Sail the Viking Trail to the ancient Orkney Isles.
Leave from Inverness and sail north in two days, or take your time and meander up the East Coast of Scotland, exploring the many small ports on the way. Adventure awaits you….
Any tour in Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a distillery or two to visit. We have included a number which are quite close to harbours and can be reached either by taxi or walking. Our list is by no means exhaustive!
Where to begin
The times for our trail are based on starting from Inverness Marina, but you could begin from a number of ports on the Moray Coast - Findhorn, Lossiemouth, Whitehills, Banff.
Those coming from the West Coast of Scotland can sail to Inverness via the Caledonian Canal.
Inverness to Cromarty 16NM 3hours @5knots
CROMARTY HARBOUR lat & long 54 40.98N 4 2.40W
A pretty, historical, village to wander about with eateries and shops. There is limited availability within the harbour, and several summer moorings outwith. There are two distilleries nearby; west is Dalmore at Invergordon, and north is Glenmorangie in Tain.
Take the small ferry, (summer only) across the firth. (Highland Ferries, Dougie Robertson: 07468417137) A taxi can be booked to pick you up (See harbour master, Ronald Young: 07751244065)
Inverness to Helmsdale 40NM 8+ hours.
HELMSDALE HARBOUR lat & long 58 6.73N 3 38.71W
Look out for Beatrice oil platforms 18NM ENE of Helmsdale.
Helmsdale is a picturesque harbour which prospered at the time of the herring boom in the 19th century. There are places to eat and an attractive heritage centre.
Inverness to Lybster 57NM 11-12+ hours
LYBSTER HARBOUR lat & long 53 17.71N 3 17.36W
No Harbour master, another pretty little harbour which was once a bustling port. (No pontoon berths) There is a visitor centre.
Inverness to Wick 70Nm 14+ hours
WICK MARINA lat & long 58 26.39N 3 17.36W
Wick is a marina with good facilities– an ideal stopping off point before you cross the Pentland firth.
Harbour Master 01955 602030 24hrs mob 07798 640607
In Wick you can take some time off and enjoy some ancient and more modern sites.
Old Pulteney distillery is within walking distance of the marina.
Wick heritage museum is also nearby and tells the story of Wick and the herring industry.
A bit further afield there are many sites worth hiring a car or taxi to visit. For example -
The Hill o many Stanes (it is!), the Grey Cairns O’ Camster and, for the fit, Whaligeo steps- imagine climbing those with a full load of gear!
Before sailing on, speak to the harbour master – he will give you the best times and directions for crossing the Pentland Firth to Orkney for that time.
Wick to Stromness
Wick to Kirkwall 50NM 10+hours
Heading north you can either head through the huge natural harbour of Scapa Flow to Stromness Marina, or on the eastern side of the southern islands to Kirkwall or Westray Marinas. All three marinas are run by Orkney Marinas, and their website offers excellent sailing directions and advice.
Marina mob 07810 465835
Kirkwall is a small town with a magnificent cathedral, built by the last of the Vikings. Imagine them pulling up in their long boats at the steps below the cathedral on what is all now reclaimed land. There is a lovely museum across the way and a fine street full of eateries and local produce to stroll along back to the harbour. Here we have 2 whisky distilleries, close to Kirkwall- the most northerly in Scotland - Highland Park and across the bay there is Scapa distillery. In Kirkwall and throughout the islands there are 3 gin distilleries, breweries and other amazing food and drink producers.
Marina mob 07810 465825
Stromness marina is very central to the town and it is definitely worth the wander through the narrow wynding main street; drop in past the deli for a coffee and carry on towards the museum. View the harbour where HMS Erebus and Terror, from the Franklin Expedition, stopped over to replenish their stocks of fresh water before crossing the Atlantic to try and discover the North West Passage. From here, many an Orcadian signed up for a term with the Hudson Bay Company and set off for a life in Canada. It is easy from Stromness to visit the world heritage sites of The Standing stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar and not so far away is the world famous village of Skara Brae.
Marina mob 07810 465825
Our smallest, but best loved marina on the island of Westray. Within a days sail of either Stromness or Kirkwall, the welcome in Westray is warm. From this small marina, you can walk to the ancient Notland Castle, explore Pierowall village (it’s a long street) enjoy the amazing fresh seafood and stock up in the local shop and bakery. Head out to Noup Head to see Orkney’s largest seabird colony.
From Westray you can keep heading north to Fair isle and Shetland or turn and head back south either retracing your route or head westabout and around Cape Wrath and towards the Hebrides.