Floating off Scotland’s remote northeast coast, the Orkney and Shetland Islands are captivating archipelagos forming an antithesis to modern urban grit. Life has always been different in this part of the country. Things move a bit slower and local folk appreciate a smile and a wave more than most. And, importantly, the march of progress hasn’t undermined a sense of community, or a sense of place. Globalisation may have delivered the internet into many Orcadian and Shetland homes, but it hasn’t interrupted a traditional way of life where separations between cultural heritage and island myth and legend are distinctly hazy.
Devolution came to these islands long before the rest of Scotland. Their geographical isolation, Norse roots and distinctive geography gives each group its own identity. This character is accentuated by echoes of the past; the island are a living, breathing museum, with our distant ancestors leaving behind an extraordinary diary of human development. It’s this sort of fusion that makes a trip to Scotland’s fur-flung norther outposts a highlight of any visit.
Breath-taking scenery means walking and cycling are both popular and (with sometimes ferocious headwinds) challenging island pursuits. The wildlife spectacle here is unparalleled in the British Isles, and visitors may spot porpoises, elusive otters and seal colonies- but it is the thriving bird population that is a real draw cars, with millions of sea birds breathing life into forbidding coastal areas. And who can resist sitting among colonies of comical puffins as they otter about their daily business?
The Orkney & Shetland Islands are a real must see on your Scotland tours.