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travelling by car to Orkneys

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travelling by car to Orkneys

Hi, I am planning to travel to the Orkneys from Lancashire by car / ferry. Could anyone recommend the best place to take the ferry from. Not sure if it is best to take the ferry from Aberdeen or to drive to Scrabster for the shorter crossing. Thanks for your help.

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1. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

I've taken the Scrabster Ferry and it is quick. Aberdeen Ferry is longer and at least twice as expensive. I think that there's a third choice that goes into St. Margaret's Hope. The drive is at least around 3 hours longer for Scrabster. I hope someone whose done both will post for you. The drive up to Scrabster from Inverness is pretty straightforward. It's Scotland, so it's scenic. ; )

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2. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

I've done the shortest ferry (less than 1 hr I think) to St. Margaret's Hope from John O'Groats across and returned from Stromness. It took me 4+ hours to drive from Inverness to JO'G. The Aberdeen ferry was an overniter, and took like 10 or 12 hours and stopped at another port before ending up at the main island where Kirkwall and Stromness are located, and cost a fortune for 1 passenger & car each way. If you don't get a compartment, you will be sleeping with the crowd in a lounge chair. Once on Orkney I filled 3 fabulous days seeing the sights-glad I had my car- and stayed at The Stromness Hotel, it was OK comfortable and an OK value. Enjoy! --Sandy

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3. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys


You are probably best going from either Scrabster or Gill's Bay in the far north since this will give you most journey options and be shortest in overall journey time.

I've gone from Gill's Bay to St. Margaret's Hope and enjoyed the crossings then the drive round to the places I was staying in Orkney. This route is operated by Pentland Ferries.


The Scrabster to Stromness route is operated by NorthLink (like the Aberdeen route). This takes you into the heart of Stromness.


Unless you have a reason to go via Aberdeen, I'd rule that route out and work out where to take a couple of nice breaks on the road to the north.

Stromness, Orkney...
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4. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

Hi - the previous answers have given you the right info - both to this question and wildlife / seabird locations.

Scrabster or Gill's Bay are the two to go for - and if you want any tips on places to stop on the way up through Caithness - give me a shout - I have done the journey many times and explored a lot of this east coast between Inverness and Thurso etc. It is worth taking your time and it compliments Orkney well.

Best wishes


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5. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

When took the car on the ferry from Gills Bay to St Margarets Hope. Make sure you reserve a place on the ferry.

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6. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

Hi Slider1,

Welcome to Orkney Islands Forums,

Telephone number for Pentland Ferries is 01856 831 226. It is cheaper to book by telephone rather than the internet as it is a booking agency that takes the bookings for Pentland Ferries.

Our Brand New Ferry Pentalina just come home to Orkney before Christmas. She will be on this route very soon so you will be travelling in a brand new ferry. It will only take 45 minutes when she goes on the route. The cost is £28.00 for a car and £12.00 per adult. Children under five is free and children over five and under 16 half price. You can phone and book they will give you a reference number. When you arrive you can either pay by car in the office before you go on board or pay cash to the Purser on board. You can't pay by card on board so you will have to arrive 30 minutes before hand to pay by card and the company like you there a little earlier anyway. From Main land they go from Gills Bay to St Margarets Hope.

Northlinks telephone number is 0845 6000 449. This ferry is also quite new it is about four years old and is very luxurious. It is more expensive and takes two hours almost for the journey more expensive. They sale from Scrabster to Stomness a very nice little village and this ferry will take you past the Old Man of Hoy too. On this ferry service you need to pay in advance or they will not take your booking. You will also need photo ID to take the journey both way. No ID no journey.

Best wishes


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7. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

Doesn't matter how you get there, Orkney was the most awesome place I've ever been to (2006), and I can't wait to go back. Only went to South Ronaldsay, but there was heaps to see, people gorgeous, slower pace, and its just the most wonderful place, hail Scotland, yes, a beautiful country all over, but Orkney - well its something else.


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8. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

When I went I took the Aberdeen to Kirkwall route. I thought it was a good way to save a long drive. The road to Aberdeen is dual carriageway, so it also reduced the risk of getting stuck behind something slow.

The ferry sails at 5pm, and arrives at 11pm, so you don't need a cabin. It's not every day, though - timetable is at www.northlinkferries.co.uk/timetables.html. The ferry itself was pleasant enough. I imagine it's not much different to Northlink's Scrabster to Stromness boat.

My holiday was in May, so there was even still a glimmer of light in the sky as we got off the ferry.


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9. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

I don't think anyone else can tell you the best way for you, as it's a matter of personal opinion and depends if you want a longer drive and shorter (& cheaper) ferry crossing - if so, go for Scrabster to Stromness. Or if you prefer a shorter drive (cheaper as you'll use less petrol) and don't mind a longer, and more expensive ferry journey then go Aberdeen to Kirkwall.

There is also the Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope option - but the new ferry is not yet on the route, it's only almost a year behind schedule now..... It's a catamaran and looks very nice but unfortunately the 2nd hand engines etc they installed have proved unreliable at best!

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10. Re: travelling by car to Orkneys

Hi Selkies,

The engines in the new ferry called the Pentalina were and are not second hand she started her routes today. Just for your info. I live in Orkney.

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