An Archaeologist’s View of Orkney and Shetland

An Archaeologist’s View of Orkney and Shetland

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An Archaeologist’s View of Orkney and Shetland

6 Days Starting in Stonehaven AB39 2TL, UK and ending in Gills Bay, United Kingdom

Visiting: Dunnottar Castle, Lerwick, Sandwick, Mousa Island, Hoswick Visitors Centre, Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve (now closed for the season, reopening in April 2024), St Ninians Isle, Scalloway, Tingwall, Orkney, Churchill Barriers, South Ronaldsay, Italian Chapel, Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral, Birsay Earl's Palace, The Orkney Museum, Maeshowe, Standing Stones of Stenness, Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, Skaill House, Saint Margaret's Hope, Gills Bay

Tour operator:

Brightwater Holidays

Tour code:

BOSA

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

6 - 25

Physical rating:

Medium, Moderate

Age range:

1-99

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Vegans, Meat, Please contact Brightwater with any specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:

English

Trip Styles:

Sailing, Small Group

Activities:

Sightseeing

This tour is no longer available

Tour Overview

The islands of Orkney and Shetland are littered with archaeological remains. People first came here over 5000 years ago and many of their remains survive. New archaeological sites are discovered every year. Some, such as Skara Brae, were buried under sand, only to be exposed by a winter storm thousands of years later; Skara Brae presents a fascinating glimpse of stone age life from the beds with their little shelves and cubby holes, to the remains of jewellery and medicine. Research is ongoing here and elsewhere excavation by archaeologists continues to uncover new information. The islands are therefore of enormous interest to anyone who enjoys first-hand contact with ancient settlements and buildings, and the people who once lived here.



During our time on Shetland we will visit the uninhabited island of Mousa with its 2000 year old full size broch; the prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof; St Ninian’s Isle with its 6th century church and the ruined castle of Scalloway. We then travel to Orkney where we visit the Italian Chapel; the Tomb of the Eagles, which offers a unique ‘hands-on’ experience - an opportunity to handle 5000 year old artefacts excavated from an extensive cliff-top site; Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe and Skara Brae & Skaill House. En route to Aberdeen, we will also stop for a photo opportunity at the dramatic ruins of Dunnottar Castle.



We will stay on both Orkney and Shetland, allowing more time to appreciate the special charm of these islands. We sail with Serco Northlink Ferries on their modern, purpose-built vessels, the Hrossey and the Hjaltland, from Aberdeen overnight to Lerwick. We then have two full days to tour Shetland, staying overnight at the historic Busta House Hotel in Brae. After rejoining the ship for an evening sailing to Kirkwall, we have a further two full days touring Orkney, before our short crossing back to the mainland.



Highlights

  • Mousa Broch – the best preserved Iron Age tower in existence

  • The multi-period settlement of Jarlshof

  • Neolithic Orkney – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre

  • Handling 5000 year old artefacts at the Tomb of the Eagles

  • The Churchill Barriers and Italian Chapel, poignant reminders of more recent history

Places You'll See

An Archaeologist’S View Of Orkney And Shetland

An Archaeologist’S View Of Orkney And Shetland

An Archaeologist’S View Of Orkney And Shetland

An Archaeologist’S View Of Orkney And Shetland

Itinerary

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Day 1

Location: Dunnottar Castle, Lerwick

Accommodation Name: Northlink Sea Ferry

Meals Included: Dinner

We depart from your local pick-up point and travel north, stopping for lunch en-route (not included). Continuing north, we will stop for a photo opportunity at Dunnottar Castle, a dramatic ruined clifftop fortress which can trace its origins to a 3rd century Pictish fortress and was once the home of the Earls Marischal, one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

We then continue to Aberdeen where we board the Northlink Ferry ‘Hrossey’ (or her sister ship ‘Hjaltland’) for our overnight sailing to Lerwick (departs 19.00hrs).

Once on board we shall check-in to our comfortable cabins which all have en-suite facilities. The ship has a delightful restaurant where we will have dinner, thereafter you may wish to relax in the bar or lounges. There is also a well-stocked gift shop for souvenir shopping or essential items.

Day 2

Location: Lerwick, Sandwick, Mousa Island, Hoswick Visitors Centre, Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve (now closed for the season, reopening in April 2024)

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Brae Hotel, Shetland

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Our ship is due to arrive in Lerwick at 07.30hrs. After breakfast on board (available from 07.15hrs) we will leave the ship and commence our tour of Shetland travelling through small communities such as Gulberwick and Cunningsburgh.  At Sandwick we transfer to a small ferry to cross as foot passengers over to the fascinating little island of Mousa, where we will visit the 2000 year old iron age broch.  Remarkably the broch of Mousa still stands to its original height of 13m.  The island is also a nature reserve and is rich in wildlife.  Storm petrels, Arctic terns and Skuas nest here, and harbour seals lounge on the shore.  Keep a sharp eye on Mousa Sound and you may also spot porpoises and the odd killer whale. If for any reason (weather or boat problems – sadly it can happen) we will visit Scatness Broch on Mainland Shetland.

On returning to the mainland we will stop at Hoswick Visitor Centre for lunch (not included). Later we will travel the short distance to the outstanding Prehistoric and Norse Settlement of Jarlshof, with over 3 acres of remains, spanning 3000 years since the days of the Stone Age, including oval shaped bronze age houses, an iron age broch and wheel houses, Viking long houses and medieval farmhouses.

We then visit the nearby cliffs at Sumburgh Head, where the North Sea on the east meets the Atlantic Ocean on the west.  The cliffs here are quite spectacular. This is an RSPB reserve and in April and July we should have an opportunity to watch the puffins and other seabirds.

Later we transfer to our hotel.

Day 3

Location: St Ninians Isle, Scalloway, Tingwall, Orkney

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning after breakfast we travel northwards, stopping first at St Ninian’s Isle and its church dating from the 6th century when Christianity first came to Shetland.  It is also famous for its treasure of 9th century silverware found by a young schoolboy in 1958 which was believed to have been hidden to prevent Viking raiders removing them.

We travel to Scalloway, the former capital of Shetland where we visit the ruined castle built in 1600 by the infamous Earl Patrick Stewart. After time for lunch in Scalloway (not included) we continue through Tingwall Valley, the site of the old Norse parliament (Ting) before returning back to Lerwick with time to explore the historic town before we board our ship for Orkney.  Dinner is served on board.

On arrival in Orkney (expected at 23.00hrs) we will transfer the short distance to Kirkwall to our accommodation. All rooms have en-suite facilities.

Day 4

Location: Churchill Barriers, South Ronaldsay, Italian Chapel, Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral, Birsay Earl's Palace, The Orkney Museum

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning following breakfast we will depart on a tour of the south end of mainland Orkney, crossing the Churchill Barriers which were built after the sinking of the HMS Royal Oak in October 1939.  The causeways are built of 5 and 10 ton concrete blocks and have good roads on the top connecting Burray and South Ronaldsay to the Orkney mainland.   We also stop off at the beautiful Italian Chapel, built on the site of a former prisoner of war camp.  Several hundred Italians, captured during the North African campaign of World War II were sent here to work on the Causeways and converted two huts into a chapel.  The marvellous paintings in the interior were done by Domenico Chiocchetti, one of the prisoners who has returned several times to restore and repaint parts of the building. 

We will continue to drive south over causeways to South Ronaldsay, where we visit the Isbister chambered tomb. Popularly known as the Tomb of the Eagles, due to the number of talons from sea eagles found there, the cairn dates from about 3,000BC and was in use for about 800 years. Like so many of Orkney’s prehistoric monuments it was discovered purely by accident, by a local farmer 50 years ago, and consists of a rectangular main chamber divided into stalls and cells which contained the remains of over 300 individuals. Nearby, the Liddle Burnt Mound was discovered by the same farmer. For decades this structure was thought to have been a family dwelling but recent research has cast doubt on this and, indeed, on our ideas about the Tomb of the Eagles; these issues are explored in their own interpretation centre and museum.

We then return to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, where have free time to explore its environs at leisure.  Places of interest include St. Magnus Cathedral - one of Europe’s greatest architectural masterpieces, its red and yellow sandstone still vibrant after 861 years; the Earl’s Palace and the Bishop’s Palace and The Orkney Museum.

Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.

Day 5

Location: Maeshowe, Standing Stones of Stenness, Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, Skaill House

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning after breakfast, we have an all day excursion of west mainland Orkney visiting the Heart of Neolithic Orkney – World Heritage Sites.  We begin at Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe. Built before 2700 B.C. Maeshowe was raided by Vikings in the 12th Century. It thus houses the largest collection of runic inscriptions to be found in any one place in the world.

We shall also visit the Standing Stones of Stenness, with the adjacent Neolithic village of Barnhouse, before continuing to Skara Brae, with its new visitor centre depicting the history of this world famous monument and Skaill House, a fascinating architectural medley to the side of Skara Brae.

We return to our hotel, where dinner is served this evening.

Day 6

Location: Saint Margaret's Hope, Gills Bay

Meals Included: Breakfast

After breakfast we check out of the hotel and transfer to St Margaret’s Hope to catch the Pentland Ferries late morning sailing to Gills Bay. We will then return to our original pick up points by early/late evening.

(please note Aberdeen and Dundee are not available as drop-off points).

What's Included

  • Accommodation

  • Services of an archaeological expert as tour manager

  • Comfortable coach travel throughout

  • Meals - as per the itinerary

  • Ferry crossings

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Drinks with Meals

  • Entrance Fees

What's Not Included

Check out our Q&As

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    No

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes

  • Are all the relevant entry visa’s included in the price of the tour?

    Yes

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    Yes

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    Yes

  • Will I receive more details of the holiday before I travel?

    You will receive detailed joining instructions around 10 days prior to you departure, but you are of course welcome to contact us at any time should you have any queries.

  • What facilities do your coaches have?

    Generally, our coaches have reclining seats, air-conditioning and toilets, however this cannot always be guaranteed as sometimes we have to use smaller vehicles. Toilets are recommended for emergency use only and regular comfort stops will be made throughout your holiday while travelling around.

  • Do I have to go on the included excursions?

    Absolutely not. You are more than welcome to spend the day at your hotel or exploring independently should you wish. All we ask is that you inform your Tour Manager, so they are not left waiting for you to join the group.

  • Is there time to relax?

    Although our itineraries may seem jam-packed, boasting access to some of the most exclusive sites across the UK and beyond, a Brightwater Holiday is just that: a holiday. Each trip will counter in more than enough free-time for you to explore places at your own leisure. And with most nights and the majority of meals being included in our tour prices, you can relax in hand-picked accommodation.

  • Do I need to be an expert?

    Absolutely not! Although some of our tours are specifically focused on one thing, all you need to enjoy a Brightwater holiday is interest and bags of enthusiasm! Even on our most specialist tours, we take travellers from all skill levels, from experts to beginners.

  • How fit or active do I need to be for one of your holidays?

    You need to be able to get on and off the coach unassisted, and most – but not all – coaches have a kneel facility that lowers the front step for ease of boarding

  • Do you have self-drive holidays?

    Yes, we do – tailored to your exact requirements!

  • What’s the luggage allowance on your coaches?

    There’s no fixed limit, but we generally say one large suitcase to go in the luggage compartment and a smaller bag that you can take onto the coach with you. For flight-inclusive holidays, we include a luggage allowance of at least 20kg.

  • Where are your departure points?

    UK garden holidays generally depart from London, with additional pick-ups depending on the route of the coach, while holidays to Scotland depart from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth, with Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen sometimes included. All Eurostar holidays depart from London St. Pancras and flight-inclusive holidays depart from one or more of the main London airports, with regional flights .

  • What about the company that will be kept?

    For single travellers, those with a companion or even those travelling in a larger group, you'll find that the signature of any Brightwater Holiday is the company. You won't ever be travelling with a group of strangers, instead, you'll find yourself surrounded by like-minded people with a strong shared interest who will soon become your firm friends.

  • What is a Brightwater Holiday?

    Bursting with enthralling, educational and enlightening itineraries, a Brightwater Holiday, by its very nature, is packed with bucket-list-worthy destinations, behind the scenes passes and expert-led experiences. From creating bespoke quality garden and special interest tours for groups and individuals alike, we have made it our business to make our guests' travel dreams come true.

  • Why is there a single supplement?

    Unfortunately, single room supplements are charges that are often imposed on us as a company when we book rooms for group holidays. However, most hotels do charge less for single occupancy, and we always pass this saving on to our solo travellers in the form of a modest single supplement.

  • How much are your optional excursions?

    Prices start from as little as £20, but please contact our friendly team for questions about specific itineraries or excursions.

  • Can I pre-book my coach seats?

    Yes, you can. In the case of front seats, guests with limited mobility are given priority. Please get in touch with our friendly team to discuss any requirements you may have.

  • How to get there? Easy!

    With a Brightwater Holiday, the journey is just as important as the destination and we make getting you to your tour start point easy. From organising group flights and individual travel plans, to offering accessible local departure and pick-up points, we go out of our way to ensure that your journey is as convenient and hassle-free as it can be.

  • Do I need to have travel insurance?

    Travel insurance is required for all overseas holidays and is also strongly recommended for UK holidays – primarily to protect yourself against cancellation charges should you be unable to travel.

Reviews of this operator

Trusted Customer  

Brightwater Holidays offers great value

28-Nov-2019

I would highly recommend Brightwater Holidays. It offers excellent service and value for money. This was my first tour as I normally arrange holidays myself, but this tour - which was to the gardens of Kent and Sussex - was a very pleasant change of pace.

Feefo Trusted Reviews
Brightwater Holidays Customer  

My experience with Brightwater Holidays

08-Aug-2019

The tour was well managed, the sites visited were all interesting and linked to the theme of the Picts and their place in history, the hotel was comfortable and the coach journeys were well paced. I have been with Brightwater before and will certainly travel with them again

Feefo Trusted Reviews
Alan Hawkes (Google Reviewer)  

We were on the Tour...

28-Aug-2022

We were on the Tour of the Outer Hebrides. We had a great experience, in no small part due to the excellence of the tour manager and driver.

Brightwater Holidays Custome  

Wonderful experience with brilliant information

31-Jul-2019

The most important factor was an amazing guide in Alastair Walker whose knowledge and care for clients was fantastic. The whole trips are superbly organised

Feefo Trusted Reviews
David MacLennan (Google Reviewer)  

Noted a comment on taking...

23-Aug-2023

Noted a comment on taking coaches on A814 by a local person who didn't know the facts: When the A82 was blocked and the POLICE divert you onto that road you do as instructed not what a you know are tight roads but they only way to your destination as intructed by officials. We know this route is not suitable for large vehicles but the driver does as instructed by someone in authority.

Eric Webb (Google Reviewer)  

Recent (September 2023) Scottish holiday...

07-Oct-2023

Recent (September 2023) Scottish holiday not so good. Various 'issues' to do with scheduling and organisation. I'm happy to report however that - after an interval - a letter expressing disappointment brought a full response - including a generous refund. So - with fingers slightly crossed - we'll be booking with Brightwater again in due course.

Kevin Barrett (Google Reviewer)  

The recent tour in Northumberland...

30-Sep-2023

The recent tour in Northumberland turned out to be a shambles. Our South London driver took us to Newcastle, but no guide to meet us. Next day still no guide and the bus driver attempted to salvage the tour the best he could despite having no knowledge of the attractions. Fortunately one of the passengers Googled the tides for Holy Island. No holiday guide ever showed up. Coach and hotel were fine. Do these people only offer self guided tours? Take Shearings next time.

ALEXANDRA MCQUEEN (Google Reviewer)  

Been trying to get a...

17-Oct-2023

Been trying to get a reply from them for over a week. Booked Xmas tour, confirmation said pick up subject to numbers, they never said anything when booking and theyve been paid in full. Would not recommend!

Dp Green (Google Reviewer)  

I had heard this company...

20-Feb-2024

I had heard this company was a nightmare to deal with, but thought I'd give it a go. Signed up for a tour, then emailed them about how to pay off the balance. No response to 3 emails. I've never encountered a tour company that ignored questions on how to pay off a balance. Looked into other reviews and found many complaints about cancelled tours and refusals to refund deposits.

Kieran Thompson (Google Reviewer)  

Two of your tour busses...

26-Jul-2021

Two of your tour busses used the A814 from Garelochhead to Arrochar on 24th July 2021. This route is not suitable for large vehicles and your drivers should not have taken the huge coaches that way. There are clear signs at both ends of the road indicating it is not suitable for HGV's. Our car had to go off into the soft verge to allow your coaches to pass. Please amend your routes to avoid this road in future.

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  • Transfer as credit to Future Tours

    Brightwater Holidays allows you to transfer existing payments to a future tour to avoid cancellation fees if you can't travel and inform brightwater holidays, 25 days before departure.

  • Low Deposit

    Brightwater Holidays requires a minimum deposit of 15% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 70 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of brightwater holidays charges.

    At 40 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 7 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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