Day 7 | Kirkwall, Scotland
Capital of the Orkney archipelago, Kirkwall, which means “church bay”, is an ideal stopover before continuing on to the Northern Isles. Sheltered in a wide bay, the lively town welcomes the visitor with its charming paved alleyways edged by old houses and craft shops. Tankerness House, the oldest homestead in the town, is a must-see landmark. But the true architectural treasure of the aptly named Kirkwall is none other than its remarkable red and gold stone cathedral. And because whisky is inseparable from Scotland’s identity, stop at the Highland Park Distillery for a highly instructive visit.
Heritage & War Relics from the Orkneys - This excursion explores the southern side of the Orkney Islands, notably the awe-inspiring scenery of this part of the Mainland with its fascinating ruins dating back to the Second World War. Leave the port at Kirkwall and head south on a road which links the main island to the small southern isles. This road was built to restrict access to the Scapa Flow Bay.
Highland Park Distillery is the northernmost of the Scottish whisky distillers and overlooks the town and Scapa Bay. Have a chance to taste this famous Scottish whisky before returning to Kirkwall for some free time to enjoy this pretty town, dominated by the magnificent 12th-century, red sandstone Cathedral of St Magnus. Known locally as the 'Light of the North', it is the finest medieval building in northern Scotland. Nearby there are many narrow, winding streets and lanes, which have hardly been altered over the centuries. From here return to the ship at the quayside.
Orkney's Archaeological Wonders - During this scenic circular tour, explore the beautiful West Mainland of Orkney, location of one of the greatest concentrations of World Heritage pre-historic sites in Britain. Passing through an area of rich farmland, rolling hills and moorland, fringed by magnificent cliffs, visit the great ceremonial Standing Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar.
Further on, arrive at Skara Brae, the most exciting and best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. Looking across the village, it gives a good idea of how it looked all those centuries ago, and close inspection of the houses gives a unique insight into how our ancient ancestors lived. The hardship of life in Skara Brae can be directly contrasted to Orkney's finest manor house, Skaill House, which is located nearby and constitutes the next stop of your journey through ancient Orkney.
Finally, return to Kirkwall via Historic Scapa Flow where you can pause to take photos from the coach. Hear stories of dramatic wartime experiences that make this one of the most renowned stretches of water in world.