10 Places to Visit on Orkney

Blog 23 Feb 2024

Have you missed the news? We are launching a brand-new 3-day tour of Orkney from Inverness

Starting in May 2024, this tour is going to visit some of the very best spots on the Orkney Islands. Unfortunately, to take in everything that the islands have to offer, we'd have to spend a lot longer there, but here is a list of 10 must-see places on Orkney to get you ready to visit these spectacular islands.

Sitting right above the British Mainland, you will find the Orkney Islands. There are about 70 islands that make up the archipelago, with about 20 of them being inhabited. They have an incredible history, with evidence being found of humans settling there as far back as 3500BC. There are Neolithic ruins on the island so well preserved that it has given scientists and researchers a fantastic glimpse into life back then, making the islands a site of great archaeological importance. The islands have been inhabited by the Vikings, the Norwegians, and the Scots, making the islands full of rich heritage from so many different cultures.

You could spend weeks on the islands and still find new places to discover, new sights to see, and plenty of friendly people to meet, but we though we would provide you a handy list of 10 of the best places to visit on Orkney.


Italian Chapel

During the Second World War, a group of hundreds of Italian prisoners of war were sent to the Orkney Islands after being captured in North Africa. When they arrived in Orkney, they were tasked with the construction of causeways and had to stay in Nissen huts, which are steel structured huts. The commander of the group, as well as their priest, agreed that a place of worship was needed. Therefore, they began construction on the Italian Chapel, using what limited materials they had and transforming old Nissen huts into this beautiful piece of architecture. Throughout the war, they decorated and furnished it to the best of their abilities, using things like corned beef cans as light fittings. Shortly before the end of the war, the group were released, with one prisoner staying behind to finish the decorations. Over the years, it was restored, and is still used today not only as a tourist destination, but as a place of worship.

HMS Tern

During the Second World War, Orkney played a key role in the United Kingdom’s military defence system. No less than 4 airfields were established on the islands during the war, one of which being HMS Tern, also known as Royal Naval Air Station Twatt (behave). Whilst this airfield was an important part of the islands’ defences, it also played a vital role as a space for pilots to undergo training, as well as harbouring aircraft from carriers when they were stationed nearby. This site has been incredibly well preserved, and deserves a visit to give a real glance into the military history of the Orkney Islands. To learn more about an incredibly important part of Scotland's military history, you could also visit Fort George in Inverness. 

Skara Brae

The Orkney Islands are one of the most amazing places to visit in the UK to learn about the Neolithic history of the country. The islands are home to several fantastically preserved sites. One of which, and arguably the most well-known, being Skara Brae, known as Europe’s best preserved Neolithic Village. Skara Brae was uncovered by a storm in 1850, but actually gives us a glimpse into what life was like over 5,000 years ago. By visiting here, you get a real sense of how people lived in those days, you can even enter a replica home, and explore the preserved home, seeing artefacts discovered there such as jewellery and games.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Anyone who is a fan of Outlander, will know that Scotland is home to its fair share of standing stones. While maybe not as famous as Stonehenge in England, ours are certainly impressive. One particularly spectacular set are the Standing Stones of Stenness which are potentially some of the oldest in the country. Along with Skara Brae, they form part of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” and even have World Heritage Site status. Just don’t expect Jamie Fraser to be hanging about these ones, I don’t think he ever went to Orkney (if any Outlander fans are reading this and I'm wrong - my sincere apologies). If you do want to follow in Jamie Fraser's footsteps however, you might want to book a ticket on our Outlander tour from Edinburgh.

Broch of Gurness

Skara Brae isn’t the only preserved village on Orkney, you’re spoiled for choice. The islands are also home to the Broch of Gurness, which is a preserved Iron Age village. Brochs are large round buildings found across Scotland, there are almost 500 of them spread across the country. Whilst it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what the large round building was used for, experts believe it could have been home to the chief family of the community, or even used for defensive purposes. Whilst there, you can explore many of the artefacts discovered here.


You can go pretty much anywhere in Scotland you know you’re going to come across some spectacular wildlife, but this is especially true on the Orkney Islands. Look to the sea cliffs and to the skies and you’ll be greeted with bird species like puffins, guillemots, hen harriers and gannets. Or, look out to the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds you and keep an eye open for seals, dolphins, whales, and even Orca. Just be sure you have your camera ready and pointed wherever you’re looking, because on Orkney, you’re never far from some amazing wildlife.


The largest town and capital of Orkney, Kirkwall is a must-visit. It got its name from the Norse word “Kirkjuvagr” which translates to “Church Bay”. Whilst here, there are so many things to do, even if you just want to look around and take in the beautiful island scenery. It’s the perfect base for any Orkney adventures, and is where we will stay on our 3-day Orkney tour from Inverness. With plenty of restaurants in the area, it could also be the perfect place to take in some local island cooking. Being surrounded by water, you can almost guarantee that the seafood is going to be some of the most fresh, delicious seafood in the country. If you want to learn more about the history of the islands when you visit, a trip to the Orkney Museum located in the town is also a must.

St Magnus' Cathedral

Another brilliant thing to do in Kirkwall is visit St Magnus’ Cathedral. St Magnus’ Cathedral is not only the most northerly in the United Kingdom, but also the oldest in Scotland. As well as that, it is a stunning representation of the Romanesque architecture style, both from the outside, and within its beautiful walls. Founded in 1137, the stunning cathedral is still in use today and definitely worth a visit. It’s smack-bang in the centre of the town as well, so you can’t miss it.


Scotland is split into 5 key whisky producing regions: Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland and Highland. Orkney falls into the Highland region and located on the island are the 2 most northerly distilleries in the region, Highland Park and Scapa. Both of these distilleries are found in Kirkwall, so are easy to visit for a quick dram and to learn about how whisky is produced on the islands. As the islands are so vulnerable to strong winds and surrounded by the ocean, some of the whiskies produced here have a salty tang to them, reminding you of their rugged surroundings as you drink them. You can also find peated whiskies here which will give them a smoky characteristic, however, this isn’t likely to be as strong as the heavily peated whiskies you might come across on the Isle of Islay.


Orkney’s second most populous town, Stromness, sits further to the west of the mainland of Orkney than Kirkwall. This picturesque town, adorned with winding streets, was a key fishing port, and was even used for whaling in the olden days. Now, it is the main ferry port for the Orkney Islands. The name Stromness comes from the old Norse words Straumr and Nes. Straumr is in reference to strong tides that surround the lands around the town, while Nes means headland. Like Kirkwall, Stromness has its own museum that reflects the strong maritime history of the town. If after exploring the historic streets and enjoying some of the local delicacies you’re still looking for something to do, there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied. Stromness even has its own swimming pool, just in case all of that maritime history puts you in the mood for a wee splash.

And that rounds up our list of 10 of the best places to visit in Orkney, and luckily for you, our brand-new 3-day Orkney tour from Inverness visits most of them - taking a lot of the stress out of having to plan your own Orkney adventure. Our tour begins in May 2024 and runs through September, so if you like the look of any of these places don't hesitate to book your ticket. 

Don't forget our friendly reservations team are available from 07:00 to 21:00 to assist with any questions you might have. You can contact them via email on tours@timberbushtours.com or by phoning +44 (0) 131 226 6066. Or, you can book your tour right here on the website by clicking here.

We hope to see you on the beautiful Orkney Islands soon!