Pentland Ferries Ltd - Ferry to Orkney

The Journey

As you set off from Gills Bay in Caithness you will see the islands of Stroma and Swona in the distance. Both common seals and grey seals can be seen basking on the shores of Stroma and Swona and you may well see the now famous feral cattle of Swona which were left to run wild over thirty years ago and are now a recognised breed.

Pentland Ferries - Orkney ferry Route mapPentland Ferries - Stroma, view from Orkneys ferry
Feature map of crossing (above left) and Stroma coastline (above right)

There are many eddies and currents running through the Pentland Firth and you may well pass whirlpools and eddies on your journey depending on tides and winds. One such whirlpool just north of Stroma is the Swelkie which according to Viking legend is caused by a sea witch turning the mill wheels to grind the salt to keep the sea salty.

When you pass along the firth depending on the time of year look out for porpoises, orca, dolphins and Minke whales. Between May and August on rare occasions huge basking sharks can also be seen

Pentland Ferries, Orkney - Killer WhalePentland Ferries, Orkney - Seal
Killer Whale (above left) and Seal basking on rocks (above right)

The cliffs running along the islands are inhabited by huge numbers of seabirds including puffins, fulmars, great skua, razor bills, guillemots and gannets to name but a few, can be seen nesting, roosting and flying around throughout the journey.

Passing Swona you may see to the left the island of Hoy famous for the rock stack the Old Man of Hoy and also the Martello Tower. Further along you may see the island of Flotta and the flaming chimney of the oil terminal.

Pentland Ferries, Orkneys - SwonaPentland Ferries, Orkneys - Hoxa
Swona (above left) and Hoxa (above right)

Heading along the coastline of South Ronaldsay you will pass the abandoned gun towers and lookout posts at Hoxa Head, these huge concrete boxes stand in eerie silence as a reminder of the importance of the Orkney Islands during the second World War.

As the ship turns around Needle Point St Margaret's Hope village comes into view. The third largest settlement on the Orkney Islands and the main settlement on South Ronaldsay St Margaret's Hope is a peaceful place to stay and a good starting point for many of the attractions throughout the Orkneys.

Pentland Ferries - St Margaret's Hope, OrkneyPentland Ferries - Barriers, Orkney
St Margarets Hope (above left) and Churchill Barrier (above right)

Once you arrive at St Margaret's Hope it is a twenty minute car journey across the famous Churchill barriers, past the Italian Chapel onto Mainland Orkney where you can catch the ferries to the outer islands or visit places like Maes Howe, Skara Brae, and the Ring of Brodgar.

Why choose Pentland Ferries

There are 8 good reasons why you should choose Pentland Ferries over any other ferry service for your journey to or from Orkney.

Pentland ferries service is:

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