Discover Scotland’s beautiful island gems, which offer the Med’s white sands and turquoise seas alongside rich culture and history.
The beautiful islands of Orkney and Shetland are brilliant destinations for a family holiday, and with so much to see and do it’s easy to make your trip to the Northern Isles unforgettable.
Explore the rich history
Both Orkney and Shetland boast incredible historical sites for explorers of all ages to enjoy.
Take popular attraction Skara Brae, the Orkney village built in 3000BC, where you can imagine living thousands of years ago as you see ancient beds, cupboards and corridors built into the stone. Other highlights include the amazing Broch of Gurness or impressive standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar.
On Shetland, Scalloway Castle and neighbouring Scalloway Museum are great places to explore the local history. Shetland is also home to one of the finest Iron Age round towers remaining in Europe, the Broch of Mousa, and the important archaeological site of Jarlshof.
Marvel at the natural world
If you and your family love exploring gorgeous coastlines, unspoilt beaches, and sparkling lochs, then you’ll be delighted with the landscapes of the Northern Isles. Just don’t forget to pack your camera!
The seas around the Northern Isles teem with life, like curious seals, dolphins and porpoises, magnificent orcas, colourful puffins, and the famous little Shetland Ponies.
As a place with few trees, Orkney’s landscape makes quite an impression on a visit. The clear skies give you the chance to see the stars, sunrises and sunsets like never before. Make sure you head to the amazing Old Man of Hoy, a towering natural sea stack which may soon slip into the sea.
The skies of Shetland are also spectacular, especially so around midsummer. A visit to St Ninian’s Isle is a must during the summer – pack walking shoes to travel over the sand tombolo that connects the tiny island to the mainland – as is the puffin friendly Sumburgh Head.
Delve into the local culture
There are lots of cultural highlights to appreciate on the Northern Isles, with music and craft being particularly easy to enjoy on a visit. Craft plays a big part in both Orkney and Shetland, and you should visit the local makers and buy some of their beautiful jewellery or textiles to take home.
Festivals run throughout the year, and if you time your visit right you can experience celebrations with the locals. In Orkney, you could visit the Orkney Folk Festival, Stromness shopping Week, Kirkwall Sailing Regatta, Orkney Blues Festival or St Magnus Festival. Fantastic Shetland festivals on over the summer and autumn include Unstfest, Shetland Boat Week, Shetland Wool Week, Wordplay, the Blues Festival, and Fiddle Frenzy.
Take your time
There’s so much to see and do on the Northern Isles that the average visitor to Orkney spends nearly 7 nights exploring the area, while Shetland visitors tend to spend over 10 days on the islands.
Make the most of your trip by taking your car with you on a ferry, so the crossing becomes another exciting part of your family holiday.
It’s easy and fun to get to the Northern Isles with NorthLink Ferries, who run regular crossings from both Aberdeen and Scrabster ferry terminals. NorthLink Ferries include restaurants, a cinema, and overnight berths. You can easily book your journey online to start your perfect holiday to the Northern Isles.