Orkney & Shetland Islands
The windswept Orkney and Shetland Islands are truly in the middle of nowhere, but they've been inhabited for thousands of years - prehistoric settlements were followed in later centuries by the Vikings, and villages thrive today. Traveling with kids to the Outer Hebrides is an adventure.
Orkney Islands -
In the Orkney Islands, visit the Skara Brae Prehistoric Village
, the 5000 year old Stone Age village, often called "The Pompeii of the North." Buried in sand, the settlement was rediscovered in the 19th century. The streets of the town are narrow stone passageways, leading to stone-walled houses, elegantly furnished in stone.
Also, explore Maes Howe Chambered Cairn
. From the outside, it looks like a just huge dirt mound, but inside it's a stunning Neolithic tomb. Later Vikings left runes scratched in the stone.
Shetland Islands -
Ride Shetland ponies
- You'll want to explore Shetland's beaches or hills riding on one of those adorable Shetland ponies. You can arrange for ponies at Brootham Ponies near Sumburgh.
Shetland has plenty of sandy beaches
where kids can can look for puffins
, otters, hundreds of common and gray seals, porpoises, dolphins, even humpback whales.
Take the boat
to the island of Mousa to see the Mousa Broch
, an Iron Age stone tower built near the sea for protection. This broch has been largely untouched for 2000 years (other brochs throughout Scotland have been dismantled for their stones).
Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
- Wander around the ruins of a Bronze Age village with stone huts, an Iron Age broch, a Viking village, a medieval farmhouse and a 16th century "manor" house. 3000 years of settlement on this one site.
Shetland is famous for its "Fair Isle" sweaters
and shawls, and there are numerous shops where you can purchase the genuine article.