“You can’t really go to mainland Orkney without visiting some of the archaeological treasures such as the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness and Skara Brae. Orkney is a treasure trove of archaeology and if you are in any way interested in it, you will not be disappointed with what Orkney has to offer.
Away from this, there are lesser known treasures such as the Italian Chapel, the Tomb of the Eagles, the Orkney Wireless Museum and Highland Park Distillery.
I have visited all the major sites , but for me, the one that really stands out is the Italian Chapel. It is in a secluded location. There is no bus stop (you have to ask the driver to stop) and then it is a short walk up to the Chapel. Although it is glorious from the outside, it is even more amazing inside. The work that has been completed is of such a high standard, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a small Italian Chapel in Naples or Milan. It’s only when you go around the back of the Chapel, that you realise it is actually two World War 2 Nissen huts back-to-back.
I must admit to having a lump in my throat when reading through the guide which explains how the Italian Prisoners of War were able to complete this monumental work of art. It truly is a heart-warming story”
How do I get to Mainland Orkney? Loganair (part of the Flybe group) fly from Aberdeen, Barra, Belfast, Benbecula, Birmingham, Campbeltown, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Islay, Isle of Man, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, London (Gatwick), Manchester, Manston (Kent), Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Stornoway and Sumburgh (Shetland). Most flights are via Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Inverness. Or, you could travel by Northlink ferry from the ferry terminals in Aberdeen (to Kirkwall) and Scrabster (to Stromness). Alternatively, you could travel to mainland Orkney by Pentland Ferries on the Gill´s Bay to St Margaret´s Hope route. Finally, John O´ Groats passenger only ferries run from John O´Groats to South Ronaldsay on Orkney. From May to September, there is a direct bus route from Inverness to John O´Groats that meets with the ferry – this is known as ´The Orkney Bus´.
How do I get around Mainland Orkney? The bus service is excellent and most buses depart from the main Bus Terminal in Kirkwall. You can also hire a car from Orkney Car Hire, John Shearer and Sons, Orkney Car Rental and Drive Orkney. Cycle Hire is available from Orkney Cycle Hire in Stromness and Cycle Orkney in Kirkwall. Taxi´s are available from Brass´s Taxi´s and C D Taxi´s in Stromness and Bob´s Taxi´s and George´s Taxi Services in Kirkwall. Tours of mainland Orkney are available through Shearings Holidays and on the T11 Stagecoach bus
What’s worth visiting on Mainland Orkney? There is a vast array of interesting places to visit on mainland Orkney. This includes St Magnus Cathedral and the Bishop’s and Earl´s Palaces in Kirkwall, Skara Brae – a well preserved neolithic stone village and the Broch of Gurness – the best example of a Broch on the Orkney mainland. Also, there is the Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, which is the finest Chambered Tomb in Western Europe. The Italian Chapel was completed by Italian prisoners of war interned on mainland Orkney during the Second World War. They also helped to complete the Churchill Barriers, which were built to protect the Royal Navy fleet anchored in Scapa Flow. There is also the ´Tomb of the Eagles´ which is a large chambered tomb, discovered by a local farmer.
Where can I stay on Mainland Orkney? Hotels in Kirkwall include the West End Hotel, the Lynnfield Hotel, Albert Hotel and the Foveran Hotel. The famous Creel Restaurant, in St Margaret´s Hope, also has rooms as does the Murray Arms Hotel. Also, there is the Orca Hotel in Stromness, Woodwick House at Evie, the Standing Stones Hotel at Stenness, Houton Bay Lodge in Orphir and the Merkister Hotel at Loch Harray. Other Orkney Hotels are available through Hotels Combined. Other accommodation includes Avalon House, Ardvullen, Hildeval and Bellavista Bed and Breakfast, all in Kirkwall. There is also The Inn Guest House in St Mary´s, Castlehill Orkney at Evie, Ashleigh B & B in Dounby, Holland House at Harray, Westrow Lodge B & B and Foinhaven B & B (who also do self catering) at Orphir Self catering accommodation is available at Harbour View in Stromness, Buxa Farm Chalets in Orphir, Banks of Orkney on South Ronaldsay, Commodore Chalets in St. Mary’s and Sebay Mill in Kirkwall. Also, there is the Kirkwall Hostel, Orcades Hostel and the Peedie Hostel in Kirkwall, as well as Hamnavoe Hostel and Browns Hostel in Stromness. Finally, there is camping available at The Pickaquoy Centre Caravan & Camping Park in Kirkwall.
Featured B & B
Straigona B&B is semi rural with stunning views but only 5 miles from Kirkwall. All 3 rooms are en-suite and have tea/coffee making facilities, TV with Freeview/DVD, WiFi, bathrobes, toiletries, visitor information, hairdryer, radiators.
Any other information on Mainland Orkney? The Ba’ is a traditional game of mass football that is played in the streets of the town between the Uppies and the Doonies. It is played every Christmas and New Year’s Day in Kirkwall. For more information on Mainland Orkney, please read my article Orkney Adventure.