With a stunning coastline, archaeological treasures and “friendly” locals, Orkney has always been a treasure.
But now it has officially been named the best island in Scotland in a new Which? survey after landing an impressive visitor score of 88%.
The archipelago – with its 70 or so islands off the northeastern coast of the country – was the only one in the survey to receive five stars for its tourist attractions, with visitors speaking highly of its many prehistoric sites and archaeology.
Some of the most frequently cited highlights included the Italian Church, Skara Brae, and the “spectacular” Ring of Brodgar.
Orkney was also praised for its “beautiful” scenery and friendly locals, while some readers cited its remoteness and “miles and miles of secluded sandy beaches with no-one in sight” as its main attraction.
Shetland, which is famed for its spectacular landscapes, was the runner-up in the survey with a score of 86%.
Visitors awarded the island with five stars for peace and quiet and four stars for ease of travel, scenery, tourist attractions and shopping.
Isle of Harris and Isle of Mull were also recognised for their beaches and scenery with a visitor score of 85% – putting then in joint third place.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: “After more than a year of restrictions that have seen most of us confined to our homes, many of us will be craving a holiday featuring beautiful scenery, grand landscapes, and the peace and quiet to soak it all in.
“The Scottish islands have all of this in abundance, making many of them a brilliant choice for a UK holiday this summer.
“You’ll need to pack for all seasons, and be prepared for a bit of travelling to get there – but when you do, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
“Just be sure to book with an accommodation provider that will allow you to freely change or cancel your booking at short notice, should coronavirus restrictions change and prevent you from travelling as planned.”
Covid restrictions on the islands
Many of Scotland’s islands, including Orkney, are currently under Level 1 coronavirus restrictions.
This means visitors can freely travel to the islands unless they are in a Level 3 area in Scotland, or under other tiered restrictions across the rest of the UK.
Almost all hospitality, shopping, visitor attractions and holiday accommodation are allowed to open and operate under Level 1 restrictions.
However, people are encouraged to check the restrictions in place before they travel, and only book with a provider that will allow them to rebook or cancel for a refund.
Anyone planning on travelling to one of Scotland’s islands is also asked to take a coronavirus test before they do to reduce the risk of the virus being brought into island communities.
Visitors are recommended to get tested three days before travelling and then again on the day of departure.