3 Day Mainland Orkney Itinerary for Families and Kids – So many itineraries I read make no geographical sense, and don’t include a lot for kids or the young at heart! This itinerary limited our driving as much as possible, and keeps all ages entertained. *Contains affiliate links
Travel Night – Orkney Itinerary
We set sail from Aberdeen to Kirkwall in Orkney aboard a Northlink Ferry. Our departure was around 1700, arriving around 2300. Read more details about the journey and things to do/remember here.
Arriving so late, with youngsters, we sought self-catering accommodation within a hotel (best of both worlds) minutes from the harbourside at Ayre Hotel. Read a review here.
Alternatively, catch the first morning ferry from Scrabster in the Highlands to Stromness on Orkney – it takes around 90 minutes. For now, let’s get going!
Day 1 – GO WEST – Orkney Itinerary for Families and Kids
Ring of Brodgar
First stop, drive 12 miles west of Kirkwall to reach the mystical Ring of Brodgar. Take time to soak up the atmosphere, the kids can run and explore, and somehow the stones capture the imaginations of all ages. The wind blow, the sun shines, the rain falls, whatever the weather this stone circle is magical. [No facilities here except a car park.] We also pulled in at the Ness of Brodgar (see pic below) where excavations only began in 2003.
Carry on 5.5 miles to Skara Brae and Skaill House. This Historic Scotland site has a café for a quick pit stop.
Skara Brae and Skaill House
This prehistoric archaeological gem isn’t taped off behind cordons or glass panels. This is history that you and your family can wander around and explore. Allow several hours here to take in the ancient site that predates Stonehenge and the pyramids. As part of the experience we also dipped into the country house of Skaill (included in the ticket), then took a walk and a play on the beautiful sands of Skaill Bay. We spent about an hour on the beach so perhaps pack some buckets and spades.
Eating at Skara Brae is an option, but we preferred to drive 5 minutes to Orkney Brewery to eat. The kid’s menu offered ‘Peedie Breeks Bites’ – a title I loved. Adult dishes included a Vegan Platter, Viking Burgers, Orkney Cheddar and Stockans Oatcakes, and Soup with Beremeal Bread (an Orkney specialty).
A brewery that welcomes families is hard to find, but this former schoolhouse has always welcomed youngsters. The tour itself focuses on beer production, so it’s naturally a little dry and off topic for kids, but solid, clear info is provided for adults. Back in the cafe area, the tasting session commences, and it’s quite generous – three different beers such as Dark Island, Skullsplitter, Orkney Gold and Corncrake. Meanwhile the kids were given three different types of squash to try. This was cute, and got them totally involved, choosing which beverage they preferred and discussing which juice they preferred. Get more info here.
Eat out in Kirkwall. Lots of choice in Orkney’s capital but we opted for the Lucano Italian. This easy going trattoria dishes up family favourites. The kids were invited to make their own ice-cream bears involving chocolate chip eyes, button ears and a Malteser nose.
Day 2 – GO SOUTH – 3 Day Orkney Itinerary for Families and Kids
At any point in Day 2 feel free to stop at the various beautiful beaches and shorelines you’ll pass. I hope the sun shines for you.
Tomb of the Eagles
Drive 21 miles from Kirkwall to the Tomb of the Eagles on South Ronaldsay. Driving over the historic Churchill Barriers via Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm to reach South Ronaldsay is part of the experience.
The Tomb of the Eagles is one of the most child-friendly museum/attractions I’ve visited in Scotland. The excursion starts in a Visitor Centre run by friendly locals, where they show you some of the grisly finds from the tomb – we met ‘Jock Tamson’, ‘Charlie Girl’ and ‘Granny’.
The tomb itself is a fascinating, eery and remarkable burial site, ideal for historians of all ages with big imaginations. The grim discovery was only made by a farmer in the 1950s – he must have got the fright of his life. I love this site because it’s run by the farmers’ daughters, and they totally understand how families operate, with so many sensitive details to help families and keep kids amused. The best part, is how you get into the tomb – kids love it! Read all the details here.
Coffee and Cake
Have refreshments at the Tomb of the Eagles cafe.
The Italian Chapel
Drive back 13.5 miles to Lamb Holm to stop at the iconic Italian Chapel, a colourful uplifting place of worship created from Italian POWs during WW2. There isn’t lots for children to do here, as much of the information is written on display boards, but it’s a ‘must see’ destination so we occupied the tots, talking through all the murals and pictures painted within the converted Nissen hut. They liked the story behind the Italian Chapel too. We didn’t spend long here but it was a bucket-list destination for me.
Skate Rumple Farm, Deerness
If your family are animal lovers then an afternoon at Skate Rumple farm in Deerness is a joy. Here we met alpacas, groomed Mangalitza pigs, saw traditional North Ronaldsay sheep, and held baby ducklings as the farmers answered any questions and chatted. No animals here go to slaughter.
The Afternoon Tea at Skate Rumple Farm was a delightful end to a charming afternoon on the farm.
After this long day and late lunch, head back to your accommodation to chill out, and prepare food in your own apartment, or head out again for a nearby restaurant or an evening walk through the town or by the water.
Day 3 – 3 Day Orkney Itinerary for Families and Kids
Check out of your accommodation!
Kirkwall / Cathedral / Shopping / Museum
Spend the morning in Orkney’s capital. Walking its small winding streets allows you take in the atmosphere – perhaps pick the kids up an ice cream to keep them quiet! Visit the free St Magnus Cathedral – a dramatically grand building for such a small town. Pick up any souvenirs. There are several local jewellers, with Sheila Fleet being one of the best known. Judith Glue’s gift shop is full of local crafts and produce. Orkney Museum sums up the history of the islands with thousands of artefacts and relics across several floors.
Coffee or Lunch Stop
Judith Glue’s café in Kirkwall is full of vege goodness as well as hearty platters to suit meat eaters.
Afternoon Options – Ness of Brodgar / Stones of Stenness / Maes Howe / Farm Museums / Barony Mill
Everyone travels at a different pace, and good/bad weather can make such a difference. If you fancy another stone circle pit stop, drive to the Stones of Stenness en route to Stromness. And for another archaeology fix book tickets for Maes Howe, also practically en route from Kirkwall to Stromness.
Other attractions to include in your itinerary include the free Barony Mill (where traditional bere is milled for Bere Bannocks), the free Corrigall Farm Museum where you see how traditional crofters lived, and the free Kirbuster Farm Museum with its peat fires, Orkney chairs and box beds. All of these attractions are in the North West of Orkney mainland – also good options to also add to your Skara Brae day, if you have time.
Stromness / Dinner
Take in the picturesque town of Stromness before dining at the Ferry Inn, where relaxed dining and quality seafood is always on the menu. Catch your ferry from Stromness back to the Scottish mainland as we did. Or return to Kirkwall if you’re departing from there. Bon voyage!
Orkney is a treasure trove for all ages, and this is just the mainland.