The Orkney Matrix is a travel planner's guide devised to maximise the experience of visiting these beautiful islands.
Enjoy 'weather dependant' activities, understand why tide time-tables are important, know what needs to be booked and most importantly, ‘avoid tourists’. It is a Matrix of key variable factors for visitors to consider and balance.The top three Key factors to consider are:-
Weather - Avoiding Tourists - Tide Timetables
This guide explains how to balance them and significantly improve your visit.
Click here for the weather forecast.
Matrix 1. Weather . . .
Infinitely variable weather patterns are characteristic and a part the charm of Orkney life. It is often said that you can experience four seasons in one day!
So don't prepare a detailed itinerary in significant advance of arriving. It is not good to visit Skara Brae at 11 am on a Thursday morning in force six storm just because your pre-prepared itinerary scheduled it! So, it is best to just make a list of things that you would like to do and then finalise your itinerary either on arrival or a couple of days before.
In this way you can make your schedule completely weather dependent and explore the cathedral, museum's, art galleries and distilleries at rainy times.
Additionally you can program your scenic, wildlife, photographic, birding or healthy clifftop walks on sunny days with good visibility.
The adjacent image identifies how sunny weather with a light breeze can become heavy rainfall with a strong wind the next day.
Matrix 2. Tide Timetables . . .
Many people find this more memorable than other sites of interest because it is an active experience which touches many senses whereas sites like Skara Brae are for many folks, a more passive event.
The Brough of Birsay is a unique experience that encapsulates so much in one adventure:-
This tidal access, close-to-nature experience is not on the itineraries of cruise liner tourists.
Visitors have a two-hour window either side of low tide in which to wander across and wander back. Many people mistakenly view the archaeology and then leave. We would encourage you to walk a few hundred metres over the hill, beyond the lighthouse to view the clifftop (puffin spot).
Click here for the Tide Timetables.
As the old saying goes ''Time and tide waits for no man" so you cannot just turn up without checking for low tide first.
Matrix 3. Avoiding Tourists!
Seriously. . .
Orkney is the U.K.'s number one cruise liner destination with in excess of 95,000 Cruise line passengers arriving during the summer season this year and increasing by 32% booked to visit in the summer of 2017 with 148 vessels bringing 125,000 visitors.
The most popular sites for cruise line visitors are Skara Brae, Maeshowe the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.
Check the Cruise Liners List
Follow this link to see on which days during your stay cruise liners will be arriving.
Choose Your Time
If you plan to visit the most popular sites on cruise liner days, then avoid peak times between 9:30 and 11:30 in the morning and then between 1:00 and 3:30 pm. Outside of these times, sites are generally much quieter.
Consider the Alternatives
An cruise liner days visit other amazing sights like the Brough of Gurness (two-storey Iron age building) and the Brough of Birsay (tidal atoll).
The site closes at 4:45 each day but then reopens during peak summer months for Twilight Tours every 30 minutes between 530 and 830
Late News Flash
Click here for the latest Orkney tourism news updates.
Matrix 4. Bookings
Some things have to be booked!
Maeshowe Chambered Cairn – Book on the Day via Skara Brae
This significant site of interest has always required advance bookings however new temporary arrangements are even more restrictive.
Until further notice, access to Maeshowe will only via a ticketed guided tour ‘Park and Ride’ scheme from Skara Brae visitor centre and are currently not bookable in advance of the day. Tours are at 10:00, 12:00 and 14:00 seven days a week (Closed December 25th, 26th and January 1st & 2nd 2017). Each tour (including Park and Ride transit) lasts approximately one hour and forty five minutes and are separate from the Skara Brae tour. (05.10.2016)
Facilities and the car park at Tormiston Mill will remain closed until further notice. Please contact Skara Brae on 01856 841815 for further details.
The Enlightening St Magnus Cathedral Tour
Historical artefacts and architecture that you might never expect to find in a cathedral (the hangman's ladder, bottle -shaped dungeons and more). Upper level tours are Tuesdays and Thursdays - booking essential! Phone to book - 01856 874894
The Magical Island of Hoy
Whether it's walking through the aromas of flora and fauna, walking in the natural beauty of Rackwick Bay, clifftop trekking to the old man of Hoy, visiting the eclectic museum at Lyness, relics of World War II was spotting rare bird species, Hoy is a magical place to be.
Click here for the travel links to Hoy
Click here for full links to the details of travel to other islands such as Roussay, Westray, Papa Westray, Sanday et cetera.
Maeshowe Images copyright: Charles Tait
Rackwick Bay Image copyright: Julius Lukac
Matrix 5. Relax
Relax and Have Fun
It would take many months to visit every point of interest in Orkney including archaeology, antiquities, architectural, museums, resplendent landscapes and seascapes. Beyond these popularist attractions there lies the real charm of Orkney. It is that of a peace-loving society thriving in a rural close-to-nature wonderland. Orcadian’s are justly proud of their low crime rate and the relative safety in which they live their lives.
Orkney has many qualified, trained and experienced tour guides for visitors that prefer to leave the travel planning to a specialist. Whilst many tour guides offer predetermined itineraries, we recommend that visitors choose a tour guide with the flexibility to take account of the key factors outlined above by the Orkney Matrix.
Look for the Orkney Matrix logo when choosing a tour guide or place to stay.
Click here for a list of tour guides with a commitment to variable itineraries based upon the Orkney Matrix.