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Orkney is an archipelago off the north coast of Scotland. It consists of around 70 islands and was voted one of the UK's top 10 islands in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards.
With a unique culture and history, Orkney has a strong identity of its own. The largest island, and also the most populated, is known as the Mainland. On the East Mainland coast lies Kirkwall, the ancient capital of Orkney, with its Viking cathedral, fishing port and distillery.
The archipelago's other main port and town, Stromness, is located in the south of West Mainland. It's a highly creative place with many crafty gift shops and art galleries amongst its old, winding streets.
The island of Rousay is known as the 'Egypt of The North' because it's home to over 150 archaeological sites, including a 5,000 year old chambered tomb. In fact, the ancient settlement of Skara Brae on the Mainland is older than the Pyramids, and, together with the dramatic Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
BACK TO NATURE
Nice and beachy - when you see the white sands and turquoise waters of Orkney's beaches, you might mistakenly think you're in the Caribbean.
Puffins, fulmars and rare birds - Orkney happens to be on one of the busiest flight paths for migrating birds, with tens of thousands of birds and hundreds of species spotted each year.
All going swimmingly - porpoises, dolphins, whales and other sealife can be spotted on and around Orkney's shores, and underwater creatures can be found in rock pools and on dives too.
Rocking through the ages - there are rugged cliffs, deep caves, rocky skerries and dramatic sea stacks to be seen, and sometimes climbed, dotted along hundreds of miles of coast.
Northern lights - Orkney is considered to be one of the best places in the UK to see the magical Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.
HOW TO GET TO ORKNEY
TRAVEL BY BOAT
As you sail towards Orkney, the islands appear to rise from the sea and you will see a landscape unchanged in thousands of years. On your journey, Orkney's wildlife will keep you company from the sky and the sea as you approach your destination. Bring your binoculars! There are four ferry routes to choose from and between 4 and 12 sailings a day depending on the season.
Scrabster (near Thurso) - Stromness 90 minutes www.northlinkferries.co.uk
Aberdeen - Kirkwall 6 hours www.northlinkferries.co.uk
Gills Bay - St Margaret's Hope 60 minutes www.pentlandferries.co.uk
John O'Groats - Burwick (May- Sept, foot passengers only) 40 minutes www.jogferry.co.uk
TAKE THE BUS
Join the locals and jump on a bus to reach the islands. The Citylink network takes you to John O'Groats, Gills Bay or Scrabster for ferry services to Orkney. www.citylink.co.uk
Alternatively, if you want an express service, the Orkney Bus operates from Inverness to Kirkwall, via John O'Groats Ferries (from June to September). www.jogferry.co.uk
TAKE THE TRAIN
You can reach Aberdeen and Thurso from most main Scottish railway stations. If you'd prefer to start your holiday with an unforgettable journey, we would recommend the spectacular Thurso route. The scenery is wonderful! www.scotrail.co.uk