Scotland is often an overlooked destination when it comes to adventure travel, but as the weather warms up, anybody looking to add some pulse-pounding activity to their vacation may want to consider visiting some of its many appealing spots. There are a number of ideal destinations for the summer explorer to choose from, but the picturesque Orkney Islands stand above the rest. Located in the northwestern region of Scotland, beautiful landscape combined with excellent hiking opportunities make this archipelago a European treasure.
Start on the Mainland
The largest of the 70 islands that comprise Orkney, the Mainland is a good place to begin your exploration of the Scottish north. Like the rest of the islands, the views of the coast are breathtaking, but the Mainland is particularly appealing because it has is a thriving hub of activity with many quaint shop-lined streets to peruse. The Mainland is also home to St. Magnus Cathedral, a striking piece of architecture that dates back to 1137. Aside from having the distinction of being Europe's northernmost cathedral, St. Magnus is also unique in that it's constructed with local sandstone which, given its longevity, is certainly an impressive feat.
Challenge yourself on Hoy
For hiking enthusiasts, a visit to the island of Hoy is a must when you're making your way through Orkney. The second-largest of all the islands, Hoy is famous for its dramatic cliffs and often steep rolling hills. It is also home to many of the most unique natural formations in Scotland, including the Old Man of Hoy - a 449-foot tall sea stack located on the coast that stands as an icon not only of Orkney but of Scotland as a whole.
Small in size, big on appeal
While Hoy and the Mainland stand above the other islands in terms of size, many of the smaller destinations have plenty to offer as well. In the East, Burray (one of the several islands connected by the famed Churchill Barriers), is famous for its impressive biodiversity. Specifically, many different kinds of bird species call the island home. For a more enriching experience, you can head to the island's Fossil and Heritage center to give you a better understanding of its past.