Orkney & Shetland
Orkney, an archipelago of 70 or so islands just north of the Scottish mainland, holds a rare magic with energy, life, history and a glimpse of the world to come.
Visitors can travel back in time 6,000 years and see Neolithic Orkney, where culture was flourishing before the pyramids were built. There’s the chance to witness the future by investigating the renewable sources of energy on the islands. And best of all, both can be seen in one day.
There are charming towns and villages to explore, while low-lying moorland, tranquil lochs, white sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs are only ever a few minutes away. Walk, cycle or dive – wherever you go, nature surrounds you, with joyful flowers in the spring, summer’s midnight sun, rare migrant birds in autumn and maybe even the Northern Lights, come winter.
Shetland, meanwhile lies a further 50 miles to the northeast and is, like its southern sister, a collection of small islands, around 100 in total, with most uninhabited.
And similarly again, Shetland offers incredible areas of natural beauty and wildlife (seabirds are in incredible abundance, and sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises are also frequent) while maintaining lively traditions of a more human kind.
It’s here, after all, that the famous Up-Helly-A’ season takes place, with Vikings bearing flaming torches, galleys set alight and hundreds gathered in streets to celebrate the end of winter and the return of the sun.
And then there are the festivals of folk, jazz and blues music and more, giving residents and visitors plenty of opportunity to savour the atmosphere and get their toes tapping to the sound of traditional instruments.
And don’t forget the heritage to be discovered either, with fascinating history (both the museum-presented and in sites across the islands) and tantalising local food, including the very freshest seafood, Shetland lamb and delicious dairy products galore.
So strike out north by train and take a ferry to see these incomparable islands for yourself.
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