People do sometimes ask what the best way is to get here, so for those who might be wondering the same thing here is a detailed guide.
Most people come by ferry but you can fly to Kirkwall via Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Inverness airports. It is possible to ‘do’ Orkney without a car, but if you’re flying you’ll probably want to hire a car. As Orkney is becoming more popular as a holiday destination, it is advisable to pre-book your hire car for collection at the airport.
There are three possible ferry routes. Two are run by Northlink-Serco; The Hamnavoe from Scrabster (near Thurso on the north coast) to Stromness, which is the closest destination for Annie’s Place, and The Hjatland from Aberdeen to Kirkwall. The third route is from Gills Bay, near Wick to St Margarets Hope and is operated by Pentland Ferries.
Both Northlink-Serco ferries provide a comfortable crossing with many services and activities provided on board, including comfortable seating, a restaurant with a wide menu, a small shop selling Orkney gifts, magazines, sweets etc and a bar selling drinks and snacks. There are also cabins available for the overnight crossing to Aberdeen or for sleeping overnight on the Hamnavoe if you are booked on an early morning sailing. Sailing times vary throughout the year with more ferries available during holiday periods.
The Aberdeen/Kirkwall route leaves at 17.00 and arrives in Kirkwall at 23.00 pm. The return journey offers overnight travel, leaving Kirkwall at 23.00 and arriving at 07.00 in Aberdeen. The crossings are not every day.
For further information about the times and cost for both ferries contact Northlink ferries, see details below. If you have friends or family on Orkney then you may be able to arrange for a discount on the ferry crossings.
The Pentland ferry now has a new catamaran called The Alfred. For timetable and costs please see details below.
I hope this information and the links assists your decision making on how to travel to Orkney, but I’m always happy to give further advice in individual cases.
Instructions for driving to Annie's Place;
From Kirkwall you take A965 (main road to Stromness) and travel along it, beyond Finstown, when shortly after the A986 turns off on right. Turn into A986 and continue on this road through Dounby (with local Coop, butcher and fuel). A few miles on the A967 (going to Stromness) turns into the A986 but you just keep going straight ahead through Twatt. For the final directions to Annie's Place from here, you should pick up on the relevant directions I have given below for travellers coming from Stromness.
From Stromness you take the A967 until it reaches the crossroads with A986 just before Twatt. You turn left onto the A986 and follow that road through Twatt with Loch of Boardhouse on your right handside.
You will come to a final crossroad and turn left there, driving a short distance down towards the sea until you have reached the ruined Earl's Palace on your left. Then turn left into the road which takes you along the side of the Palace; take care as this road into the village turns left round the end of the Palace on a sharp narrow bend, and there may be a car or large vehicle coming in the opposite direction towards you. A few more metres driving takes you past the entrance to St Magnus Church on the right, with the entrance to Parking Area on the left. You will now be in centre of Palace Village. Palace Stores with (disused) pertol pump in front, is on your right hand side. The lane leading up the right hand side of the shop is the lane for Annie's Place and it leads on to the sea shore. You will see a blue door (and nameplate) on the yellow lime - washed building which is the entrance to Annie's Place. You can bring your car to the front door to unpack, but we then asl that you park in the Parking Area opposite the church entrance ( as mentioned above).