Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Tour & expedition


Dr_NickcpDr_Nickcp Posts: 53
edited April 2013 in Tour & expedition
Last year I spent a week or so in Shetland, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But, as I struggled north against a constant fierce headwind in unseasonably cold weather for June (cold even for Shetland, the locals said), all the cyclists I met asked me if I had been to Orkney first. When I said I hadn't, they all sighed, and with a dreamy look in their eyes said it was a wonderful place for cycling, with gentler terrain, a more forgiving climate, none of the bleakness of the far north and plenty of historic things to see - a veritable paradise for touring.

Anyway, Orkney being the last major archipelago in Scotland I haven't explored I am very tempted by the prospect of a visit, and to see if the above picture is actually true. My impression is that Orkney is flatter than Shetland, gentler, more agricultural. Lots of ferries to catch and smaller islands to visit, which is something I like, and I'm a sucker for a prehistoric monumnet. So does anyone have any advice / suggestions etc.?


  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    I have cycled much in Orkney and love it. My favourite place is the western (larger) part of Mainand, the big island. What I like to do there is base myself at a B&B and explore, out and back every day. You can get to the other islands quite easily. I have been up there 7-8 times now. It is one f my favourite places to ride. PM me if you have any specific questions I migh be abe to help with.
  • maringirlmaringirl Posts: 194
    Orkney is lovely - we had a short tour there and there are a few hills but nothing horrendous - around Kirkwall mainly. We came by ferry to St Margaret's Hope where there is a hostel - basic but fine. We then cycled up and round Scapa Flow and across the Churchill Barriers to Kirkwall (hostels) then headed west to Stromness which is lovely and has a couple of decent hostels - we stayed at Hamnavoe Hostel which is very good. We had planned to go to Hoy but weather was poor and Hoy is for the scenery. It is a great ride up from Stromness up the coast - Skara Brae is fantastic and worth paying to get in and see it. There is also the Kitchener Memorial Monument - worth the short walk for the view from the cliffs. Hostel at the outdoor centre at Birsay. Brough of Birsay worth a look if tides are right! The Ring of Brodgar is a must - best to go at dawn or dusk when no-one is there as it adds the the feeling of the place. We didn't have time but a boat ride out to Rousay is one for our next time as well as Hoy. Do go - it is magical - we will be going again.
  • If prehistoric monuments are your thing then Orkney is for you. You will need plenty time if you intend going to the outer islands as ferry services are not necessarily daily.
    If you are into music, the Orkney folk Festival is at the end of May based. It is based in Stromness. Skara Brae, Maes Howe, the Ring of Brodgar and various standing stones are only a short distance out of Stromness so you can sight see during the day and have entertainment at night.
    If you go to Hoy, it's worth spending time at the Scapa Flow Visitors Centre and museum.
  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    You can get to most of the islands on a return ferry, same day. When I have gone ccyling in Orkney, several times now, I would take ferries to some of the outer islands. I went out as far as Westray and rode all over the island and took the ferry back that evening. The summer days are long up there in Orkney and it doesn't get dark until ten.

    I based myself in a B&B on Mainland and explored as out-and-backs, or loops around Mainland itself. It is quite easy and even in Orkney's busy summer tourist season the roads are surprisingly quiet - the exception being the main road between Stromness and Kirkwall. One thing to be aware of if you go up there is that accommodation, of all types, is in fairly short supply in summer. Book early.
  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    If you are interested here are some images of Orkney I took on my last swing through there, last summer:
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