Add dates
Things to do in

Kirkwall

Our most recommended things to do in Kirkwall

From John O'Groats: Orkney Islands Day Trip

1. From John O'Groats: Orkney Islands Day Trip

Start the tour by boarding the ferry at John O'Groats. Depart 8.45am. Take the 40-minute ferry crossing, keeping a lookout for marine wildlife including puffins and orcas on the way. When you arrive on Orkney, board a luxury coach which will be waiting for you to begin your tour of the island. As you set off, enjoy the commentary from a local guide. First, see the Churchill Barriers built during the First World War. Stop in Kirkwall which is Orkney's capital city and discover St Magnus Cathedral, shops, the museum, and the scenic harbor.  Continue along the northern coast of Scapa Flow and admire the beautiful views of the Hoy hills. Then, arrive in Stromness, one of Britain's most picturesque towns. Stroll through the winding street, visit the museum, and find plenty of places to eat lunch.  Next, set off for the neolithic village of Skara Brae, established in around 2,500 BC and which has been hidden under sand dunes, perfectly preserved for thousands of years. Follow the route onwards along a narrow tongue of land between the lochs of Harray and Stenness, making a stop at the mystical Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. Finally, board the return ferry, and make a stop at the Italian Chapel which is beautifully decorated inside 2 Nissen huts. Return to John O'Groats 6.15pm with incredible memories of your excursion.

From Inverness: 3-Day Orkney Explorer

2. From Inverness: 3-Day Orkney Explorer

Day 1: Explore Orkney’s ancient capital, Kirkwall After an early start leaving Inverness at 08:00, travel north through the Black Isle, past the imposing Dunrobin Castle, before crossing the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Isles. Stay in Kirkwall, the modern day capital of Orkney for 2 nights. Here, you can visit Kirkwall's magnificent Viking cathedral and its historic winding streets. Day 2: Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings as you travel through Orkney Today is your chance to explore the modern and ancient wonders of this fantastic island; a land of contrasts, where fertile green pastures are fringed by shores of golden sands washed by waters of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Highlights include a visit to Skara Brae, the mystical prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar, the standing stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, where in the 12th-century the Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions. Day 3: Travel through the history soaked regions of Caithness and Sutherland Have your last chance to grab some gifts for friends and family, and visit the local cathedral in Kirkwall. And after a ferry back to the mainland, travel through the history soaked regions of Caithness and Sutherland. Find out about the highland clearances, a world-changing period in Scotland’s dark history, and get a glimpse of some of Scotland’s most remote fishing villages. The tour will arrive back in Inverness early evening at approximitely 19:00.

From Edinburgh: Orkney and The Far North 5-Day Tour

3. From Edinburgh: Orkney and The Far North 5-Day Tour

The 5-day tour from Edinburgh takes you on a discovery of the Scottish Highlands and the Orkney Islands. Heading north from Scotland’s capital city, you can admire the breathtaking scenery of the Scottish Highlands and explore the history of the Orkney Islands. On day 1, travel north to Loch Ness. The spectacular tour starts by heading west through the beautiful scenery of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The route then takes you through the haunting landscape of Glen Coe, the scene of the terrible massacre of the MacDonald Clan, and on through Fort William and the Great Glen to arrive at the fabled shores of Loch Ness. Stay overnight at Drumnadrochit. On day 2, head north via Inverness and the spectacular coastal scenery of the Moray and Cromarty Firths. Then, board the ferry for a memorable trip to the mysterious and magical Orkney Islands. Once you arrive, take in the stunning scenery and start exploring. Visit the beautiful Italian Chapel, which was built by Italian prisoners of war, as well as the famous Churchill Barriers – causeways that were constructed to protect the British naval fleet from submarines. Stay overnight at Kirkwall. On day 3, explore the ancient history of the islands. From your base in Kirkwall, which boasts many craft and gift shops to explore, spend the whole day exploring the islands. This is a land full of ancient history and you will be able to take in prehistoric marvels such as the Maeshowe chambered cairn, the world-famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae, and the brooding stone circles of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. The day will finish with a visit to the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral. Stay overnight at Kirkwall. On day 4, return via Inverness, Culloden, and the Cairngorms. The last day starts with a ferry ride back to the mainland. Then you will get the chance to take in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Stay overnight in Inverness. On day 5, head back to Edinburgh. On the way, visit the battlefield of Culloden, the site of the defeat of the Jacobite forces. You will also pass the stunning Cairngorm Mountains and explore the picturesque town of Pitlochry.

Frequently asked questions about Kirkwall

Which tours in Kirkwall are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?

Other Sightseeing Options in Kirkwall

Want to discover all there is to do in Kirkwall? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Kirkwall

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 36 reviews

Emily was knowledgeable, caring, and efficient. She ran and incredibly well designed trip and balanced giving us quiet time on the bus with information. She was enthusiastic about the places we saw even though she has probably seen them dozens of times. She is an amazing guide. But the trip itself is great. Seeing slices of the North of the Scottish Mainland then the islands in contrast to the area around Inverness was delightful. The stone age sites, while known to me, were more remarkable that what I could get from a brochure or movie. The fun that was injected throughout the trip with little stops for Highland Cows or Puffins was appreciated by most on board. Well worth the time and money investment to go up to Orkney and to see the (almost) midnight sun.

This is a great value for money day tour of Orkney. Visited loads of the top places and it gives you a great overview of life on the islands. Our driver/tour guide Darren kept up a great commentary which gave us loads of information about places we were driving past or stopping at. I’d loved to have longer at each stop but there was so much to see it wouldn’t have been possible.

Orkney explorer trip with Sean’a was amazing. She is the best guide we had in Scotland, very knowledgable, excellent driver and it was a pleasure to spend time with her over a 3-day trip to Orkney and gain so much knowledge about the history of the islands.

Our 1st visit to the Orkney Islands & we loved it. Everything was on schedule - Ferry & Bus - so we had plenty of time at each stop.

Wonderful day. Is the second time I do this tour and enjoyed it. I will do it again when I will have the chance.