The Northern Isles of Scotland are wild and rich in Nordic history. On the Ferry to Orkney, you are already rewarded with views of magnificent cliffs and of the Old Man of Hoy, one of the most famous sea stacks in Scotland.
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PLANNING TIPS - Ferry to Orkney
Ferry to Orkney
- The ferry from mainland only goes to Mainland Orkney, you have to take other ferries from the main island to reach the other Orkney islands
- The ferry to Orkney leaves from Scrabster (near Thurso) and arrives at Stromness (South West of Mainland Orkney).
- The ferry is operated by NorthLink Ferries - 3 times a day during weekdays of Peak season and otherwise twice a day - find out their schedule here.
- Scrabster is a 3-hour drive from Inverness and once on the island Stromness is a 30-min drive from Kirkwall
- The ferry ride from Scrabster to Stromness takes 1h30 on water but 2h30 with boarding and arrival.
- If you take the ferry to Orkney at 6:30am you can board the evening before between 9:30pm and 11:30pm if you book a cabin (Hamnavoe B&B offer)
- You can do a day trip to Orkney by taking the 6:30am in and the 7PM return ferries. It will leave you 9 hours on the island - or you can stay overnight, or longer.
- To plan your stay, check out my article about the things to do in Orkney
- Once on Mainland Orkney, the ferries to the Orkney islands such as Hoy or Westray are operated by Orkney Ferries. (Learn more about the various Scottish Islands)
The Ferry Boat to Mainland Orkney
Access to the ferry to Orkney is easy. Even in the fog, there is no difficulty to reach the terminal. Just stay in your car, show your registration at the booth and queue to board.
The facilities inside the NorthLink Ferry to Orkney are quite nice. Not all is always open, but there are shop, bars, restaurant and lounge for those who want to upgrade.
Seats are conformable and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food in the restaurant (considering you are on a boat).
If you want privacy you can also book a cabin.
There is a large viewing platform at the back which is quite empty when it rains but is completely full on a sunny day. You have to fight to see anything...
There are also smaller side outer areas.
The cliffs of the Orkney Isle of Hoy
As you can see on the map above, the ferry to Orkney gets close to the Isle of Hoy. Its North West Head displays steep wild cliffs.
The Isle of Hoy is the second largest in the Orkney archipelago (143 km2 / 55mi2). Some of its sea cliffs reach a height of 350 meters. Hoy is also famous for its abundant birdlife.
Below are photos of the Hoy cliffs:
The Old Man of Hoy
The most famous location on the Isle of Hoy is the Old Man of Hoy. It is a 137m high sea stack (449ft) on the North West Coast of the island.
You can see it very well and for a long time from the ferry to Orkney.
The Old Man of Hoy is made of red sandstone and was created by erosion sometime around 1750. It is separated from the island by 60 meters (200ft).
It is very popular with climbers and can also be admired from the island. But the best view is from the ferry. Good to see it before it collapses into the sea.
Below are some photos of the Old Man of Hoy from the Scrabster - Stromness ferry to Orkney taken on a foggy day and then on a clear day:
Arrival in Stromness, Orkney
The ferry ride goes very fast with such beauty to see. It is then time to arrive at Mainland Orkney, right in the town of Stromness.
Want to see more? Here are other amazing things to do on Orkney:
- The fascinating Ring of Brodgar - read article
- The impressive Standing Stones of Stenness - read article
- The pink St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall - read article
- The Earl's and Bishop palaces - read article
- The Broch of Gurness by the sea - read article
- The ancient village of Skara Brae - read article
- The beautiful Yesnaby Cliffs - read article
- Or enjoy my complete article about the best things to do in Orkney
Planning a trip to Scotland? Check out my travel guide to help you plan it:
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Want to see more of SCOTLAND?
Discover more things to do & places to see in my Travel Scotland Destination Guide.
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