Private Day Tours
From mid September until the end of April (i.e. outside of our main holiday season) we can offer private day tours, suitable for guests with limited time in Orkney or who may prefer to arrange their own accommodation. We do not offer shared group day tours, neither do we add people to an existing booking, so your tour will be for your party only, up to a maximum of eight people. This allows us to offer you a high-quality tour tailored to your exact requirements, guided for the day by your own personal archaeologist guide. If you would like to stay a little longer you may be interested in our private all-inclusive tours.
Collection can be from your accommodation or your point of arrival in Orkney. We would normally suggest a 9am – 9.30am start for a full day tour but would be happy to accommodate your preference for a different start time.
Accommodation: we recommend the Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall – ask for a sea view room on an upper floor for good views of Kirkwall Bay.
Itinerary: - we would be happy to suggest an itinerary for your tour, but please let us know if you have any particular preferences – please see the list of Orkney sites and attractions on page five for further information. If you just have one day in Orkney then we would suggest around Scapa Flow to the Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and Maeshowe chambered tomb.
N.B. Maeshowe: if you have time you may wish to visit Maeshowe chambered tomb independently since the tour there is taken by the official steward. Although your guide will accompany you they are not allowed to give you a tour of the tomb itself. Tours need to be booked in advance via Historic Environment Scotland. If you visit Maeshowe yourself this will allow us time to include other sites in your tour, such as the Broch of Gurness.
Accessibility: if you have mobility problems please let us know before booking and we will be happy to advise you.
Our tours are conducted in our own tour vehicle, fully licensed and insured for the carriage of passengers for hire and reward.
2020 day tour prices
Up to 4 people: £520
5 – 8 people: an extra £90 per person
Tour price includes:
Exclusive private use of tour vehicle and archaeologist driver-guide for a full day up to a maximum of 8 hours.
Entry fees to the main archaeological sites operated by Historic Environment Scotland, the Italian Chapel and Barony Mill.
Collection from anywhere in Mainland Orkney or the linked South Isles.
Any applicable parking charges for tour vehicle.
VAT at the current rate of 20%
Tour price does not include:
Lunch or other refreshments, apart from bottled mineral water carried in the tour vehicle (but we do stop at a suitable tea room or pub during the tour).
Entries to any sites or attractions other than those listed above.
Ferry fares to any other islands visited at your request as part of the tour.
How to Book
Full payment for your tour is required on booking and we will send you details of payment methods including our bank details when you contact us with your initial enquiry, but these are summarised below:
For our UK clients: cheque or BACS transfer only.
For all our Overseas clients: international bank transfer (either from your own bank or via an intermediary e.g. Transferwise.com) or international (pounds sterling) bank draft.
Overseas credit card payments via PayPal: we can only accept credit card payments via PayPal but only from clients who are based outside Europe. We apply a credit card surcharge to cover the PayPal transaction fees as follows:
Canada and USA credit card surcharge: 5%
Rest of the world credit card surcharge: 7%
If we have to cancel your tour for any reason you will receive a full refund.
If you cancel your tour the following cancellation penalties apply and we strongly recommend you take out suitable travel insurance to cover you in the event you have to cancel your tour:
Up to 90 days before tour: loss of 50% of tour cost
Less than 90 days notice: loss of 100% of tour cost
Please note: credit card payments will be refunded less any fees we were charged by PayPal to receive your payment. PayPal may also charge you a fee for receiving our refund payment. Refunds will be sent in £ sterling and we are not liable for any differences caused by currency fluctuations. In some circumstances PayPal does not charge us for making refunds, in which case we will not charge you a fee and you will get back the full amount.
What to wear
Orkney weather can be changeable even in summer - we would suggest you bring a waterproof jacket and trousers if possible, with some warm layers underneath. COMFORTABLE WATERPROOF FOOTWEAR WITH GOOD DEEP TREAD IS ESSENTIAL - lightweight hiking boots or shoes would be ideal. Tennis shoes, athletic shoes, street shoes, fashionable boots etc are not suitable for steep grassy hills or muddy paths which will be slippery when wet. Please don’t bring an umbrella as a substitute for a waterproof jacket as they will turn inside out the moment you open them. Light disposable rain ponchos are also unsuitable.
Summary of some of Orkney’s sites and attractions
Please note that Rousay and Hoy are separate islands reached by a short ferry crossing and require a full day each to visit. Some of the sites are only accessible by those who are reasonably mobile - please let us know if you have any health issues when you book your tour.
Barony Mill, Birsay: (Closed mid September – April) the last working water mill in Orkney – still grinding traditional bere meal.
Broch of Gurness: a 2000-year-old Iron Age settlement, the central tower still surrounded by its village, situated dramatically on the edge of Eynhallow Sound.
Brough of Birsay: an island with a Norse settlement and monastery - the original heart of the Norse Earldom of Orkney. (N. B. This is a tidal island and access cannot be guaranteed).
Churchill Barriers: built during the Second World War to protect Scapa Flow from submarine attack.
Corrigall Farm Museum: (Closed November – March) a traditional 18th century Orcadian farmstead, complete with peat fire, box beds and livestock.
Cuween chambered cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic burial mound that, when opened in the 19th century, contained the remains of 24 dogs in addition to eight people.
Dwarfie Stane, Hoy: an immense block of sandstone, hollowed out 5000 years ago to form Britain’s only rock cut tomb.
The Earl’s Palace, Birsay: the 16th century palace built by Earl Robert Stewart.
The Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces, Kirkwall: (Closed October – March) the 12th century Bishop’s palace, built for the cathedral’s first bishop, and the 17th century Earl’s Palace, described by the Royal Commission as ‘possibly the most mature and accomplished piece of Renaissance architecture left in Scotland’.
Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk: remains of a 12th century Norse farmstead mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga as the scene of a great Christmas feast and notorious murder. Adjacent are the remains of the Round Kirk, the chapel of the Earl’s Bu.
The Gloup: a huge natural chasm caused by the collapse of a sea cave, adjacent to the Mull Head Nature Reserve.
Kirbister Farm Museum: (Closed November – March) a traditional farmstead with the last surviving example of a central hearth and fire back.
Italian Chapel: the ‘miracle of camp 60’, built with remarkable dedication from scavenged materials by Italian prisoners of war.
Lyness Naval Museum, Hoy: (Closed November – March) a fine collection of relics of Orkney’s naval past.
Maeshowe: the finest example of a Neolithic chambered tomb in Britain, part of the World Heritage Site – entered through a long passageway into a huge central chamber, complete with the largest collection of Norse runic inscriptions outside Scandinavia.
Martello Tower and Hackness Battery, Hoy: (Closed October – March) built during the Napoleonic Wars to protect convoys assembling in Scapa Flow from attack by American and French privateers.
Midhowe broch, Rousay: a fine example of an Iron Age settlement, looking out over the ferocious tidal race of Eynhallow Sound, with the ruins of other brochs on either side.
Midhowe cairn, Rousay: known as the great ship of the dead – the largest and best preserved of the Neolithic stalled cairns.
Rennibister Earth-house: an Iron Age subterranean chamber, discovered by chance in 1926 when a threshing machine fell through the roof.
St. Magnus’ Cathedral: the magnificent 12th century sandstone cathedral, a legacy of Orkney’s days as a Norse Earldom, which dominates the centre of Kirkwall. N.B. St. Magnus’ Cathedral is a working cathedral and as such is used for weddings and funerals in addition to worship – these activities take priority over visitor access.
Scapa Flow: the best natural harbour in Britain and the main base of the Royal Navy in both World Wars, notorious for the Grand Scuttle of the German Fleet in 1919, and the Royal Oak disaster in 1939.
Skaill House: (Closed November – March) an early 17th century laird’s house, the home of William Watt, the 19th century discoverer of Skara Brae.
Skara Brae: the world-famous Neolithic village on the shores of the Atlantic - another part of our World Heritage Site. Here you can imagine life 5000 years ago exactly as it was – the village is not a reconstruction but completely original.
Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar: two magnificent 5000-year-old henge monuments – stone circles surrounded by a bank and a ditch – a type of monument unique to Britain, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
Taversöe Tuick cairn, Rousay: an unusual two storey burial mound, discovered in 1898 during the construction of a summer seat.
Unstan cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic burial mound - it gave its name to the ‘Unstan ware’ pottery type.