Head to the very north of the UK to visit these two very distinctive island groups. The islands of Orkney and Shetland are often grouped together as just the last outpost of the United Kingdom but by visiting theme, you can see at a glance how very different they are to not just the rest of Scotland abut al each other.
Just a short ferry or plane ride from the mainland, on Orkney you can wonder at the majesty of St Magnus’s Cathedral, check in on the Bronze Age digs that only recently uncovered the ancient capital of Britain and visit the truly amazing Italian Chapel, built by WWII prisoners of war and pressured to this day. You can also wonder at the settlement of Skara Brae, a 2000 year old village that was uncovered when a huge storm washed the beach away beside it – it’s like looking at Scotland’s very own Pompeii. Or take a trip to Scapa Flow, a huge deep water anchorage that was the home of the Royal Navy’s North Atlantic fleet during both world wars but is now a truly spectacular place to dive on wrecks
Further north the spectacular Shetland Islands welcome you to Scotland’s real Norse heritage. Head right up to the island of Unst, which is further north than some parts of Greenland and sample some Shetland Reel gin, made with local ingredients or for the hardy traveller, make a visit to Lerwick in January to see the centuries old Up Helly Aa fire festival which celebrates the islands’ Nordic past. The islands were for years part of Norway and the culture and history reflect this. Visit at the end of June to enjoy daylight all through the night – at this time of year there’s even a chance to play golf at midnight as the nights as so light.
On both sets of the islands of Orkney and Shetland, though, the wildlife and adventure possibilities are endless – it’s well worth making that special journey north.