Orkney’s must-sees

Bryce Wilson's mermaid illustration from Tom Muir's book of Orkney folklore, The Mermaid Bride


What are Orkney's must-see sites?

With so much to do and see in our beautiful islands, choosing from among them is a challenge. This page focuses on the most popular places that you won't want to miss.

Stones of Stenness,Orkney, Scotland

Tom Muir (my husband, and your guide) is a native Orcadian storyteller, author and historian.

He has tales about these extraordinary places that will help you savor your Orkney experience more deeply. 

The photos at the bottom of this page are links to our must-see choices. Click on the audio clips that you'll find on each page to hear a few extra stories.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK

Skip down the page here to start exploring.


Planning your must-see mix

In spite of the potential for summer crowds (which usually aren't too bad), the same names come up over and over when people talk about Orkney's must-sees.

There's a reason for that.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK


They're freaking amazing.


Best-beloved things to see and do in Orkney

We suggest that you work a few of these sites into your itinerary, even if you’re on a very short visit.

But be warned ...  

Rackwick Beach, island of Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

Orkney can be very beguiling. 

Your first experience is likely to whet your appetite. The good news is, you're welcome to come back anytime.

Skara Brae and Skaill House, Bay of Skaill, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK


Keep an eye on the weather

Flexibility when you're making plans is a good idea, especially in the cooler seasons when changeable weather can make things tricky.

It's good practice to have a rainy day strategy. Find more about that here.

Misty beach, island of Hoy, Orkney, Scotland, UK

The reality of our northern islands is that bad weather can limit options.

But then, people don’t come to Orkney for the weather, do they?

Ring of Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney, Scotland, UK

They come for rich experiences, which Orkney has in abundance.

People travel here from far, far away to see sights found nowhere else in the world. 

The Italian Chapel, Lamb's Holm, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

A short note for lovers of solitude ...

Stromness harbor, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

If you visit Orkney in the busy months - roughly May through September - you might be eager to escape the cruise ship crowds and experience the wonders of Orkney with fewer distractions.

Never fear! We suggest plenty of peedie (small) adventures on this page. These places are off-the-beaten-trail and tend to be far less crowded than the World Heritage sites.

It’s not likely, for instance, that you’ll get much time alone at the Ring of Brodgar.

But it’s possible to revel in solitude in locations like the wee folk museums in Rackwick on the island of Hoy. (See the tantalizing photo below, taken from one of these museums.)

View from a folk museum, Rackwick, island of Hoy, Orkney, Scotland, UK


A pleasant mix

We suggest that you try for a pleasant mix of the most popular Orkney attractions and our peedie adventures, in whatever combination is most agreeable to you. 

Coastline near Brough of Birsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

So click on the photos below, gather your best Orkney itinerary ideas and go have a great adventure!

Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages) courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE - Thanks, Bryce!