This maps of Orkney, Shetland & the Scottish North Coast shows the locations of bunkhouses, bothies and hostels in the Northern Isles. Part of Independent Hostels UK, the largest network of bunkhouses and hostels in the UK.
The North Coast of Scotland is dotted with Hostels and Bunkhouses which offer a genuine welcome. A good plan for a road trip to the North Coast of Scotland is the Scottish North Coast 500 Coastal Route. This is a unique route on the empty sweeping, often single track, roads around the Northern tip of Scotland. It travels the Scottish north coast from Duncansby Head, John O’Groats, Wick and Thurso eastwards along the north sea coast to Durness.
Thurso is the port for Ferries to Orkney, docking at Stromness on mainland Orkney or on South Ronaldsay Visit the Orkney hostels or bunkhouses on one of the 70 Orkney islands and you will find you become part of island life. This is especially true of the hostels on the smaller islands in the Northern Isles, such as Sandy or North Ronaldsay. Some of the most ancient sites in the UK are Orkney. 5000 year old Skara Brae preserved village, Maeshowe a chambered burial tomb and the Ring of Brodgar stone circle are all close to Stromness. Visit the towns of Kirkwall and Stromness to see pretty little shopping streets, harbours and ports. The smaller Northern isles can be reached within one days travel by ferry from Kirkwall harbour which is served by regular public transport.
You may think that Shetland is remote being at the far North of the UK, but the Northern Isles are the hub of a travel network that reaches out to Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Norway. On the Shetland Isles you can visit the many islands, walk and explore the boundlessseascapes. The isolation of the islands has lead to the development of unique fauna and flora, and the birdlife is exceptional. Cultural events on Sherland include the Up Helly Aa guizers festival of fire in Lerwick which celebrates the burning of a Viking galley with dancing till dawn.
More about the Orkney Islands
The Orkney Islands are an archipelago of 70 islands, 20 of them inhabited, lying just north of Caithness. The Pentland Firth, which separates Orkney from mainland Scotland, is just 6.8 miles at its narrowest point. The Orkney islands are generally low-lying with most land area being farmed. The soil is surprisingly fertile, which helps support a population of 19,000 and produces beef, cheese, whisky and beer for export. The climate is very temperate, average temperatures 4 deg in winter and 12 deg in summer. Occasional very strong winds account for the absence of trees. Although the islands probably supported trees in the dim and distant past, archaeological evidence suggests they have been without trees for at least 5000 years.
Tourism is increasingly important to the economy, with people attracted by the natural environment as well as by cultural aspects: some of the best preserved neolithic remains in Europe, artifacts of World Wars 1 and 2 and the vibrant Orcadian culture of the present day. The Orkney Islands are a special place for ornithologists and the lesser twitcher, with many RSPB reserves. Visitors to Orkney can look forward to watching Great Skua, Red Throated Divers, Gannets, Arctic tern, Puffins, Guillemots, Hen Hariers, Merlin, Snipe and Stonechat, to name but a few.
Skara Brae is the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Europe, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. In addition there are many other well preserved Neolithic remains, such as the Ring of Brodgar, the Maeshowe Passage grave and the Standing Stones of Stenness.
Scapa Flow is one of the best natural harbours in the world and was the UK’s chief naval base during both world wars. After the Treaty of Versailles, the German Fleet was interned there, and eventually the Germans scuttled 51 of their own ships to prevent their use by the British. In 1939 a German U Boat slipped into Scapa Flow and sank HMS Royal Oak, with the loss of 833 lives, after which Churchill ordered the construction of barriers between the islands, so by controlling entry in the harbour. These barriers now form a series of causeways carrying roads. Scapa flow is now popular with recreational divers exploring the wrecks, although the wreck of the Royal Oak is a protected war grave.
Visitors can reach The Orkney Islands by ferry or plane. Ferries run from Gills Bay, Aberdeen, Scrabster and John O’Groats on the Scottish mainland and from Lerwick, Shetland. The main airport is Kirkwall (Orkney Mainland). Flybe operates from Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Sumburgh (Shetland). Logan Air flies to and from Orkney Northern Isles and Fair Isle.