Absolute Orkney & Shetland Independent Holiday

An 11 Day Independent Holiday departing on Thursdays from Aberdeen.

For 2021, this holiday will be available from Thursday 15th April onwards.
The last date it will be possible to begin this holiday will be Thursday 26th August.

Holiday Highlights:

  • Orkney’s Magnificent World Heritage
  • Shetland’s Remarkable Archaeology and World-Class Wildlife
  • World-Famous Shetland Ponies
  • Warm Island Hospitality
  • Breath-taking Landscapes & Coastal Panoramas
  • Discover Twelve Magical Isles
  • Cruise the North Sea
  • Uncover the Ancient Ties that Bind these Islands of Contrast

More detailed information on each day of this holiday can be found in the expandable tabs below.

Travel to Orkney on-board a cruise ferry and check into your comfortable accommodation for five nights.

Board the morning ferry and sail across Eynhallow Sound to the mysterious Island of Rousay, known as the “Egypt of the North”.

Upon arrival, receive a warm welcome from your driver-guide who will introduce you to the island’s archaeological treasures, including Taversoe Tuick, a rare two-storey chambered tomb dating back to the Stone Age. For those physically able to, tours are made of Midhowe stalled cairn or the “Great Ship of Death”*, the largest known tomb of its kind; and Midhowe Broch*, the remains of a fortified tower dating from 2nd century BC.
* Please note that there is an approximately 1/4 mile descent to/ascent from these sites. Appropriate footwear is required and this excursion is not suitable for guests with reduced mobility. A suitable alternative will be provided if necessary.

Finish the day with a visit to the seal colony at Saviskaill Bay as well as Trumland House's lovely Victorian gardens which have been restored as part of the ongoing renovation of the historic estate.

Meet your Orkney driver-guide again for your discovery of the delights of Orkney’s South Isles and East Mainland. Begin with a leisurely drive through the scenic landscape of the East Mainland to Mull Head nature reserve and enjoy a walk to the Gloup, a fascinating sea cave, then perhaps along the grassy cliff top to view the Brough of Deerness and the dramatic coastal scenery and sea birds.

Travel along historic Scapa Flow, one of the largest natural harbours in the world and the British Navy’s main base during World War I and World War II. Cross the first of the four Churchill Barriers, a series of causeways linking five Orkney Islands together, to the tiny island of Lambholm where you visit the exquisite Italian Chapel. Built by Italian prisoners during World War II, it stands today as a symbol of peace and is one of Orkney's most beloved treasures.

Then, stop in at the Orkney Wine Company and sample their delicious wines made from traditional Scottish recipes with fruit, flowers and vegetables, many of which are grown locally. Continue across the remaining three Churchill Barriers, flanked by the wrecks of the World War I merchant block-ships, to the picturesque village of St Margaret's Hope on the Island of South Ronaldsay. Take time to visit the Smiddy Museum and discover the village blacksmith's role in rural communities or to find stunning local arts and crafts at the Workshop & Loft Gallery. Visit Honeysgeo for possible views of the seals in the bay or on the beach before returning to Kirkwall.

Meet your driver-guide and depart on your journey through the rich archaeological landscape of Orkney’s West Mainland.

Travel along historic Scapa Flow again and then step off the beaten path at Unstan Tomb, a unique Neolithic hybrid cairn incorporating both a burial chamber and stalls. Allow your imagination to soar as you are transported 5,000 years back in time by your guide.

Continue with visits to the remarkable World Heritage sites of Orkney’s Neolithic Heartland including Maeshowe (a Neolithic chambered tomb considered one of the finest architectural achievements of prehistoric Europe) the imposing Standing Stones of Stenness (one of the earliest stone circles in Britain, dating back to 3,000 BC) the ceremonial Ring of Brodgar (a magnificent circle of originally more than sixty stones erected over 4,500 years ago) and Skara Brae (truly awe-inspiring and the best-preserved prehistoric village in northern Europe).

For your evening meal, we will reserve a table at a delightful restaurant where you will have the opportunity to sample a true Taste of Orkney. Enjoy our delicious local cuisine, including Orkney’s renowned cheese, beef, lamb, fish and seafood as well as fresh produce, delectable ice cream, and award-winning whisky.

Board the morning ferry departing Kirkwall for its journey along the old Viking sea route to the North Isle of Westray. Receive a warm welcome from your driver-guide upon arrival and take a break for refreshments before departing on your leisurely exploration of the Queen o’ the Orkney Isles.

Enjoy breath-taking seascapes at Noup Head R.S.P.B. nature reserve where the dramatic cliffs, teeming with breeding seabirds, extend for five miles. This reserve is home to Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Also discover Noup Head Lighthouse, constructed by David A. Stevenson in 1898 to warn ships off the North Shoal.

Next, stop at the fascinating 16th century Noltland Castle, built by Gilbert Balfour who was appointed Sheriff of Orkney by Mary Queen of Scots. Continue on to Aikerness Craigs, a brilliant location to capture photos of the spectacular cliff scenery and to find the rare Primula Scotica in May and July. Finish your day at the ruined St. Mary's Church, one of the two remaining Middle Ages kirks on the island; and finally Quoygrew, a multi-period rural settlement spanning the Norse, medieval and post-medieval ages.

Enjoy a day at leisure.

Suggestion: Visit historic Stromness, Orkney’s second main town. Stroll the flagstone street of this charming seaside town and stop in at the Pier Arts Centre, home to a remarkable collection of 20th Century British art. Continue along to the Stromness Museum which provides visitors with vivid display of the island's maritime heritage and natural history, and browse the unique local shops along the way.

Later, transfer to the ferry terminal in Kirkwall and embark on the overnight sailing to Lerwick, Shetland. Check into your comfortable cabin for the journey.

Meet your new Shetland driver-guide and depart for Sandwick where you will embark on a short cruise across Mousa Sound to the Mousa R.S.P.B. Nature Reserve. During the crossing, you may spot otters and porpoises or even a killer whale hunting seals. Then, explore this wild island teeming with spectacular wildlife, including Common and Grey Seals, Arctic Terns, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas and more than 6,000 breeding pairs of Storm Petrels.

Mousa is also home to the world famous Mousa Broch, described as the finest surviving example of a 2,000 year old Iron Age tower. Ascend this magnificent structure’s internal stairway to the open walkway at the top and marvel at the stunning panoramic views. Also visit the fascinating Clickimin Broch on the Shetland Mainland, which comprises a broch tower and secondary buildings dating back to the Iron Age, as well as Shetland’s ancient capital at Scalloway and its 17th century Castle.

Return to the Lerwick in the late afternoon and check into your comfortable accommodation for three nights.

Meet your driver-guide again for your discovery of Northmavine, arguably the wildest and most beautiful parish in Shetland. Travel through the picturesque village of Voe then cross Shetland’s narrowest point Mavis Grind, which separates the North Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.

Marvel at the superb views across Ronas Voe, a narrow fjord cutting deep into North Mainland, to the red granite cliffs and Shetland’s highest summit at Ronas Hill. Stop for photos of Da Drongs, dramatic stacks in St Magnus Bay, en route to the fascinating Tangwick Haa Museum, which is accommodated in a 17th century laird’s house (Haa) and illustrates the way of life in Northmavine through the ages. Then, visit the peninsula of Esha Ness where you will find the Esha Ness Lighthouse established by David A. and Charles Stevenson in 1929, and stunning coastal views of the cliffs and sea stacks.

Meet your driver-guide and depart for your tour of Shetland’s scenic South Mainland, including a walk across the sand tombolo to the famous St. Ninian’s Isle for a visit to the medieval chapel where the ancient treasure was found.

Continue to the fascinating Croft House Museum to learn about 19th century life on the island. Then, discover the first lighthouse in Shetland at spectacular Sumburgh Head, established by Robert Stevenson in 1821, and walk along the imposing cliffs of Sumburgh Head R.S.P.B. Nature Reserve, home to thousands of seabirds in the summer, including a thriving puffin colony.

Finally, stop at Jarlshof, described as one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles, and explore the ancient settlements spanning the late Bronze Age through to the Middle Ages.

Shetland Wildlife Cruise (14th May to 12 September)

Embark on a spectacular morning wildlife cruise around the Islands of Bressay and Noss with an expert guide. Spot razorbills, guillemots, puffins, gannets and much more at the Noss National Nature Reserve, explore cliffs and caves, and watch for seals, whales, dolphins and otters. View awesome aquatic life, including starfish, crabs, sea urchins, soft corals and jellyfish, with an underwater camera which has been tethered to a mini submarine.

Please Note: This excursion operates weather permitting. On certain occasions we reserve the right to instead  arrange a guided walking tour of Lerwick, subject to availability of local guide.

Spend an afternoon in Lerwick at your leisure.

Suggestion: Explore Lerwick, Shetland’s Viking capital. Discover the 18th century Lodberries, historic buildings along Old Lerwick’s harbour front; Fort Charlotte, an 18th century artillery fortress; and the fantastic new Shetland Museum and Archives which will captivate you with the story of Shetland.

Later, transfer to the ferry terminal and embark on the overnight sailing to Aberdeen. Check into a comfortable cabin for the journey.

Arrive in Aberdeen at 7am on the overnight ferry. Enjoy breakfast on board using your complimentary voucher before disembarking at Aberdeen Harbour.

Your Orkney & Shetland Independent Holiday Includes:

  • Cruise ferry sailings including 2 overnights in cabin with private facilities
  • Hotel accommodation with private facilities for 5 nights on Orkney Mainland
  • Hotel accommodation with private facilities for 3 nights in Shetland
  • Driver-guided small group tours of:
    • Orkney’s West Mainland
    • Orkney Island of Westray
    • Orkney Island of Rousay
    • Orkney’s South Isles & East Mainland
    • Shetland’s South Mainland
    • Shetland’s North Mainland
    • Shetland Isle of Mousa & Central Mainland
  • Shetland Wildlife Cruise
  • Inter-island ferry sailings
  • Admission to sites as outlined
  • Land transfers as outlined
  • Meals:
    • 10 breakfasts including full Scottish and continental options
    • 2 light lunches
    • 1 refreshment
  • Holiday Concierge Service
  • CO2 Offset for travel within the UK (non-refundable)


  • Meals other than those specified
  • Transfer to Stromness on Day Six
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities

2021 Prices
From £2,023
Single supplement from £817

For 2021, this holiday will be available from Thursday 15th April onwards.
The last date it will be possible to begin this holiday will be Thursday 26th August.