Travel

These incredible must-try experiences are unique to Orkney

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Susan Devaney
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Orkney has just been named the best place to live in Britain, according to the Halifax’s annual quality of life survey. 

The further north you travel in Scotland, the wilder and more wondrous it becomes. As you make your way past the dramatic landscapes of Glen Coe, onto the famous site of Loch Ness and steadily through the majestic mountainous terrain of the highlands and islands to John O’Groats (where you’ll feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth), you’ll set your sights on Orkney across the sea: an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland.

Home to around 22,000 people, the collection of small islands boasts some of the most incredible historic sites in Europe. From Skara Brae to the Ring of Brodgar, there is plenty to keep you enthralled during your time there, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the unbelievable wildlife that can be found from one wee island to the next: think short-eared owls to puffins and Orkney vole.

Maybe that’s why there’s a common descriptive word that arises when travellers return home to describe Orkney: magical.

It comes as no surprise that the Scottish destination has been named as the best place to live in Britain in 2019, thanks to Halifax’s annual quality of life survey. Due to low crime rates, smaller primary class sizes, good health, high employment levels and happiness scores, Orkney offers up a pretty good lifestyle (minus the weather).

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But in case you needed any further convincing as to why you should take a trip there immediately then take a look at some of the best experiences below. 

Northern Lights 

Thought you could only see the Northern Lights in Iceland or Antarctica? Think again. One of the main reasons people head to Orkney is because they hope to see the sky light up. If you’ve got the same idea, then head to Orkney during autumn or winter as the darkest months make it easier to spot auroras borealis. And be prepared to rise early and stay up late to catch a glimpse of it. 

You can find out more information here

Sands of Wright beach 

You might not know it, but Scotland is home to some of the whitest beaches around – especially in Orkney. If you’re looking to set eyes on some pure sands and turquoise waters then head to Sands of Wright beach found in South Ronaldsay, and take a stroll along the sand. If you’re simply in need of some quiet time then this is the place to be.

You can find out more information here

The Standing Stones of Stenness 

Believed to be the oldest henge site in the British Isles, the Standing Stones of Stenness is something spectacular to see. Whether you’re a history buff or not, the ritual monuments – comprising of four standing stones – have been in place for 5000 years. Part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, the stones are certainly one of a kind.

Why not take part in the organised tour of the stones with Historic Environment Scotland? The company organises tours from 30 January to 17 April. You can find out more information here

Ring of Brodgar 

Like something from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the Ring of Brodgar originally comprised of 60 massive stones, but only 36 survive today. The enormous ceremonial site dating back to the third millennium BC is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, and it something to behold.

Why not take part in the organised tour of the stones with Historic Environment Scotland? The company organises tours from 24 January to 28 March. You can find out more information here

Old Man of Hoy 

It’s considered to be Orkney’s most famous landmark which is why it attracts so much love and attention from travellers. The Old Man of Hoy is a 450-foot sea stack (the tallest in the UK) and has been climbed by many a person. If you’re feeling up to the job then just make sure you pack the right attire.

You can find out more information here

Skara Brae 

The extraordinary village of Skara Brae has been standing long before Stonehenge and Egypt’s pyramids. The well-preserved Neolithic settlement found in Sandwick, is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and still showcases how people lived 5,000 years ago. Full of artifacts, the village is unique and educational. 

Images: Getty 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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