Loganair, the airline of Scotland (tel. 0871/700-2000; www.loganair.co.uk), operates service to Kirkwall Airport on Mainland Orkney (the largest Orkney Island) from Glasgow, Inverness, and Aberdeen, with connections via London and Birmingham.
Motorists can visit Orkney with their cars by booking passage on one of the NorthLink Ferries (tel. 0845/600-0449; www.northlinkferries.co.uk). The line offers service from Scrabster (near Thurso), on Scotland's north coast. It's a 2-hour trip made 2 to 3 times Monday to Saturday or twice a day on Sunday. A round-trip ticket, valid for 5 days, is £20 to £34 per person or £90 to £121 per car and driver. If you don't have to transport a car, you can take one of the John O' Groats Ferries (tel. 01955/611-353), which operate May to December 2 to 4 times a day, depending on demand (trip time: 40 min.). Round-trip fares are £28 per passenger.
Island-hopping is common in the north of Scotland. Loganair (tel. 1856/872-494; www.loganair.co.uk) operates flights from Kirkwall Airport on Mainland to the isles of Sanday, Stronsay, Westray, Eday, North Ronaldsay, and Papa Westray.
Orkney Ferries Ltd. (tel. 01856/872-044 in Kirkwall; www.orkneyferries.co.uk) operates scheduled service from Kirkwall to Orkney's north and south islands: Eday, Papa Westray, Sanday, Stronsay, Westray, North Ronaldsay, and Shapinsay. From Houton, there's service to the south isles: Flotta, Hoy at Longhope, and Lyness, and from Tingwall to Rousay, Egilsay, and Wyre. There's also a private ferry service to take you to Hoy, departing from Stromness. The tourist office has details on departures.
The Churchill barriers, erected to impede enemy shipping in World War II, have been turned into a road link between the islands of Mainland and South Ronaldsay.
To find out what's going on during your visit, consult the Orcadian, a weekly published since 1854. There are tourist offices in Kirkwall and in Stromness . You can also get information at www.visitorkney.com.
These sparsely populated islands generate quite a bit of cultural activity, especially in celebrating the region's music. A number of festivals draw curious visitors and fans of Scottish music and, more specifically, Orcadian music. Information is available through the Kirkwall tourist office , which publishes the yearly Orkney Diary, listing events and dates.
The season kicks off in February with the Drama Festival, which hosts traveling companies presenting an array of productions in venues spread across the islands. Ticket prices hover around £7 to £12. May finds the Orkney Traditional Folk Festival in full swing. Both feature ceilidhs and concerts of traditional music; tickets to most events are £6 to £10. June brings a change of pace in the form of the St. Magnus Festival, which celebrates classical music and the dramatic arts, as well as music and drama workshops. Tickets average £6 to £20. For more information, check "What's On?" at www.visitorkney.com.
Bus tours operate throughout the year, but with limited schedules in winter. One reliable choice is Wildabout Tours, 5 Clouston Corner, Stenness (tel. 01856/851-011). Its full- and half-day minibus tours (maximum 15 passengers) take in prehistoric and Neolithic monuments and local wildlife. Prices are £33 to £49. The tours are popular, particularly in summer, so it's wise to book seats in advance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.