Orkney’s hills and farmland were an astonishing shade of green in the morning sun. As the ship drew alongside the pier, local guides welcomed us while guests disembarked for tours of the mainland, ready for picturesque land and seascapes as well as history dating back several thousand years. Our first stop on the Orkney Treasures tour was Skara Brae, a beautifully-preserved Neolithic village that shows glimpses of a distant past. Nearby, Skaill House is intimately linked with this site; the home’s residents are the ones who realised, after a storm, that there were houses beneath the sand.
Later in the tour, the Ring of Brodgar stood out amidst the local wildflowers, an enigmatic and impressive stone circle and henge monument, the latter referring to its surrounding ditch. Guests enjoyed the sun and learned about the distant past embedded in the landscape as they listened to the guide describe the archaeology of the islands and then walked around the monument. Meanwhile, participants on the Panorama Tour visited the village of St. Margaret’s Hope and the wartime Italian Chapel, built and painted by prisoners of war.
The afternoon found guests on a walking tour of Kirkwall to learn about the more recent past. Progressing through the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral and taking in the ruins of the Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces, the tour ended at the Orkney Museum, where everyone explored at their own pace. The day was not yet over, though! After this ramble, anyone who wished to do so could return to the ship and enjoy a whiskey tasting hosted by the historic Highland Park Distillery. The distillery’s team provided fascinating stories and notes on the three whiskeys available to sample.