The remote Orkney Islands are home to “archaeological riches, lunar landscapes and silver-white sands”, says Cal Flyn in The Guardian. They offer a real sense of escape – and were voted “best Scottish island” in a recent survey by Which? magazine.
Places of note Explore 5,000-year-old Neolithic ruins such as the village of Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar standing stones. Take a bracing dip from the beautiful beach at Rackwick, on Hoy, and visit the seaweed-eating sheep on North Ronaldsay. Local artisans sell pottery, jewellery and woodwork on the Creative Orkney Trail.
Famous faces Poet and novelist George Mackay Brown was born in Stromness in 1921 and lived there all his life. He found the islands a constant source of inspiration. In one poem, he says: “You will learn more in Orkney/than Mansie did/who made seven salt circles of the globe.”
To eat Head to Skerries Bistro, on South Ronaldsay, for sea views and fresh local lobster. The Foveran Restaurant in Kirkwall, the largest town in the archipelago, overlooks Scapa Flow and serves Orkney-reared steak and chips. For a tasty sandwich, salad or Orkney cheesecake, stop off at Judith Glue’s Real Food Café in Kirkwall.
1 To stay
Built in 1626, Graemeshall House is six miles from Kirkwall and a stone’s throw from the sea. Breakfast is served in a wood-panelled dining room and there’s an open fire in the library. Doubles from £210 for two nights, B&B.
2 To rent
This Victorian lighthouse on Hoy sleeps five and has fabulous views – you should spot orcas, dolphins and seals in the Atlantic, and there’s a chance of seeing the northern lights. Relax in the hot tub or sauna and explore the nearby wildlife reserve and sandy beach. From £263 a night.
3 To Airbnb
Brymire Cottage has a remote feel, but it’s only five miles from Kirkwall. The cosy one-bedroom property is surrounded by farmland. From £147 for two nights.
4 To buy
The Royal Hotel Longhope, on South Walls, played host to George V, Edward VIII and George VI. Built in Arts & Crafts style in 1910, it has six bedrooms, a dining room that seats 12, a bar with a pool table and stunning views of Longhope Bay. £395,000.