The best of Orkney in a day from Inverness
This trip is available 361 days per year as a private trip

This is the only day-trip to Orkney which visits all the top prehistoric sites - Skara Brae; the rings of Brodgar & Stenness; and Maeshowe - and which gives you sufficient time at each of these antiquities. For our crossing to Orkney we use MV Pentalina, the car ferry service started in 2001 and which takes just over an hour from the mainland to Orkney. During this crossing we see a wide variety of wildlife. Often seals are seen before we leave mainland Scotland and seabirds are seen on all trips.

0600-0615hrs We pick you up at your accommodation in Inverness. Drive north by the coast road to Gills Bay (near John o'Groats), with a breakfast/toilet stop. On our way we pass cliff-top castles, wild moorland scenery and a variety of prehistoric sites inlcuding the broch of Carn Liath and the stone 'circle' - actually more a horseshoe - of Achavanich.
0945/0930: Depart Gills Bay for the scenic 1-hour crossing, taking us under Stroma, Swona and the great gun emplacements which guarded Hoxa Sound during the Second World War.

Day Trips Orkney, North of Scotland Overnight Tours, Private Guided Tours - Go-Orkney, Puffin Express
Swona, where the Pentland Firth meets Scapa Flow. This island, which rarely experiences frost, is at the same latitude as frigid Churchill on Hudson's Bay, haunt of the ice-bear! Swona is now uninhabited, except by seabirds and its famous herd of feral cattle.
Dunnet Head, most northerly point of the Scottish Mainland, can be seen in the background to the right of the cottage.

1115-1120: Arrive at St Margaret's Hope in South Ronaldsay, most southerly of the inhabited islands of Orkney. Drive north over the Churchill Barriers, then proceeding to the major prehistoric monuments of West Mainland:
  • The Rings of Brodgar (see photos below) and Stenness - we spend up to 45 minutes at these two great circles; Prehistoric Tours in the Highlands of Scotland Prehistoric Tours in the Highlands of Scotland
    Left, a general view of part of the Ring of Brodgar, with the Loch of Harray in the background; right, a stone struck by lightning in the 1980s, with the flake split off lying beside the stone
  • Skara Brae, best-preserved stone-age village in Europe. We spend about 1½ hours here; you may spend some of your time in nearby Skaill House, with its account of the discovery of Skara Brae. It is also our lunch stop;
  • Maeshowe is the finest passage grave in the British Isles. We are normally here about 40 minutes;
    Prehistoric Orkney Trips Maeshowe from the air. Beyond, the lochs of Harray and Stenness; the Ring of Brodgar is between these lochs, on a brown knoll almost directly 'above' the mound of Maeshowe. This is the Neolithic heartland of Orkney and only GO-ORKNEY takes you to Maeshowe on a day tour from Inverness.

    Click above for a detailed picture of Viking 'twig' runes inside the tomb

    Pictures by Richard Welsby

  • Kirkwall. Our time here is determined to some extent by our departure time from Maeshowe - the only potential bottleneck on the trip - but we usually have 30-50 minutes. Places to visit include Saint Magnus Cathedral, the Earl's & Bishop's Palaces, and the Orkney Museum.

    1700hrs: Depart St Margaret's Hope, returning to Caithness 1815hrs.
    2100hrs: Return to Inverness.

    The price quoted includes return road and ferry transport from Inverness to Orkney and guided tour within Orkney. Entrance fees to Skara Brae and Maeshowe are not included - both these monuments are in the care of Historic Scotland.
    Meals & snacks are available on board our ferry, and there is a café at Skara Brae.

    Our long experience of Orkney means that, as far as possible, we arrive at the principal sites when there are few other visitors. We can't always promise this; when there's a cruise ship in, even we may meet up with them. But the photos below tell their own story:
    Day Trips Orkney, North of Scotland Overnight Tours, Private Guided Tours - Go-Orkney, Puffin Express Day Trips to Orkney, North of Scotland Overnight Tours and Private Guided Tours from Go-Orkney and Puffin Express
    The left picture is how the bus park at Skara Brae usually looks when we arrive - just our little coach! The right picture shows it as we're leaving - we're nearly always ahead of the crowd!
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