Orkney Guide Book:
Getting to Orkney

References: Where to Stay on the Way - Where to Stay in Orkney

Although apparently isolated and far away, Orkney is in fact very well served by transport links, both by air and sea. There are good connections by air from four major airports in Scotland, while land travel to Scrabster, in Caithness, or Aberdeen is facilitated by good roads as well as bus and rail services which tie in with ferry times.

Contrary to the advice given by some travel agents, no passport is needed by UK citizens, prices are reasonable, and there are a variety of services. Nor is it necessary to go to the lengths that the first airborne visitors had to. In 1910, the author’s grandfather was surprised to find two young Germans from Munich on his doorstep. They had gone for a flight in their balloon, hoping to reach Switzerland. Much to their consternation the weather changed and they crossed the North Sea, landing at the back of Park Cottage, Kirkwall, after seeing the lights of the town!

AIR   British Airways operate several flights per day into Kirkwall Airport (KOI), some of which are operated by British Airways Express (Loganair). There are two direct flights per day from Aberdeen and Inverness and one direct flight per day from each of Edinburgh and Glasgow. In addition there are daily flights to and from Shetland, and in summer weekly flights to Bergen (Saturdays) and Fair Isle (Saturdays). Kirkwall Airport is closed on Sundays, and thus there are no scheduled flights on a Sunday.

Details of all flights are available by telephoning British Airways central reservation and inquiries on Tel 0345 222111. Information can also be had from the BA desk at Kirkwall Airport, Tel (01856) 872233.


SEA   The main ferry operator as from October 2002 is Northlink Ferries, who will operate the Hamnavoe between Scrabster in Caithness and Stromness. This large, modern ferry takes less than two hours to cross the Pentland Firth, passing the Old Man of Hoy on the way. She crosses at least twice daily. Northlink offer various interesting package deals including accommodation as well as day trips.  

Northlink also operate the Hrossey and the Hjaltland which run between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick. These vessels provide a twice daily service between Shetland and Aberdeen, calling at Kirkwall several times in each direction each week.

Northlink Orkney & Shetland Ferries Ltd,
Tel 01856 851144, Fax 01856 851155. 
website www.northlinkferries.co.uk
email info@northlinkferries.co.uk

John O’Groats Ferries operate a summer passenger service between John O’Groats and Burwick in South Ronaldsay. Coach services meet the sailings at Burwick for transport to Kirkwall, while there is a special bus service from Inverness to John O’Groats. Several variations on day trips are available.

John O’Groats Ferries, John O’Groats, Caithness KW1 4YR, Tel 01955 611353, Fax 01955 611301.  Website www.jogferry.co.uk  e-mail info@jogferry.co.uk


Pentland Ferries Ltd also operate a ro-ro ferry from St Margaret's Hope in South Ronaldsay to Gills Bay in Caithness. The Pentalina B takes about an hour to do the scenic crossing. Tel 01856 831226, Fax 01856 831614 www.pentlandferries.co.uk

Getting to Scrabster   The A9 trunk road north from Perth has been upgraded, and it takes roughly 6 hours to drive north from Edinburgh/Glasgow. There are plenty of good places to stay in Caithness overnight if necessary to catch the early boat (see accommodation). Citilink bus services meet the St Ola, as do Scotrail trains.

Enquiries Scottish Citilink Coaches Ltd, Buchanan Bus Station, Killermont St, Glasgow G2 3NP, Tel 0990 505050 (08:00-20:00, 7 days); also National Express Coaches 0990 808080. Scotrail Tel 0141 204 2844 or 0131 556 2451.

Ridgway Travel, 67-69 Albert Street, Kirkwall, Orkney KW15 1HQ , the local Orkney travel agent would also be delighted to help with all your queries about travel to and around Orkney, Tel (01856) 873359, Fax (01856) 872680.