Shetland and Orkney: The Northern Isles

1 - 9 Sep 2024
  • 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.

Arrive in Orkney during the International Orkney Science Festival (5 – 11 October) which includes a range of talks, art, film screenings, live music and walks. There is the opportunity to extend, subject to availability.

Led by Jo Durrant, 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 local guides to discover history, archaeology, 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.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Jo Durrant

Jo Durrant

Jo Durrant is the award winning presenter of “Jo Durrant’s Beautiful Universe”. This is an independent arts & science podcast which won the Sir Arthur Clarke award for Space Achievement in the Media category in June 2021.

She’s a highly respected and accomplished interviewer and chair, and a familiar face on stage at events like the Stroud Book Festival & Gloucester History Festival.

Until recently, Jo worked as a presenter/producer/reporter for BBC radio for over 20 years, but has now left to go freelance. During her career, she’s interviewed the likes of Brian May, Melanie C, Helen Sharman, Alan Bennett, Chris Hadfield and even Tim Peake (in space!)

Jo is passionate about the cross section of arts and science and wants everyone to feel welcome to the conversation. She loves talking to people and hearing their stories, and is well known for putting guests at ease with her relaxed, conversational style.

In her spare time she enjoys yoga, walking, travelling, reading, the theatre, visiting museums and has also been a volunteer at the John Moore Museum in Tewkesbury for 12 years. Jo has also received the Sir Arthur Clarke Award (Space Achievement - Media, broadcast and written).

Jo Durrant's Beautiful Universe

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 (Sun, 1 Sept) Arrive Sumburgh and transfer to the Sumburgh Hotel, a former Laird's house. Depending on your arrival, there will be the opportunity to walk and explore the dramatic local scenery. Welcome dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 2: Shetland (Mon, 2 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, and an RSPB nature reserve. The Lighthouse was built by the Stevenson family in 1821 and has been in operation for 200 years. There are stunning views from here. Visit the Sumburgh Head Visitor Centre and learn of the history of the Lighthouse, Shetland's maritime history, the WW2 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 to before returning to the hotel.
  • Day 3: Shetland (Tues, 3 Sept) Drive to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland and the only town on the archipelago. Visit the Shetland Museum and Archives for an overview followed by time to explore. The museum has a superb collection of exhibits located over two floors. There is also the boat shed and hall, demonstrating a traditional style of boat building that has gone on over the years located 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 Two. 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 WW2. Dinner in Lerwick and return to the Sumburgh Hotel.
  • Day 4: Shetland (Wed, 4 Sept) An early start to travel up to the north-west corner of Shetland and see the iconic Eshaness cliffs and lighthouse, built by the Stevenson family. Afterwards, visit the 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. Drive to the lovely Busta House Hotel for lunch before continuing the tour back towards Sumburgh, via Shetland’s only tree plantation.
  • Day 5: Shetland / Orkney (Thur, 5 Sept) At leisure with a late morning transfer to Sumburgh Airport. Fly to Kirkwall 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.
  • Day 6: Orkney (Fri, 6 Sept) Visit the famous Italian Chapel, a beautiful building constructed by Italian POWs in WWII, 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 Burray Fossil and Heritage Centre, with lunch at the Barrier View Café. Visit St Magnus Cathedral, see the Earls Palace and the Orkney Museum paintings by Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter, who was the Queen's Painter and Limner (official artist in Scotland). Option to visit the quirky Orkney Wireless Museum.
  • Day 7: Orkney (Sat, 7 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 (Sun, 8 Sept) Spend the morning in Stromness, visiting the Stromness Museum which puts the history of Orkney into context with the wider world. Visit the Pier Arts Centre with work by Barbara Hepworth, 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). Take a scenic drive along the north coast of Scapa Flow, the home of the British fleet in both World Wars of the twentieth century, with stories of Orkney’s key strategic role in those events. Take a tour of the Highland Park Distillery, he world’s most northern whisky distillery. Farewell dinner.
  • Day 9: Orkney (Mon, 9 Sept) Morning at leisure and depart Orkney.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour sharing a twin or double room is USD $3,304. The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is USD $3,760 (excluding flights and transfers)

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