But I have a hard time planning this properly. Anyone else visiting Orkney? How did you plan? Bringing the rental to the island seems very expensive. But transport on the island sounds like it is complicated. I'm also not sure where to sleep and how many nights to spend there (1 or 2).
I am bit reluctant to get involved advising on this as our visits to Orkney were some time ago but, for what it's worth, ...
a. You don't really need more than 1 day on Orkney just to see the WHS and get a feel for the islands and, with the ferry options and schedules, an overnight isn't "essential" - though to have one does give you rather more time on the island and, if you took the 6.30 ferry dept the next morning, doesn't really lose you much time on the mainland either unless you intended covering the miles after a crossing on the previous evening. This early dept is possibly the best compromise - assuming you can get a hotel in Stromness and a practical booking at Maes Howe. I personally would prefer, if I had to choose for lack of time, to spend more time on the NW mainland than on Orkney once I had seen the WHS.
b. If you want to go to the far north of Scotland anyway then going on a day trip to and from Inverness is a bit "unnecessary" - better I think to take a tour starting where you are already. But, if you cannot go further north by yourself then it is the only way! If about "40 ppl" means "around £40 per person" then I think they cost rather more than that - £70+?? Nb Entrance fees are extra
c. Don't forget the UK T List entry for the "Flow Country" and the centre at Forsinard
. A bit south of Scrabster and probably better to take in on the way up as you might be short of time on the way back to Skye if you try to take in the NW Coast. As far as I know, this isn't an "active" T List entry but worth taking in whilst you are near and a type of landscape which is unusual and, I think, of interest.
d. The c20 mile (32kms) round trip return bike ride out to Skara Brae via Maes Howe and Ring of Brogdar is just about practicable (but "a bit tight" with the limited Maes Howe entry times) in a day with the c6 hours you will have between arrival and dept ferries for seeing those sights and could be wonderful on a fine sunny day....... but, who knows.......!! The distance reduces to 14.5 miles if you miss out Brogdar/Maes Howe but I wouldn't do so if the full route was ok for you. If not then I wouldn't choose Maes Howe over Skara Brae N.b There are major and "significant" excavations ("one of the largest and most important Neolithic excavations in Northern Europe
") taking place on the Ness of Brodgar
. Despite that web site stating that they are "Part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site"
the area is currently only in the combined buffer zone
around the currently inscribed elements (on this map Grey is "inscribed" - and is separate for each of Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maes Howe - pink is "Buffer"). They are of an importance such that we can expect that, one day, the inscribed area will be extended to include them - presumably by joining the 3 separate sites into a single zone and adding the Ness as well . Here
are tour details ("Free" with donation if you guide yourself or £10pp with a guide!) if you want to try to take it in while you are passing. The importance of the site can be gauged from the fact that it has figured in several full length TV documentaries. This
video (not necessarily the best if you search for others!) at c 13 minutes will give you an idea!
e. There is Car hire in Stromness
- I don't know if there are cars available on your date - c£50 (plus Petrol) but split 2 or 3 ways against a bike rental of £10 pp isn't a vast amount extra!
f. With a car the other "sights" you could take in on Orkney are "interesting" but not "essential" - and you don't have a lot of spare time albeit more than if you cycled. Nb You will see the "Old Man of Hoy
" of mythical climbing status during the Scrabster -Stromness ferry and you probably wouldn't be crossing to Hoy by ferry from "Mainland" Orkney anyway on a day trip. With a car you would certainly also take in Kirkwall (12th C onwards Cathedral
), the Italian Chapel
and the Scapa Flow barriers. Each is "worth a detour" if you are there and have the time. Regarding the latter it might be worth boning up on a bit of history
in order to understand its "status" which, whilst known to many in UK, isn't immediately obvious!.
g. The direct road route from Scrabster to Skye (Portree) is a bit over 200 miles and c 4.5 hours. Via Kinlochbervie and Ullapool it is c265 and 6.5 hours. This NW Coast route is among the scenic highlights of Scotland and shouldn't be missed if you can take it in. Going via Gairloch, Lonbain and Applecross as well pushes it up to 338 miles and a bit over 9 hours but is even better! (It includes the steepest road climb in Uk
It is a "mere" 626m high but from, and returning to, sea level. Remember - you have "Scandinavian" length of day in July - so with hotels booked and late check-in available/arranged you might as well use the full day!