aberdeen - the ferry trip is a lot longer (and more expensive) but easier to get to for you. Straight up the east coast with decent roads all of the way. What you lose is the scenery going this way. If you go for the ferry crossings on the north coast you can go via Inverness either on the A9 via Edinburgh or the A82 via Glasgow. The A9 is the better road - at least as far as Inverness but the A82 is better scenically. The A82 would take you through the pass of Glencoe if you are into wild landscapes. On the island St Magnus Cathedral is a 12th century building worth visiting as are many of the narrow streets around it in Kirkwall. I don't know if they still do it but Loganair used to offer 5 inter-island flights for £179. You could book the Westray to Papa Westray shortest flight in the world at some 58 seconds. Be warned though on some routes they weigh the passengers as well as the bags.


Link Posted 23/02/2014 - 22:48
You might need passport and visa!


Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 02:23
Gamka wrote:
You might need passport and visa!


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Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 13:52
Having done that run quite frequently over the last few years, and as you are in Yorkshire, I would personally go this way......

A1 Scotch corner
A66 Penrith
M6/M74 Glasgow
M73/A9 Stirling
A9 Perth
A9 Thurso/Scrabster
Then on the ferry to Stromness, crossing @90 mins

if you would like some hotels to consider en-route PM me I will let you know of some lovely places to stay and eat.....

It is a long way up there to the extreme north,

possibly 8 hours to Inverness from Scotch corner, and a further 3-4 hours from Inverness to Thurso...

Best regards

A few bits & Bobs
Last Edited by andy_bell on 24/02/2014 - 13:57


Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 20:20
Thanks for the guidance on travel. We've done the Glencoe stretch a few times so I will go the quicker route to get more time on the Orkneys. It looks like a two day journey up the A9 and catch the ferry the next day. We have the campervan so accommodation on the way up is cheap. however, the places to eat would be useful Andy, I will pm you.

Now, with so many islands where is the best place to start? The archaeological sites are must. Which are not to be missed?

Ken you mentioned Hoy - is that for stunning cliffs and rock stacks?

Are there breeding bird sites where photos are possible (a good excuse to buy the 1.4 converter )

Don't you just love the planning

Last Edited by davem on 24/02/2014 - 20:21


Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 21:33
And don't forget a visit to Highland Park Distillery ... the other is Scapa but that is not open to te public.


Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 22:14
andy_bell wrote:
a further 3-4 hours from Inverness to Thurso...

Best regards


2 1/2 hours Inverness to Thurso even at a busy time of day. I do that run regularly and often manage it in 2 hrs 15 driving a van at max 50mph. Unless you are including stops for photography


Link Posted 24/02/2014 - 22:37
Yes Hoy for cliffs and so on, sorry I don't know anything about birds. It's Orkney or the Orkney Islands, never Orkneys

“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson -
Last Edited by gartmore on 24/02/2014 - 22:39


Link Posted 25/02/2014 - 08:34
Try again....

Steep, I reckon you are probably right, unless the A9 is really busy...about 2 1/2 hours...

The ferry from Scrabster actually sails around Hoy so if the weather is good you can get some really nice pictures..

Also worth a trip is the Old Poultney distillery in Wick
Link: http://www.oldpulteney.com/

On the way back, if you have time, go west from Scrabster on the A836 to just west of Dounreay and take the A897 south, this will bring you out on the A9 at Helmsdale, its a single track road with passing places but well worth the aggro for the scenery, will take about 2 - 2 1/2 hours depending on how often you stop to take snaps...

And don't forget the ring of Brodgar and the standing stones at Steness, all wonderful atmospheric places....
A few bits & Bobs


Link Posted 25/02/2014 - 08:37
Also look out for this stone, just on the side of the A9 north of Brora....

Quite sad really...the last Wolf....
A few bits & Bobs


Link Posted 25/02/2014 - 10:05
If you are willing to set off early then I'd recommend the following route -

A1 to Newcastle.

Five miles after crossing the Tyne take the A696 (the signs are for Jedburgh and Newcastle Airport)

Continue on the A696 until it meets the A68 just past Otterburn.

Join the A68 and continue on it until it meets the A720 (the Edinburgh City Bypass).

Turn west on to the A720 and follow it around the south of Edinburgh.

Follow the signs for the Forth Road Bridge, this will involve short sections of the M8, M9 and M90, but the signposting is good.

After crossing the bridge follow the M90. The M90 divides just south of Perth. Take junction 10 (marked Crainlarich, Stirling and Inverness) and follow it to the end of the motorway (about three miles) where it joins the A9.

Join the A9 towards Inverness.

If you are using the Scabster – Stromness ferry then follow the A9 to Thurso; Scabster is only a couple of miles west of Thurso.

If you are using the Gills Bay – St Margaret's Hope ferry, head towards Wick. You'll need to leave the A9 at Latheron (about 20 miles south of Wick) and take the A99. The junction is a little deceptive – the A9 runs straight into the A99 with the A9 going off to the left.

From Wick the A99 can be followed to John O' Groats and then the A836 to Gills Bay, about two miles west of John O' Groats, or more minor roads can be used for a slightly more direct route.

I mentioned an early start because just about all of the road from the A696 to the Edinburgh City Bypass is single carriageway and can get busy.

However, if you want to travel quickly then I'd go with Andy's route; the M74 is a superb motorway.

There are a lot of islands but Orkney is fairly compact. A trip around the mainland, including South Ronaldsay is about 120 miles.

Here is a link to a short guide




Link Posted 25/02/2014 - 11:02
Join the A68 and continue on it until it meets the A720 (the Edinburgh City Bypass).

There is also a short cut you can peel off left just after Carter Bar (Scottish Border, no customs ...Yet!!) onto the A6088, to Bonchester Bridge, then onto Hawick, there you pick up the A7 to Selkirk & Galashiels, thus avoiding Jedburgh, and putting you on the A720 a couple of junctions closer to the bridge, avoiding Sheriff Hall roundabout, which can be a right royal pain.....
There is also a garage on the lights at Gorebridge which does cheap fuel......

Forgot to mention...
If you wish to avoid Glasgow and its motorways, using my first route, you can always come off the M74 at J13 (Abington) and take the A702 north through Biggar, this will take you up to the A720 about 2 exits short of the Forth Bridge,
There is a Garage with cheap fuel just before the A720 there too!!
A few bits & Bobs
Last Edited by andy_bell on 25/02/2014 - 11:06
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