Six miles off the North Atlantic Ocean, off the mainland, Scotland’s remote Orkney archipelago is made up of 67 islands. It is symbolically and literally off the map. Their history is unrelated to the rest of the country. The islands have been part of Scotland since the 1470s. Before that, they were a legacy of the Viking era under Norwegian thread. The Nordic people settled here and used the islands as a base for raids against other parts of Scotland. Orkney Neolithic sites are among the best preserved in Europe for a long time. These include the semi-subterranean stone houses villages of Scara Bray and the mysterious rocks known as the Ring of Broader.
The ferry runs from Abendine to Kirkwall on the Scottish mainland. The island of the Mainland is small, but its amazingly lively capital, Orkney, is home to only 20 settlements. Here are the small and casual style Albert hotels with clean lines and contemporary furniture and a well-known reception bar. Or you can see the four-story beds at the Linfield Hotel near the island’s distillery and the more traditional decor for antique items (Highland Park Whiskey, Orkney’s best export manufactured here).
Not far from the mainland, the small island of Shapinsey is another port here. Inheriting a largely flat topography and fertile soil, it is mostly used for raising cattle and sheep, and due to its small size, it is capable of walking during the day. Isolated beaches and bird watching (about 300 species have been identified) are among the attractions here.
As you walk, you will not fail to recognize Balfour Castle, one of the main landmarks of the famous Seven Spears in Shapinsay. Built-in 1845 by local landowner Thomas Balfor, the entire palace today can only be used by groups of 6 to 18 people. Spend days here fishing in the sea or playing croquet on the grass. Here you will find the speciality of “Wild Fowling” (for ducks and geese) which especially attracts hunters from all over the world.