Friday, 29 June 2018

What to do in Orkney, A weekend away on this tranquil Scottish Island

Orkney may be a small island hidden away off the tip of mainland Scotland but as we found out it has a hell of a lot more to offer than you may think! From whisky at the famous Highland Park Distillery to one of the world's best preserved 5000 year old settlements, we found ourselves struggling to fully appreciate this incredible island on our short trip.

Old man of hoy from Orkney, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin


Setting off at 5am from Inverness where we picked up our pals Scott and Charlotte we headed to John O'Groats, the most northerly tip of Scotland via the North Coast 500 route. With some truly stunning scenery on the way it's easy to see why this road has become so popular recently and with Jess behind the wheel there wasn't a dull moment where she made the scary roads somehow even more scary.

Sunrise on the north coast 500 NC500, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Standing at the sign of John o'Groats, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin

After a short ferry ride over (we got the Peatland Ferry) the sun broke out and we were greeted with some unexpected blue skys, the next couple of days were packed with older than you can ever imagine ruins and endless samples of the local produce (whisky and beer!). Here is what we got up to!

View of Dunnet Head from the boat to orkney, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin


Whisky

Highland Park Distillery, we did the £20 tour here and would highly recommend spending that little extra to get a real taste of the spirit. The distillery itself is exactly how you would imagine an old worldly distillery should look like and was great to see that everything from the old kilns to the malting floors were still in use. Built in 1798 the distillery is one of the oldest around and the tour is quite unique where you get to see a working floor malting, where you even get a chance to turn the barley yourself and also the original working kiln where they smoke the barley. The distillery offer tours from £10 to £250 where the only major difference is tastings at the end of the tour.

Highland PArk distillery tour and entrance, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour malting floor, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour malting floor,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour and entrance, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour the old kiln, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour the old kiln, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour whisky barrels, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Highland PArk distillery tour and entrance, A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin


Scapa Distillery, we did the £20 tour here but felt a little disappointed. The distillery is set within a stunning back drop with the stills looking out onto Scapa Flow but disappointingly they don't allow photos. It's not a huge distillery (capacity is just 1 million litres unlike Glenfiddich's 10 million litres) but it forms part of the Chevis Group and was quite disappointing to hear they ship all their new make spirt to Glasgow for barrelling. A fraction of those barrels do make their way back up to Orkney (the carbon foot print must be just lovely) but gives the false illusion that Scapa's whisky is aged on the shores of Scappa Flow where in fact it may actually have been aged in the total opposite environment, Glasgow! Highland Park on the other-hand store every single barrel on the island (even keeping a few at Scappa).

Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin

If you're only going to see one distillery then I recommend Highland Park, if you want to see both then I would recommend just doing the £10 tour at Scapa and spending the extra at Highland Park as its well worth it.


Whisky Bar

Whisky collection at the Lynnfield Hotel,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin

We opted for the first tour of the day at Highland Park which has its pros and cons, it was quiet so got a private tour but it left us 11am with a taste of the good stuff. Luckily for us just a stone throw away is the Lynnfield Hotel where the manager Malcolm has an incredible whisky selection (over 400 to be precise). We got chatting to Malcolm and ended up trying quite a few young, old and even a 30yr old rum to much of our delight. The girls were a little less than impressed when they turned up after some morning sight seeing to find Scott and myself absolute delighted with ourselves in the selection of whisky we had polished of before mid-day! The Lynnfield Hotel also has a great gin selection and offers some fine food in their restaurant to help soak up some of the alcohol if you when you get carried away.


Beer and Gin

Outside the Orkney Brewery,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin

With gin taking over the world its little surprise that the orcadians have joined the trend, with two gin distillery on the island already The Orkney Gin Company and Kirkjuvagr with the latter offering tours at their brand new visitors centre in Kirkwall this summer (2018).If you're more of a beer drinker then the island has two breweries, Swannay Brewery and the Orkney Brewing Company who have transformed an old school house into a brand new brewery and cafe, they offer tours and tastings every day.


Sights

Stones of Strenness Circle, Standing stone circle,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
(Stones of Stenness Circle)

As much as I do love a wee dram it would be terrible to visit this stunning island without seeing a little bit of the history. You have to pay to see most the sights and I can understand why, with huge cruise ships docking here during the summer offloading 6000 peoples to the island you can't just let them all loose on 5000 year old ruins. If you do plan on seeing a few things then it's worth picking up the Orkney Explorer Pass, this allows you to see all the major spots for £19 all in.

sign to Skara Brae, Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
Skara Brae,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
 (Skara Brae)
Entering the tomb of the eagles via the tiny entrance, Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
(Tomb of the Eagles) 


Where to stay

Airbnb - 6 Park Loan is a stunning ultra-modern home set just down the road from the Highland Park Distillery where you are just 10 minutes walk to the town centre. Remember if it's you're first time on AirBnB then why not use my sign-up code, you will get £25 off your first stay if you click here!

Airbnb view from outside, Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin
basket hamper from 6 park loan, Skapa Distillery tour and tastings,  A trip to Orkney by www.CalMcTravels.com, Orkney, Whisky, Beer, Gin


Lynnfield Hotel - Located in Kirkwall next door to the Highland Park Distillery this is a perfect place to stay for a Gin of Whisky lover.


Final Thoughts

We loved Orkney and will definitely be back, we spend three days here and although we did a lot it still just wasn't enough to see everything on the main island never mind the many small islands nearby. We are already planning our next trip up north to explore the island of Hoy which is just of the main island (where the old man of Hoy is) and even try out some of the tiny 8 seater island hopper planes that take you to some of the remote islands.

Thanks for reading and cheers to Scott and Charlotte for a great weekend!




If you enjoyed this post why not check out our trip to the Whisky Island of Islay where we spend 3 days camping by the beachside and visiting the many many distillery on the island. 




Share:

No comments

Post a Comment

© Cal McTravels | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig