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Orkney, Shetland and The Caledonian Sleeper

3.5 stars(15 reviews)
Small Group

Discover the Scottish islands' charms in the most romantic way

You are viewing the 2021 itinerary. Select your departure year
7 days From £1,700 per person

2021 Tour code: SOS21

About the tour

Uncover atmospheric castles, charming fishing ports, ancient archaeological sites, and captivating wildlife in Orkney and Shetland. We journey to and from the Scottish islands on the Caledonian Sleeper Train, experiencing the timeless charm of overnight rail travel.


What’s included


Day 1 - London and the Caledonian Sleeper

We meet at London Euston, and board the Caledonian Sleeper train for an overnight journey to Scotland. An experience which harks back to a bygone era of rail travel, we are treated to a magical journey whilst travelling through undulating English countryside from the relaxed comfort of our classic and club cabins.

Day 2 - Aberdeen

We wake up after a night on the rails to the iconic heather-clad scenery of Scotland. After breakfast, we disembark in the thriving port city of Aberdeen, where you have a guided tour of the city. Board a ferry this evening for the overnight crossing to Shetland - Britain's northernmost outpost. Located closer to Bergen, in Norway, than to Edinburgh, the dramatic beauty of the Shetland Isles blends with a unique Norse influence.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 - Lerwick and Hillswick

We sail into Lerwick, the capital of the Shetlands Isles, where we meet our guide for the day. Our first visit is to Scalloway, the ancient capital of the Shetlands. Here, we discover the brooding ruins of the impressive Scalloway Castle, which dates back to 1599. Next, we head to the coast for a unique encounter with Shetland's world-famous ponies learning about their history and enjoying a photo opportunity with these sweet animals against the spectacular coastal backdrop. We continue by coach to the picturesque village of Brae, for a fish and chip lunch at an award-winning local restaurant. Afterwards, we travel north, taking in incredible views of the volcanic Cliffs of Eshaness before transferring to our hotel, the 3-Star St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick, which boasts wonderful views of the bay.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4 - The history and wildlife of the Shetlands

Today's tour immerses us further in the unique history of the Shetlands. First, we explore the Prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof, at the southern tip of the mainland.

Jarlshof is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Europe, with the oldest signs of life dating from around 2500BC. Our time here offers a wonderful insight into the evolution of life and living conditions throughout the Shetand's history. We continue south to Sumburgh Head, a protected nature reserve notable for its steep cliffs, iconic lighthouse and large seabird population. The rocky headland provides the perfect vantage point for spotting the beautiful seabirds which reside here, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, in addition to whales and dolphins. Next, we pause at the rural coastal villages of Gulberwick and Cunningsburgh before travelling to Lerwick, where there's free time before boarding the ferry to the remote Orkney Islands. We arrive at our hotel, on Orkney's mainland late this evening. Perched on the edge of shimmering Stenness Loch, this unique hotel is located within walking distance of some of Orkney's most incredible Neolithic sites, including the Standing Stones of Stenness and The Ring of Brodgar.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 - Archaeological Orkney

After a relaxed morning, we meet our guide for full-day tour which takes in the 'Heart of Neolithic Orkney' - 4 famous archaeological sites which gained UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1999. These fascinating Neolithic monuments include the Standing Stones of Stennis, the 4 remaining stones of perhaps the oldest Neolithic henge in the British Isles; the Ring of Bordgar, an enigmatic ceremonial site made up of an enormous circle of stones; Maeshowe, a chambered tomb which is more than 5,000 years old; and Skara Brae, the 'Scottish Pompeii' - an excellently-preserved prehistoric village consisting of 8 ancient houses, which were occupied between 3000BC and 2500BC. We transfer to Stromness to board our ferry for the very early morning crossing to mainland Scotland.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 - Dunrobin Castle and Dornoch

We arrive in Scrabster and transfer to Dunrobin Castle. This fairytale stately home is reminiscent of a French château, with a white stone exterior, striking turrets, and grounds inspired by the gardens of Versailles. We have time to explore before continuing to Dornoch, a former royal burgh occupying a tranquil position on the coast. You have some free time. You could visit the impressive cathedral, founded in 1224, or take a stroll along the golden beach.

  • Day 6 - Breakfast
  • Day 7 - Breakfast
Day 7 - Inverness and the Caledonian Sleeper

Afterwards, we transfer to Inverness where you have free time ahead of boarding the Caledonian Sleeper train for our return journey to London, arriving on Day 7.

  • Breakfast

Additional information

Hotel Information

For the following depatures your hotel has changed on Day 4:

Ferry Inn - SOS2101, SOS2102, SOS2103, SOS2104

Royal Hotel - SOS2105, SOS2106

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Moorfield Hotel, Brae

Moorfield Hotel, Brae

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St Magnus Bay Hotel, Hillswick

St Magnus Bay Hotel, Hillswick

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Caledonian Sleeper

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3.5 stars3.5 / 5 · 15 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

I Macdonald

2 stars

Submitted 27/Jun

First of all, 5 stars for Georgina, our tour leader. Despite all the things which didn't work she was brilliant and worked her socks off, Thank you Georgina. As to the tour it really didn't do too well starting with a rearranged train journey to Glasgow, a hotel where the rooms we were given hadn't been cleaned from the previous occupants, on to a full day in Aberdeen, a grey and soulless city! Shetland was beautiful but too brief, Orkney was even briefer - there's so much to see there given enough time - and after dinner at The Ferry Inn we were expected to sit around in either another pub or out on the streets until we could access the ferry. The trip to Dunrobin Castle was superfluous to needs and the hotel in Inverness didn't do breakfast until 8.00 am and we were catching the 0755 train. It needed more time in Shetland and the Orkneys and a lot more thought put into the planning. Sorry, Great Railway Journeys, it didn't do you any favours!

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Robert Lane

4 stars

Submitted 27/Jun

Interesting places pity about the weather very good guides on the island tours. We had some excellent meals . Smaller group made it easier to get about and our tour leader was excellent .

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David Leslie Single

2 stars

Submitted 27/Jun

This holiday was spoilt by the Caledonian sleeper strike which we know was not your fault. We had the additional expense of overnight accommodation in London and the Indigo hotel experience in Glasgow was not good - the breakfast comprised stale pastries and cold cooked breakfasts. We realise this probably had to be cobbled together at the last moment but a contribution to our overnight stay in London would be appreciated. In addition, we were nearly left behind at Euston. Told to convene at the bottom of the escalator steps at 10.30 for the 10.46 train, we were a few minutes early but the party was nowhere to be seen. The guide must have inadvertently included 2 people standing around to make up the 16 and thinking the party was complete, left to board the train. Getting very worried as 10.46 approached, we approached the ticket official but she would not let us on the train. A phone call to our guide went to voicemail. Luckily the train manager happened along, believed our story and let us board a 1st class coach, where we were allowed to stay. We appreciated the provision of a guide in Aberdeen. The ferry trips and the islands were very good. The hotels and guides on the islands were also good, especially JIm on the Shetlands. So once we actually arrived in Scotland, it was a very enjoyable holiday.

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3 stars

Submitted 27/Jun

Caledonian sleeper on strike so itinerary changed with day travel and overnight hotels Glasgow and Inverness. Quite a hectic holiday as only 6 days but got to Shetland where the sun shone for one day. After that cold and windy. Very comprehensive tour of Shetland on two days with good guide. Similarly on Orkney. Unfortunately some areas were closed because of COVID, SKara Brae and the visitors Centre at Jarlsburg. Wearing masks on transport did spoil the experience somewhat. Comfortable cabin on Northlink ferry to Lerwick and recliner seat on ferry to Orkney.

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3 stars

Submitted 27/Jun

I have given it 3 stars due to the Caledonian sleeper strike at short notice which created a more difficult holiday creating more travel and hotels, difficulties with meal arrangements at hotels including very poor meals on board the 3 ferry crossings we made.

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James Salmons

4 stars

Submitted 20/Jun

Excellent tour highly recommended However we did experience some issues not anticipated on the Caledonian Sleeper which is an integral part of the tour We have raised these with GRJ So unfortunately we can only give a 4 star rating

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Europe & UK by Rail 2021

Europe & UK by Rail 2021

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Orkney, Shetland and The Caledonian Sleeper

Discover the Scottish islands' charms in the most romantic way


Helen Laverack
Lynne Broadley
Luke Simpson