Getting to the Orkney Islands.
By Sea. Car and passenger ferries go from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, Scrabster (near Thurso) to Stromness and Gill’s Bay (near John O’Groats) to St Margaret’s Hope. The first two routes are operated by Serco/Northlink Ferries and the route to St Margaret’s Hope by Pentland Ferries. In addition, there is a passenger-only ferry from John O’Groats to South Ronaldsay.
The most convenient car ferry for the cottage is the Scrabster to Stromness route simply because we are located only 7 miles from Stromness. Serco/Northlink operate three crossings per day each way in the high season (weather permitting) and the crossing time is 1˝ hours. Some of our guests prefer the Gill’s Bay to St Margaret’s Hope route because the crossing is shorter and some of the route is more protected from the rougher storms. The disadvantage is that St Margaret’s Hope to the cottage is some 40 miles, but there is lots to see on the way including the Churchill Barriers and you may want to do a big shop in Tesco, Lidl or the Co-op in Kirkwall. Due to the shorter crossing time, Pentland Ferries run four crossings each day during July and August. The Aberdeen to Kirkwall route cuts out a lot of the driving to the North coast of Scotland and can save you a night in a hotel, the disadvantage is that the Saturday boat leaves at 5pm and arrives at Kirkwall at 11pm, so you get to the cottage very late. The return boat on the Aberdeen route leaves at 11.45pm on Fridays arriving at Aberdeen at 7am on the following morning, it can be a bit miserable if you don’t book a cabin. Interestingly, there is no price advantage in booking return journeys with any of the operators, so you can mix and match your routes without any financial disadvantage.
If you wish to stay in a hotel or other accommodation en route, there are low cost providers in Perth and Inverness (Travelodge and Premier Inns etc). If you book early these can be as little as £25 per night. The low cost hotel options run out North of Inverness but there are many good small hotels and B & Bs on the way. If you want to overnight near the Scrabster Ferry terminal then the Weigh Inn and the Park Hotel at Thurso are the ones that I have tried. The Weigh Inn provides a good Scottish breakfast early enough to catch the first sailing without rushing, the Park also does so but not on Saturday and Sunday mornings. In place the Park offers a continental breakfast at 7am or a picnic to take with you. Both hotels have plenty of on-site parking. My favourite is the Park Hotel, if you choose the Weigh Inn avoid the 'lodges' unless you are on a low budget. (I stayed in a 'lodge' in July 2012, much improved since last time, but still budget accommodation. Their main customers are visiting workmen and contractors.). My suggestion for an overnight stop near Gill’s Bay is the Castle Arms Hotel at Mey. A good stop for food on the A9 25 miles north of Inverness is the Skiach Services. It's an up-market transport cafe and offers good food at affordable prices. Best price for petrol/diesel are the Tesco stores at Inverness(choice of two)and also the Asda Store at Tain, on the Eastern side of the A9 just south of Tain, visible from the A9 (Filled up with diesel on 26th March, 2014 at 132.9 per litre).
By Air. You can fly to Kirkwall from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Wick. The schedules can be found on the Loganair website but you will be re-directed to the Fly-Be website. Hire cars are available in Orkney and can be delivered to the airport for you. Try Orkney Car Hire. As a matter of idle chatter, in 1939 you could fly from Stromness Airport to Croydon Airport (London’s major airport of the day) leaving Stromness in the early morning and arriving at Croydon just after lunch courtesy of Allied Airlines.
Terms and Conditions for Holiday Lets.
It is our aim to make your visit to our cottage an experience that you will very much enjoy and that you will wish to come again in the future. However we must ask that you accept the following terms and conditions which enable us to maintain our standards, to assist in proper management and ensure your safety as well as establishing a clear legal contract for cancellation, damage and exceptional circumstances.
Contractually the cottage will be available from 3.30pm on day of arrival and should be left in a clean condition not later than 10.30am on the Saturday of your departure. In practice we can usually accommodate earlier entry into the cottage. The cottage will have been serviced prior to your arrival and will be serviced after you leave. However, cleaning materials are provided and it would be appreciated if you would leave the cottage in a reasonable state of cleanliness.
We do have to be able to undertake the changeover between guests and it would be appreciated, if you could leave the cottage by 10.30am, otherwise we cannot prepare it for the guests that follow you.
When you make a booking and payment a letter or email confirming the dates and times of your holiday will be sent to you. Booking and payment is considered to be the establishment of a legal contract. We do not accept bookings from third parties including agencies. If you sign a contract with us, you must be staying at the cottage for each night booked (unless all members of your party are staying overnight on, for instance, another island, and for ensuring and accepting responsibility for all members of your party additionally ensuring that they comply with these terms and conditions. Your booking is valid for the period that you have booked and you agree to vacate the cottage at the end of the period booked. We cannot accept bookings from anyone under the age of 18.
Cancellation by You
We understand that circumstances change and emergencies occur. If you are unable to come and have to cancel, we will do our best to let the cottage for the week of your booking. If you cancel more than 30 days from the start date of your holiday, we will not bill you for the balance of your payment, but you will forfeit your deposit unless we can re-let. If you cancel within 30 days, you will be liable for the full amount of the holiday; we will, however attempt to re-let. If we are successful, we will make a full refund.
Cancellation by Us
For conditions beyond our control, we reserve the right to cancel a booking in the event of extreme weather conditions, fire damage, repossession, terrorism, war or any other extenuating circumstance, or if we cannot provide safe accommodation for you for any reason. In any of these very unlikely circumstances your full payment will be returned to you. We cannot accept liability or responsibility for any form of loss, including consequential loss, caused by our cancellation.
Breakages and Damage
You must agree to make good and breakages or damage that you incur during your stay at the cottage.
We can accommodate a small well behaved dog with prior agreement.
The cottage is a strictly ‘No Smoking’ area
When you book the cottage, it is for an agreed number of people.
Electricity is included in the price.
What we provide:
We provide bed linen and towels in the standard rental price for two guests.
Please bring your own beach towels if you wish to swim in the sea (Brrrrh!)
From North America?
If you are from North America and planning to the visit the Orkney Islands, I hope that you will find the following information to be useful.
The Orkneys are a group of islands located some 50 miles off the north coast of Scotland. They lie at latitude of 59 degrees north which is roughly the same as Juneau, Alaska. Fortunately they are not as cold as Alaska due to the presence of the North Atlantic Drift, a relatively warm ocean current that flows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic in the region of Greenland. Summer temperatures are around 65 degrees F and it rarely drops below freezing in the winter (Not true for the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11!).
However, like Alaska, the Orkneys experience very long nights in the winter and short ones in the summer, not quite the land of the midnight sun, but getting on that way. As a consequence, there is very much an Orkney tourist season, this extends from May through to the end of September. You are, of course, very welcome in the islands out of season during the winter but you may find it to be wet and cold, not to mention the Orkney winds which blow at that time of year. Out of season, you will also find that much of the tourist infrastructure has closed down.
The cottage (a small house) is what we call ‘self catering’, that is to say that you buy and prepare your own food. The cottage is not part of a hotel complex. I understand that the term in North America for this type of accommodation is called ‘vacation home rental’or 'owner home rental'. We provide bedding linen, which is sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels as well as washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets and toilet paper. The house is fully equipped for self catering with a full range of kitchen utensils, plates, mugs, pans and skillets etc. etc. The cottage will have been serviced prior to your arrival and will be serviced after you leave. However, cleaning materials are provided and we would appreciate it, if you would leave the cottage in a reasonable state of cleanliness.