Explore the Northern Isles on a week of spectacular easy coastal walking and sightseeing
FoodSome provided. Details below
Difficulty LevelsMultiple options available
1 - 2
Travel with us as far north as Britain gets, to explore the Orkney and Shetland islands of Scotland on a week of walking and exploration. Spectacular coastal walking, ancient sites dating back thousands of years, and a culture that is part Scottish and part Scandinavian, this will really be a week on the edge.
The walks will be easy-moderate, with the aim being to see the sights and enjoy the fantastic surroundings. We’ll build in plenty of time to explore the villages and experience the local history, all alongside a healthy helping of cafes and tea rooms of course!
In a nutshell:
- Explore the Orkney and Shetland islands on a week-long adventure, featuring seven full days out, that include ferry crossings.
- Relax in the remote and welcoming culture of these islands at the edge of Britain alongside a friendly group and your Large Outdoors host and walk leader.
- Experience the ancient sites and history that makes these islands unique, from settlements thousands of years old to viking legends.
- Look out for wildlife, investigate the local pubs and tea rooms, and try the culinary delicacies.
Orkney Dates for 2020
- Saturday 6th – Sunday 14th June 2020
- Saturday 4th – Sunday 12th July 2020
- Saturday 8th – Sunday 16th August 2020
About the Area
Orkney and Shetland
Known as the ‘Northern Isles’, Orkney and Shetland are two groups that in total consist of hundreds of islands, most of which are uninhabited. Lying north-west of Scotland, both island groups have a unique and very different geography. Orkney is more fertile and sustains communities through agriculture. Ancient settlements are dotted over the islands, with the tomb Maes Howe and the village of Skara Brae being the most famous. Shetland is far rockier and more dramatic, relying on fishing and containing further sites of interest, particularly from the Iron Age. Many of the islands have excellent opportunities for walking, including small hills and spectacular coastal scenery. With the chance to spot wildlife from seabirds to whales, and with famous local hospitality and food, the Northern Isles are ideal for exploration.
We’ll meet up in Aberdeen at 3pm on the first day, which will usually be a Saturday. Pick-ups at 3pm will be from the train station. If you are flying then we can meet you at the airport at 2.30pm.
We then head to the ferry, which departs at 5pm, and have a chat about the week to come over dinner on board. Perhaps it’s time for a toast to prepare for the coming adventure!
Day 2 and 3
On these two full days we’ll explore Orkney, with two day walks and then the chance to see the local sights and villages. We’ll consider the day before what we’ll be doing, which will depend on the weather and what the group wants, but some options are:
The Old Man of Hoy: The island of Hoy is the hilliest of the Orkney isles, and is a rough mosaic of hills, and streams that drop straight off the cliffs into the sea. We’ll walk along the coast, admiring the cliffs and climbing to excellent viewpoints. We’ll also walk past the famous sea stack of the Old Man of Hoy.
Skaill to Birsay: Part of the west coast of the mainland of Orkney, we’ll begin the walk at the site of Skara Brae, an ancient settlement that is the most preserved neolithic village in Britain. From here we head north, past Skaill Bay and then along the coast all the way to Birsay Head.
The Ring of Brodgar: The mainland of Orkney boasts some of the most impressive ancient monuments in Britain, and this short walk will take us to several! Starting at Maes Howe, a complete ancient tomb, we’ll walk past the Stones of Stenness between two lakes to reach the mightly Ring of Brodgar, an incredible stone circle that will simply leave you speechless.
Today we’ll be taking the ferry even further north, to Shetland. The ferry leaves at 11.45pm so we’ll still have a day more to explore Orkney, maybe taking the chance to look round the main town and the bay; we’ll make sure we finish a little earlier to give you plenty of time to rest, though of course you’ll have a bed on the ferry! We arrive in Shetland at 07.30am the next day.
Day 5, 6 & 7.
These are our three days to explore Shetland, and there are a huge number of possibilities. Here are some ideas to get you excited about the trip!
Bay of Deepdale: A brilliant coastal walk, we head west to the cliffs that look right out over the North Atlantic. Following the coast past sandy bays and towering cliffs, we’ll walk to the summit of Sandness Hill overlooking the Bay of Deepdale before wandering back inland, creating a circuit. Make sure you watch for seabirds on the cliffs!
Houss Ness: It’s possible to circumnavigate the peninsula of Houss Ness in one walk, and on it you’ll see dozens of other islands, a natural sea arch and the brilliant cliff scenery of Shetland. There’s also the small hill of Ward of Symbister to climb, and even at only 62 metres above sea level it provides breathtaking views of the surrounding bays.
Other options: We always have more options, and your leader will decide on each day what the best plan is. We could always get the ferry to the surrounding islands, and go walking on Yell or Unst. We could visit the best preserved Iron Age broch in the country at Mousa, or even cross the sands to St Ninian’s Isle!
We have one final day on Shetland before the ferry leaves to take us back to Aberdeen at 7pm, arriving at 7am the next day.
We’ll use this day to further explore the islands, perhaps some final visits to ancient sites or a walk along the coast.
Good to know:
We’ll be based out of hostels on both Orkney and Shetland. Two nights’ accommodation will be aboard the ferries. Bedding is provided but please bring a towel.
There are three major ferry journeys during this holiday (all included in the cost). Please see below to see what facilities you have for relaxation on these journeys. All ferries have a restaurant, bar and small shop.
- Aberdeen to Orkney – during the evening and will include a seat.
- Orkney to Shetland – through the night and will include a bed.
- Shetland to Aberdeen – through the night and will include a bed.
Please note meals and drinks on board are not included in the cost of the trip and this includes two breakfasts.
What’s Included / Not Included:
- Large Outdoors host and walk leader with you for the whole trip.
- Ferry to Orkney and Shetland and return.
- Minibus transport for the duration of the trip.
- Breakfasts (except on ferries) and packed lunches.
- 6 nights of hostel-style accommodation (with two nights on ferries).
- Hot drinks at the accommodation.
- Personal walking equipment.
- Evening meals and alcoholic drinks.
- Food and drinks at cafe stops during the trip.
- Travel to Aberdeen.
Getting to Aberdeen:
On Day 1 of the trip we are offering collections from:
Aberdeen Airport at 2.30pm
Aberdeen Train Station at 3pm
On Day 8 we will arrive back in Aberdeen at 7am and can then drop you either at the airport or the train station.
What our members have to say...
Well, for a non-walker it was certainly challenging but my word was it exhilarating! The feeling of achievement after every day, was just fabulous. The group we went with were all strangers on day one, but firm friends by the end of the week. The comradery on some of the tougher walks, helped me to the top…..and wow what views. Anyone thinking of doing it - don’t worry….just go for it!ClaireMember Since 2016
My first Large Outdoors and (Ulster & the Giant's Causeway Walking Weekend) Irish experience was absolutely fantastic. Everything was organised perfectly and Gareth is a joy to be around. I loved every minute and will definitely book myself onto another trip. #toldallmyfriendstheyhavetocomeVanessaMember Since 2018
“I didn’t really know what to expect on my first ever walking holiday and wasn’t very prepared if truth be known – lesson to all read the essential kit list especially waterproofs! It was great fun and what a lovely group of supportive and encouraging people, especially Gareth who did a great job looking after us all. I must admit at times I found it a bit challenging but what a great sense of achievement when we reached the top of the mountains (hills) I will definitely do this again.ElizabethMember Since 2016