Read reviews of our 2019 tours
All of these reviews come from our Tripadvisor page
A week to remember on Orkney
My week touring archaeological sites of Orkney with Dr Dave Lawrence was tremendous. Dr Lawrence was the perfect host: generous with imparting his obvious enormous knowledge of the sites we visited; thoughtful in ensuring all his guests' needs were met; and, indefatigable during long days where he drove, walked and talked at length. All aspects of this tour were excellent - the accommodation, the vehicle, the meals and, luckily, the most enjoyable of travelling companions. A big thank you to Orkney Archaeology Tours, especially Dave.
Orkney exposed, explored and explained.
This was an extremely well-organized and informative trip around Orkney taking in sites ranging in provenance from Neolithic to WWII. Caz Mamwell has an extensive knowledge of her adopted home where she has obviously found her genius loci and provided very detailed explanations of the monuments, history and current happenings about the islands. She even threw in some snippets of environmental interest ensuring a very holistic experience. She was very solicitous of participant comfort, perhaps a little too concerned considering that the group consisted of people well able to make their own decisions, but we all understood the demands made by the current H&S culture in which businesses operate. There was much chaffing and joshing amongst participants who are now keeping in touch so the trip was also instrumental in forging wider social links. Thank you Caz (and Dave) may your tours prosper.
Do Orkney properly!
Orkney isn't always easy to get to, but the visitor is rewarded by the sheer wealth of history available to see up close. Using Orkney Archaeology Tours is by far the best way to make the most of something that could be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Dr. Mamwell led my tour and I can't imagine that there's anything she doesn't know about the sights. You'll spend 45+ minutes at each site and get views, perspectives and access that other tours don't seem to offer (many of them are just a quick in-and-out). Although the tour primarily focuses on prehistoric monuments, every day also featured visits to Medieval, Viking, and Renaissance-period sites. My interest is mostly with the earlier monuments and I thought I wouldn't be engaged by the later material, but I was wrong. Right up to the WWII sites, Dr. Mamwell offered fascinating presentations.
Beyond the information provided, the tour organizers take care of every thing--from accommodations, ferries, and meals. I only had to get myself to and from Kirkwall. The hotel, (Ayre in Kirkwall) is comfortable and clean and provides generous, well-cooked meals. The van is extremely comfortable and well-equipped.
It is well-worth booking a year in advance, as I did. As others have noted, there is a fair amount of walking and uphill climbs. Some of the most unusual structures involve a climb down a ladder or through a narrow passageway. The guide is able to offer some flexibility, but as a destination, Orkney requires a certain level of mobility.
A fascinating and well run exposure to Orkney archaeology and plenty of Orkney-ology
Our tour was with a small group, and included hotel, all meals, and guided visits to many archaeological sites from Neolithic through medieval, along with more recent Orkney history. Van transport is provided to several sites per day. There is considerable walking on uneven ground. Good boots and waterproof are a must, but our group of 60-somethings had no trouble with the walking. We appreciated the knowledgeable discussion of each site, absent much of the speculation and balderdash so often attached to ancient sites. If you want to see the archaeology of Orkney, or if you only vaguely know where it is, you will enjoy this trip. Hotel and meal accommodations were seamless and very good in all respects.
Perfect for archaeology buffs
This is an extremely professional and well-organised trip of Orkney archeology and history from the Neolithic to WWII. Tour leader Caz Mamwell is a pocket-sized encyclopedia with a dry sense of humour. She takes great care to manage everything to the last detail, including special diets and how to enter and exit the mini-bus safely. The Ayre hotel is modern and comfortable (and planning further improvements under its new owners) with harbour views. The hotel is a 10 minute walk from Kirkwall's main streets, including 'The Reel' which is a mecca for folk music. The food was plentiful and good quality (except if you are trying to diet) and the staff friendly and obliging. The transport is a modern mini-bus of 3 rows of 3 seats with aircon and a rack at the back for rucksacks and poles. There is some (short) walking and crawling to do if you want to see everything, so discuss any limitations that you have before you book. All but two on our trip were 'concessions' and my wife is recovering from knee replacement, so she skipped one of the crawls and was a bit slow on one steep climb, but Caz was extremely kind and helpful.
Ask yourself if you are really interested in archaeology (it's not a 'cruise ship' tour)
Book early (about 2 years ahead if you want to visit during the dig season)
Read up some background on Orkney, the Neolithic, the Viking sagas, and Scapa Flow
Read the tour brochure and instructions carefully and follow all of the advice. August 2019
Archaeology and more – a splendid week of culture, history and friendly people
I really find it difficult to think of any negatives (even the legendary weather was kind to us). We are amateur 'armchair archaeologists' who had never visited Orkney before, and we came away highly satisfied. Thank you Caz. Caz Mamwell, PhD, expertly led us through Neolithic, Norse, and more recent Orkneys history on many sites and isles, timing our week to meet ferry schedules yet avoid crowds, sharing stories of Orkneys culture on the way. "Well organized" is an understatement, from arranging accommodations and lunches, to advising us to bring serious hiking boots, to attending to our needs, e.g., providing me a walking stick for rocky slopes. Caz's wry sense of humor was a treat, and with only 8 of us (4 English, 4 American), our delightful group could - and did - talk rather than just listen to lectures. What a wonderful way to experience the Orkneys! August 2019
Orkney Archaeological Tour
What a terrific experience! This tour is led by trained, working archaeologists. They specialize in the Neolithic period, but are very knowledgeable about all things Orkney, and clearly love the islands. Caz was our tour leader. She was a terrific guide, and took excellent care of our specialized needs. The Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall was very nice with a great staff. Very worth doing. August 2019
Extremely informative week on Orkney
Dr Dave Lawrence was our leader on this all inclusive tour of Orkney history and archeology - and I mean all inclusive from accommodation in the Ayre hotel to all meals and transport. Faultlessly timetabled and so many stories and facts that the group marvelled at Dave’s knowledge! Enjoyed the week immensely and feel we have learnt so much more about Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Norse age.... all featured together in some sites. Loved trips to Rousay and Hoy - unforgettable trip, thank you all who were in attendance and Dave... August 2019
An incredible week that exceeded all my expectations
This tour was so well scheduled with a raft of different types of sites visited. Dave was a fantastic guide and there was nothing about the Orkneys that he did not know. He would point out areas of interest as we were driving which just enhanced our tour. It was a lovely personalised tour, we received into the archaeology of Orkney but we also learnt about other aspects of Orkeny such as its war time history. We were able to avoid crowds so it felt like we were the only people at the sites. The lunches were a highlight too. July 2019
A wonderful tour that fulfilled all our expectations
We had been looking forward to our Orkney adventure and we weren’t disappointed. Dave is a brilliant guide – an experienced archaeologist and an excellent communicator, who clearly loves not only his subject but the islands of Orkney themselves. It’s hard to believe we visited so many sites, from the Neolithic up to the twentieth century, because we were never rushed and we always had enough time to explore every site in detail, expertly guided by Dave (and by Caz at the Knowe of Swandro). Dave (and Caz) answered our many questions with patience and expertise. A bonus was that Dave also told us what it was like to live and work in his adopted island home. The minibus was roomy and comfortable, with good views from all seats, the lunches were always delicious, and each daily itinerary was well-balanced. Clearly an enormous amount of thought and organisation behind the scenes on Dave’s and Caz’s part are what contributed to making this a wonderful experience. The Ayre Hotel was very comfortable and welcoming. Our room had a sea view and an enormous bed. Our convivial group ate together by choice every night. The food was delicious and the menu was extensive (and yes, Ila really is a star!). This was one of our best holidays ever and we can’t recommend it highly enough. July 2019
A fascinating time capsule of remarkable events
The tour was a great experience. We are still talking about it, looking through the photos, and marveling at the Orkney Islands themselves as they are a fascinating time capsule of remarkable events. We journeyed back and forth in time covering from the neolithic period to more recent history. You learn about the people, places and landscape as you visit a number of specially selected sites. The daily logistics of the tour have been well considered and finely tuned. You move along at just the right pace to fully appreciate the experience. We stayed in good-sized, comfortable accommodation with a sea view in the modern annex at the Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall. The evening menu was comprehensive and we enjoyed trying different dishes during our week’s stay. We really liked the delicious soups, sandwiches and home bakes for lunch at different cafes en route. I have a number of allergies including to some foods, and Dave and Caz made a real effort to reduce risk in this area. Do take note of the advisory clothing guide. It is accurate and we used everything on the list! The local laundromat is only open from 10 to 4 so hard to fit in with the daily tour schedule. Try to visit ‘The Reel’ in Kirkwall one evening for a taste of traditional music. It’s a cosy pub with a great atmosphere. Thanks Dave and Caz, you do a wonderful job in showcasing Orkney’s history. July 2019
This six day tour had the most beautiful sites as well as the most informative of my long life
Visiting Orkney was a terrific way to spend a vacation while enjoying a variety of sites. Orkney Archaeology Tours made an experienced effort to present the area's treasured sites from Neolithic to modern times. The amazing beauty of the islands and their surrounding waters takes one's breath away. I do believe it is my favorite of all tours. July 2019
One of the best holidays I've ever had
Travelling through time from the Ice age to WW11, a Stunning landscape studded with remarkably preserved remains, all meticulously explained by guide Dave.
As a professional Archeologist, Dave's insights into the stories of the locations and telling of the tales of the Orkney Viking Sagas and the Earls of Orkney really made the week & left me wanting to know more.
Glimpses of the Wildlife, Seals, Puffins, Arctic Skuas & Terns all ticked off my to see list. We had excellent weather but be prepared for heavy rain & High winds. Be prepared for some short periods of fairly strenuous off road walking. Hiking footwear essential. July 2019
Nothing to disappoint
A great historical experience taking in the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Picts, Norse, medieval, Stewart dynasty, wartime Orkney and more. Lovely to be guided by Dave, who has such a depth of archaeological knowledge. The highlight for me was Cuween and Skara Brae. A little underwhelmed by Maeshowe, perhaps because I had to be crammed in there with another couple of dozen people. I loved seeing the digs at Ness of Brodgar and Knowe of Swandro. But actually it was ALL amazing.
The minibus was spacious enough and comfortable.
The hotel was friendly (especially Ila, she was a star!), the food was good and plentiful. The home made soup at lunchtime was tasty and although the cakes were lovely it would have been nice to have had the choice of fruit occasionally. I was lucky to share my trip with a very convivial group of 7 others. I have already recommended the tour to a couple of friends. July 2019
History from 2000BC onwards with humour
Orkney Archaeology gave us a wonderful holiday. Caz and Dave have deep professional knowledge of the varied history (from Neolithic times to the present day) and their personal commitment to the islands gave real character to our tour. The days are varied and always interesting, with Viking saga stories as you drive from site to site. With a maximum group size of 8 you can always see and hear and they can respond to individual queries and interests. The Ayre hotel is comfortable and is very central to explore Kirkwall in the evenings and the food uses lots of local meat and fish. June 2019
We loved having Dave as our guide. He was so animated and excited about what he was showing us. From day 1, we were immersed in the rich history of the islands. Dave’s passion and enthusiasm for archaeology and history made our tour truly unique. The accommodations, from the Ayre Hotel to the tea rooms we stopped at for lunch, added greatly to the adventure. We highly recommend this tour as a great Orkney experience. June 2019
Wonderful in every way
This was a fabulous trip. I recommend it very highly.
Caz was incredibly knowledgeable about all the sites we visited (and there were many), and professional in every way. Orkney has a wealth of places from all eras to visit; I was drawn in by the Neolithic village of Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar standing stones, and then found myself fascinated by the stalled and chambered tombs, the underground chambers, and the Pictish runes, to name a few.
We were quite comfortable and complete in the van. I loved the cheese and chutney lunches. The Ayre Hotel was comfortable, attentive and friendly. We very much enjoyed hotel dinners with the rest of our engaged and informed tour group. Orkney in May was cool and windy, and we wore our rain gear and were quite comfortable every day. May 2019
I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this fantastic tour. Caz was very professional and friendly and has an extensive knowledge of archaeology and history in the Orkneys which she enthusiastically shared with us on the tour. We visited many sites both well known and off the beaten track. Having expert guidance certainly enhanced my appreciation of the sites we saw. The food at our lunch spots was very tasty and hearty. I would definitely recommend the tour. May 2019
Brilliant, expertly guided tour.
We had a fabulous experience on this trip. Caz is a marvel; an expert guide, not just in her depth of knowledge about the archaeology and history, but also in her breadth of knowledge about Orkney generally (including about the birdlife which she claimed wasn't her area of expertise...). She is also a great host, looking after us really well and an engaging story teller, bringing things to life for us, while sharpening our scepticism about claims to archeological 'truth'! The tour is well designed and we enjoyed some of the lesser known sites as much, if not more, than the big ticket items, not least because we were sometimes the only people there and communing with those old stones - soaking up the atmosphere and mystery - felt more possible... Favourite trip was probably Rousay, (helped by beautiful weather) and a wonderful walk down to Midhowe tomb and Broch. But it was all really interesting, always thought provoking, often educational and sometimes moving in unexpected ways. I should say all arrangements with hotel and lunches also very good - great that it is all inclusive for this kind of tour. June 2019
So good we're doing it again
My wife and I had looked forward to this trip for 12 months and it exceeded our expectations, feels like we haven't stopped talking about it since we got home. We spent a week with Dave taking us from the Neolithic to Scapa Flow's naval base and everything Orkney. Every day was unique and Dave's enthusiasm and passion was infectious. The hotel was warm and friendly, overlooking the harbour ( pilot whales in the harbour when we were there). We've never done anything like this before, an organised guided tour with 6 other people, but we enjoyed it so much we're doing it again in 2021 with some of our family. May 2019
An amazing day, profoundly enriching our trip. Dave’s depth of knowledge of not only the stories told by ancient bones, but of more recent Orcadian history is extraordinary. Highly, highly recommended. April 2019
Well organised. Fascinating.
This is a history lesson covering about 5500 years with examples of ancient, old and more recent buildings to illustrate the development of human society in Orkney. Useful travel advice. Concise and relevant literature. Highly informed and personable guide in charge of our group. Full board included; more than we could eat. Nice hotel. Would highly recommend. May 2019
Everything about this tour was exemplary. The choice of hotel was excellent, with comfortable rooms, great food and friendly staff, We visited all the sites that you would want to go to, and many more which were brought to life by the expert guidance of Dave who was a font of knowledge of all things Orcadian. I would thoroughly recommend. May 2019
Tour of Orkney history and prehistory
Caz Mamwell of Orkney Archaeology Tours is an excellent guide and arranged a first- class week exploring Orkney treasures for my wife and me. Thoroughly recommended if you are interested in history and pre-history. April 2019
Impeccable planning and expert knowledge
Booking the tour gave us a taste of the impeccable planning and expertise that we would experience during our visit and daily excursions with Caz. Detailed information about the tour, what to expect and practicalities were covered and we were comfortable in knowing that even our dietary requirements would be taken care of. The Orkney Islands have thousands of years of human history, and Caz's selection of sites covers the full spectrum of archaeological and historical sites, and she has amassed a wealth of knowledge about every aspect of Orkney life, past and present. Every day brought more depth, new aspects and the sense of discovery and exploration kept us captivated till the last day. April 2019
A privilege to share it
For us this tour lived up to all our lofty expectations - many of them, of course, fostered by the rave reviews on this site. But we had high hopes, too, that the constant presence of an expert would illuminate the remarkable places we visited, and those hopes were more than fulfilled. As noted elsewhere, the construction of the itinerary shows the benefit of the tour's fifteen years of development; on any given day, we might see not only Neolithic and Pictish remains, but Viking and occasionally much later sites in the history of these unique islands. Caz is not only erudite in her own discipline, but highly informed on seemingly all matters Orkney and Scottish. And she shares her knowledge generously yet succinctly. She is also a very entertaining raconteur, and is able to communicate a complex and often uncertain story of human habitation on Orkney in a way that is accessible to her companions without ever talking down to them. If you're genuinely interested in archaeology, this is pretty much the ideal guided tour for you - as it was, certainly, for us! April 2019