Shetland and Orkney - The Northern Isles (FULL)

16 - 24 Sep 2021
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Travel to the northernmost reaches of the UK through spectacular landscapes. Discover history that encompasses Neolithic times, the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Picts and the Vikings, and continues into the modern day. This tour takes you to the farthest Scottish Isles, dramatically beautiful and rich in history and culture, to experience both Shetland and Orkney in just over a week.

Led by a veteran tour leader, Sue Weir, the tour gives a superb overview of these far-flung island neighbours, which share connections and history but retain distinctive characters. Proceed at a relaxed pace with Sue Weir and local guides to discover history, geography, geology and culture and enjoy the unique wildlife of the area, from puffins to Shetland ponies. This tour is a wonderful opportunity to unite the magnificent islands of Shetland and Orkney, with the option to fly or travel by ferry between the two, passing Fair Isle on the way.

There are direct and indirect flights on Logan Air to Sumburgh in Shetland and from Kirkwall in Orkney from regional airports across the UK.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Sue Weir

Sue Weir

Sue Weir is a former Westminster Hospital nurse and a registered Blue Badge Guide. She developed a special interest in medical history and runs her own company, Medical History Tours, which takes groups and individuals to places of medical historical interest both at home and abroad. She has written Weir's Guide to Medical Museums in Britain, has a Diploma in the History of Medicine from the Society of Apothecaries, is past President of the History of Medicine section at the Royal Society of Medicine and is also past President of the British Society for the History of Medicine. Sue has led many cruises and specialist tours and is a highly experienced and popular tour leader.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Shetland (Thurs, 16 Sept) Arrive in Sumburgh and transfer to the Sumburgh Hotel, a former laird’s house (arrival transfer included). Depending on arrival time, there will be the opportunity to walk and explore the dramatic local scenery. Welcome dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 2: Shetland (Fri, 17 Sept) Walk the short distance from the hotel to Jarlshof, one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites with a history encompassing the Bronze and Iron ages, Picts’ settlements, the Vikings and through to the medieval period. Drive to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, located high on the cliffs with stunning views, and an RSPB nature reserve. The lighthouse was built by the Stevenson family in 1821 and has been in operation for 200 years. Visit the Sumburgh Head Visitor Centre and learn of the history of the Lighthouse, Shetland’s maritime history, the World War II radar hut and local wildlife. Drive to the visitor centre and café at Hoswick in Sandwick. Visit Rerwick Beach to spot seals and onto St Ninian’s Isle before returning to the hotel.
  • Day 3: Shetland (Sat, 18 Sept) Drive to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland and the only town on the archipelago. Visit the Shetland Museum and Archives for an overview of its superb collection, followed by time to explore. See the boat shed and hall, which demonstrates a traditional style of boat building, at the scenic Hay’s Dock of Lerwick. Visit the well preserved Clickkimin Broch, incorporating a late Bronze Age-early Iron Age farmstead and Iron Age fort. Explore Lerwick on a guided tour, including Victoria Pier, and depart through the Tingwall Valley. Hear of the Norse heritage of Tingwall and see Shetland ponies. Continue to Scalloway, the former capital of Shetland and learn of its integral part in the Shetland Bus operation, an undercover operation that took place in World War II. The Shetland Bus memorial is located on the main street of Scalloway. The ruins of Scalloway Castle, built by Earl Patrick Stewart, is located next door to the Scalloway Museum. The museum has information on the history of the regions encompassing Neolithic settlers, Vikings Scots and up to World War II. Dinner in Lerwick and return to the Sumburgh Hotel
  • Day 4: Shetland (Sun, 19 Sept) An early start to travel up to the north-west corner of Shetland and visit Tangwick Haa. This small museum is located inside an old haa (hall) which was the home of the laird. The hall also contains information on Shetland’s unique and complex geology. Continue onto the stunning vistas of the Eshaness cliffs. Lunch at St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick before continuing the tour back to Sumburgh.
  • Day 5: Shetland / Orkney (Mon, 20 Sept) At leisure with a late morning transfer to Sumburgh Airport. Fly to Kirkwall in Orkney, an archipelago comprising approximately 70 islands with a rich Norse heritage. Arrive in Kirkwall and transfer to the Ayre Hotel. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Kirkwall. (For those who prefer sea crossing there is a 17.30 sailing from Lerwick sailing past Fair Isle and arriving in Kirkwall at 23:00 on NorthLink Ferries. Please contact us for more information).
  • Day 6: Orkney (Tues, 21 Sept) Visit the famous Italian Chapel, a beautiful building constructed by Italian POWs in World War II, who were brought to Orkney in 1942 to build a giant causeway - today known as the Churchill Barriers - to seal off access to the vast naval base at Scapa Flow. Visit the CWGC St Olaf Cemetery. Visit the Burray Fossil and Heritage Centre and St Magnus Cathedral. Continue to Earl’s Palace and the Orkney Museum, which features paintings by Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter, who was the The Queen's Painter and Limner (the queen’s official court painter in Scotland). Option to visit the quirky Orkney Wireless Museum.
  • Day 7: Orkney (Wed, 22 Sept) Orkney’s human history stretches back 10,000 years to its Neolithic origins, which are evident in a breathtaking landscape of ceremonial stone circles, tombs, prehistoric villages and many other ancient monuments. Explore this extraordinary heritage with a visit to Skara Brae, Skaill House, the Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe. After lunch at the Standing Stones Hotel visit the Standing Stones of Stenness. Return to Kirkwall.
  • Day 8: Orkney (Thurs, 23 Sept) Visit the Stromness Museum, which puts the history of Orkney into context with the wider world.Visit the Pier Arts Centre which includes work by Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. The building was originally the home of Edward Clouston, the Hudson's Bay Company agent, and the gallery extension won an architectural prize for best building in Scotland in 2007. Visit Orkney Brewery for lunch (at client’s expense). Visit the HMS Tern, one of four World War II airfields, with Andy Hollinrake, a local specialist guide. Return to Kirkwall along the shore of Scapa Flow. Farewell dinner.
  • Day 9: Orkney (Fri, 24 Sept) Depart Orkney.

Tour cost

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