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13 Best Places to Stay in the Orkney Islands

The Orkney Islands lie just off the north coast of Scotland, offering miles and miles of breathtaking coastline with beautiful beaches and abundant wildlife, from puffins and giant Arctic seabirds to seals, dolphins, and whales. The Orkney Islands are one of the most incredible whale-watching destinations in the world. The archipelago is also renowned for its many Neolithic monuments, tombs, and stone circles, including Standing Stones of Stennes, four giant megaliths that may be the oldest henge site in the British Isles and believed to date from the third millennium BC.

Kirkwall is the largest town in the Orkney Islands, located on the main island of Orkney, where you’ll find the widest range of accommodation options. It offers lots to love, including the 12th-century Romanesque Saint Magnus Cathedral, a pretty waterfront, outstanding seafood eateries, and unique shops. When it comes to places to stay, you’ll find everything from beautiful manors in the countryside and hotels in town to Airbnb vacation rentals.

Secluded Cottage by the Sea - Kirkwall, Orkney Secluded Cottage by the Sea - Kirkwall, Orkney
Credit: Secluded Cottage by the Sea - Kirkwall, Orkney by Airbnb.com

Secluded Cottage by the Sea - Kirkwall, Orkney

One of the best cottage rentals in Scotland, this two-bedroom cottage is a dream, located down a private, peaceful country road and set right by the sea. You’ll even have a hot tub where you can enjoy a relaxing soak while gazing out at the Scapa Flow. Take advantage of direct access to the water for sailing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, and even St. Magnus Way, a 58-mile pilgrimage route through Mainland Orkney. After a day of play, look back to unwinding next to the open fire. The historic cottage has retained some of its 19th-century charms but includes all of the modern essentials, including a full kitchen, washer/dryer, TV, and Wi-Fi.

Exceptional 4-Bed Converted Church with Hot Tub - Tankerness, Orkney Exceptional 4-Bed Converted Church with Hot Tub
Credit: Exceptional 4-Bed Converted Church with Hot Tub by airbnb.com

Exceptional 4-Bed Converted Church with Hot Tub - Tankerness, Orkney

Twenty years ago, this home in Tankerness, just a 10-minute drive from Kirkwall, was a church. It was converted into a residence in 2004 and includes a large open-plan living room where one can relax with beautiful sea views and enjoy the warmth of a wood-burning stove. It accommodates as many as ten guests, and the large open kitchen has a dining table that seats up to 10 as well. Enjoy the lush private garden with a patio, and the highlight, a hot tub.

Lochside Bungalow, Spectacular Views and Wildlife - Orkney Lochside Bungalow, Spectacular Views and Wildlife - Orkney
Credit: Lochside Bungalow, Spectacular Views and Wildlife - Orkney by Airbnb.com

Lochside Bungalow, Spectacular Views and Wildlife - Orkney

Ideal for families traveling together, this lochside bungalow sleeps up to six in three bedrooms and boasts beautiful views over Loch Stenness. It’s in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, close to the famous standing stones and the prehistoric site of Skara Brae, two of the most spectacular places to visit in Scotland. For those who prefer a tranquil setting near some of the best ancient sites while being able to enjoy fishing and wildlife watching with frequent sightings of seals and birds, it’s particularly ideal. You’ll have a full kitchen for making your own meals, a living room with a 50″ Smart TV, unlimited broadband Internet, and a washer and dryer. On a pleasant day, enjoy relaxing on the furnished patio, which leads to a garden filled with trees and plants.

Beautiful Secluded Home with Its Own Beach on 6 Acres - Hoy, Orkney Beautiful Secluded Home with Its Own Beach on 6 Acres - Hoy, Orkney
Credit: Beautiful Secluded Home with Its Own Beach on 6 Acres - Hoy, Orkney by Airbnb.com

Beautiful Secluded Home with Its Own Beach on 6 Acres - Hoy, Orkney

Located on a six-acre property with its own beach, this secluded home offers the quintessential stay on the island of Hoy, known for its vast stretches of wilderness and hiking trails, including the epic trek to the Man of Hoy rock formation, one of the best things to do in Scotland. Referred to as “The Noddle,” this eco-friendly home can accommodate as many as ten guests in four bedrooms and includes under-floor heating and gorgeous views while being surrounded by a garden that leads to the beach and a river. You’ll have a large furnished deck for relaxing while watching for abundant wildlife like seals, otters, and even orcas, along with a wide variety of sea birds. Fast Wi-Fi, a 32″ HDTV with Amazon Prime Video, standard cable channels, a DVD player and Fire TV, a full kitchen, and a washer/dryer are all included too.

Superb Views from Two-Bedroom Loft Apartment - Orkney Superb Views from Two-Bedroom Loft Apartment - Orkney
Credit: Superb Views from Two-Bedroom Loft Apartment - Orkney by Airbnb.com

Superb Views from Two-Bedroom Loft Apartment - Orkney

This two-bedroom loft-style apartment sits on the first floor and offers fabulous sea views over Scapa Flow and beyond from the living room, while the bedrooms enjoy serene views of the rural countryside. Scenic walks can be enjoyed just outside your door, yet the town center of Kirkwall is only a few miles away. It sleeps up to three and comes at a bargain price while still providing all of the necessities and then some, including Wi-Fi, TV, board games, and items for the little ones, like kid’s dishware and a high chair.

Apartment 3 at Frasers Close Apartments - Kirkwall, Orkney Apartment 3 at Frasers Close Apartments - Kirkwall, Orkney
Credit: Apartment 3 at Frasers Close Apartments - Kirkwall, Orkney by Airbnb.com

Apartment 3 at Frasers Close Apartments - Kirkwall, Orkney

If you want to be right in Kirkwall, this three-bedroom apartment sleeps up to six, with one bedroom furnished with a bunk bed, making it ideal for families with children. It’s close to all the attractions, shopping, and dining, and as it sits on the top floor, you’ll enjoy a fabulous view too. Well-equipped, you’ll have everything you need, including a full kitchen with a dishwasher, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, and TV.

Cantick Head Lighthouse Cottage - Longhope, South Walls Cantick Head Lighthouse Cottage - Longhope, South Walls
Credit: Cantick Head Lighthouse Cottage - Longhope, South Walls by Airbnb.com

Cantick Head Lighthouse Cottage - Longhope, South Walls

The home of a former lighthouse keeper and one of the most amazing Airbnbs in Scotland, this two-bedroom Victorian cottage can accommodate as many as five guests while offering an idyllic escape with views that look out over the sea and beyond to the Hills of Hoy. There are many peaceful walks that can be enjoyed, leading to a sandy beach nearby, the Hills of White Hamar wildlife reserve, or to shops and the general store. Area activities also include swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and rock climbing. You’ll have a BBQ grill and fire pit to gather around after watching a stunning sunset, and inside you’ll find a snug lounge with a wood-burning stove, a well-equipped kitchen, a TV, Wi-Fi, and even a gym.

Traditional Farmhouse on a Working Family Farm - Stenness, Orkney Traditional Farmhouse on a Working Family Farm - Stenness, Orkney
Credit: Traditional Farmhouse on a Working Family Farm - Stenness, Orkney by Airbnb.com

Traditional Farmhouse on a Working Family Farm - Stenness, Orkney

How about a stay on the grounds of a working family farm? A great opportunity to experience daily life on Orkney, you’ll stay in a traditional four-bedroom farmhouse while enjoying panoramic views of Hoy Sound at the edge of Neolithic Orkney. It’s just a short distance from the ancient sites, including the Standing Stones of Stenness (one of Scotland’s most extraordinary sights), and includes a large kitchen, dining room, and living area with free Wi-Fi, TV, laundry facilities, and a sun porch. There’s even a Jacuzzi you’re sure to appreciate after a cool swim or a long hike.

The Smiddy Kirkwall - Kirkwall, Orkney The Smiddy Kirkwall - Kirkwall, Orkney
Credit: The Smiddy Kirkwall - Kirkwall, Orkney by Airbnb.com

The Smiddy Kirkwall - Kirkwall, Orkney

This unique home was converted from a woolen mill and fully modernized with special architectural features, including Orkney stone walls, oak flooring, and an oak stairway. It’s close to the shops, bars, and restaurants in Kirkwall while being ideal for families. It can accommodate up to six adults, two children, and one infant. The host has even provided books and toys for various age groups of children, and there are TVs in every bedroom plus the kitchen. the spacious living area has a panoramic window, a 75″ TV with Sky, a jukebox, and a wood-burning stove.

Hotels in Orkney Islands

Graemeshall House - Kirkwall, Orkney Graemeshall House
Credit: Graemeshall House by Graemeshall House

Graemeshall House - Kirkwall, Orkney

The historic Graemeshall House was originally built in 1626, first as a home for the Bishop of Orkney, followed by an incarnation as a museum, and now as a B&B-style guesthouse. It’s filled with elegance and charm from the past, complete with crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings, while providing a secluded setting near a beach and many walking trails, yet Kirkwall is less than a 15-minute drive away. Expect a very warm welcome from the hospitable host and a sumptuous gourmet breakfast every morning too.

The Shore Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney The Shore Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney
Credit: The Shore Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney by theshore.co.uk

The Shore Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney

Located right on the waterfront in Kirkwall, The Shore Hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in Orkney. You’ll be steps from the many shops, bars, restaurants, historical attractions, and the ferry while enjoying comfortable accommodations and unrivaled hospitality, starting with a delicious free breakfast with hot and cold items. There’s a bar and bistro-style eatery on-site, with the menu focused on fresh Orkney seafood and local beef, while rooms are all en-suite and include coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms face the harbor, and if you’re looking for more space, there’s a loft suite with two bedrooms.

Standing Stones Hotel - Stenness, Orkney Standing Stones Hotel - Stenness, Orkney
Credit: Standing Stones Hotel - Stenness, Orkney by The Stones

Standing Stones Hotel - Stenness, Orkney

The Standing Stones Hotel boasts a lochside location, overlooking the waters of Stenness just a mile from the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, two of the most peaceful places for finding your zen. The town of Kirkwall is just 11 miles away. Dining can be enjoyed right on-site with a varied pub menu featuring dishes based on high-quality seasonal ingredients. Start your day with a complimentary breakfast overlooking the loch while enjoying the warmth of the open hearth fire. End it in a clean, comfortable room, all of which are en-suite and include free Wi-Fi, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and TVs.

The Orkney Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney The Orkney Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney
Credit: The Orkney Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney by orkneyhotel.co.uk

The Orkney Hotel - Kirkwall, Orkney

Blending historic character and fine hospitality, The Orkney Hotel sits within a building that dates back to 1670. It was originally the home of a local merchant and his family, with plenty of modern renovations that make for a comfortable stay. You’ll be just minutes from the local shops and St. Magnus Cathedral while easily being able to take advantage of the outstanding on-site restaurant with its impressive menu of native beef and lamb, fresh-caught seafood, and vegetarian dishes. The hotel’s bar is a popular spot to hang out with more than a thousand different whiskies, perfect for an evening dram. The elegant rooms are traditional in style, and all come with flat-screen TVs with premium channels and coffeemakers. Some have whirlpool tubs or romantic four-poster beds.

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