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How To Get To The Orkney Islands

Find out how to get to the Orkney Islands by ferry, plane and how to take your car to the beautiful isles.

Orkney Islands cliffs
Find out how to get to the Orkney Islands

When it comes to unique places to travel to in Britain, the Orkney Islands are one of the UK’s best-kept secrets. This small archipelago in the North Sea offers amazing landscapes, lots of wildlife, prehistoric and Viking-era ruins, and a fantastic food scene.

Yesnaby Cliffs
There are so many amazing sights to see in the Orkney Isles includingYesnaby Cliffs

Nature, history, and cuisine aside, Orkney is also home to some of the world’s best diving locations, so if you’re looking for an action-packed adventure holiday, don’t miss our guide to the best things to do in the Orkney Islands.

If you’ve got your heart set on visiting, it’s time to plan your route there. This guide is full of tips on how to get to the Orkney Islands, whether you want to fly, catch a ferry or take your car.

Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands
Once you reach the Orkney Islands you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Hoy

How to Get To The Orkney Islands

Getting to the Orkney islands is surprisingly easy. Despite their remote location, there are several excellent options to reach the islands, including flying, driving, or hopping on board a local ferry.

How to Get to the Orkney Islands by Air

If you plan to hop on a plane, your best bet is Loganair airlines, which operate between mainland UK and Orkney.

Flights run from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh, and Shetland to Kirkwall, and take between 35 to 60 minutes. This is a great option if you’re pressed for time – fly in, explore the islands, and fly out again!

Orkney Islands view
You can fly to the Orkney Islands

Once in Orkney, you can rent a car in Kirkwall to get around the islands or enjoy island hopping using the archipelago’s network of local ferries.

How to Get to the Orkney Islands by Bus

Fancy backpacking around the islands? Citylink has easy routes from Aberdeen, Thurso, and Gills Bay. Between May and September, there is also the Orkney Bus option which goes all the way from Inverness to Kirkwall using the John O’Groats crossing. Traveling by bus tends to be one of the cheapest ways to get to Orkney, so is perfect if you’re on a budget.

How to Get to the Orkney Islands by Ferry

A more adventurous option to get to Orkney is by sea. There are several passenger ferry options from northern Scotland taking passengers to either Kirkwall or Stromness on the main island of Orkney.

northlink ferry
One of the most popular ways to get to the Orkney Islands is by NorthLink Ferry

For Kirkwall, check out NorthLink Ferries which sail from Aberdeen, or Pentland Ferries sailing from Gill’s Bay to St Margaret’s Hope.

For Stromness, the best ferry option is NorthLink from Scrabster to Stromness but bear in mind that this particular crossing can often be choppy! During the summer months, there is also the John O’Groats ferry to Burwick, which usually runs from May to September.

Stromness town in Orkney
Stromness is one of the principal harbour towns in Orkney

Ferry passage to Orkney costs from £21-£33 one way from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, whereas the Scrabster – Stromness passage is £17-£20. If you’re travelling with family, fares for children are usually around 50% of an adult ticket.

For more information on fares and the ferry schedule, be sure to check the NorthLink ferries website.

How to Get to the Orkney Islands by Car

Exploring the Orkney Islands by car is a fantastic way to travel, as you’ll have more freedom and flexibility during your trip. To get to Orkney by car you have a few options. You could head to Aberdeen and take the ferry to Kirkwall or drive to Scrabster and jump on the Stromness ferry.

Orkney Islands road trip
How about an Orkney Islands road trip?

The Kirkwall ferry takes six hours, while the passage from Scrabster is a mere 90 minutes.

Fares from Aberdeen to Kirkwall vary from £86-£112 for a vehicle, and £57-£63 from Scrabster to Stromness. You’ll need to pay for accommodation and passengers separately.

Orkney Islands view
A view of the Orkney Islands from the ferry

We hope this helps you plan your trip to the Orkney Islands. Don’t forget to read our guide to the best things to do on the islands too. Have a great trip!

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