Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

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gloomyandy
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Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 5 May 2019, 9:12pm

I'm planning on visiting Orkney for around two weeks. Plan is to drive up and leave my car on the mainland and then spend a couple of weeks visiting some of the outlying islands. Not a lot of mileage, but the bike makes it easy to carry my camping gear and it is good to have to explore places.

My main question though is which is the best ferry to get with respect to leaving my car for that period of time? I've always travelled on Pentand Ferries in the past, but that was with the car. I know they have some parking at the terminal, but not sure how much or how secure it is. I would guess that most of the parking up there is reasonably safe (I've been happily leaving my car at Mallaig and Uig for similar periods in the past), but if anyone has any experience I'd like to hear it. Thanks!

bogmyrtle
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 5 May 2019, 11:32pm

I've not been up there for a while but have always left the car at Scrabster. The car park is managed by the Harbour Trust. The website indicates the charges are £10 / week.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

PH
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby PH » 6 May 2019, 12:53pm

Don't know about car parking, but the John O Groats ferry is an option, we used the evening crossing and had the boat to ourselves! It seems they take day trippers over in the morning, then use the boat for other trips, then go collect those they dropped of in the morning, so going against the flow of day trippers is never busy.
Have fun in Orkney, it does lend itself to the sightseeing low mileage sort of holiday, there's plenty to see but the cycling IMO isn't anything spectacular.

gloomyandy
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 6 May 2019, 2:54pm

Hi thanks for info so far. If anyone else has any recent experience I'd love to hear of it. Currently thinking of going the Scrabster route as I've not been that way before and would rather like to have a different arrival to the islands.

This trip is really all about visiting some of the islands I've not been to before and spending a night or two on them, so I'm not really concerned with the cycling mileage or anything. Though I will be using my bike to explore. I had a similar trip a few years ago to the small isles (and some of them have virtually no roads!) and had a fantastic time. I'm particularly looking forward to visiting North Ronaldsay for the first time and to spending longer on Papa Westray. Just hope the weather isn't too wild!

bogmyrtle
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 6 May 2019, 6:42pm

When are you going?
Orkney Folk Festival takes place on the second bank holiday in May so ferries from Scrabser will likely be busy but as a foot passenger with a bike I imagine you would be ok. It's likely that just about all of the accommodation in Stromness will be full and the campsite will be busy.
If you are travelling back from Stromness to Scrabser on the early ferry you can book a berth on the ferry for the night before. Board before 11.00pm and you can still be tucked up in bed when the vehicles start loading in the morning. This can be quite welcome if you've been camping. There's no rush to pack up a wet tent at 5.00 in the morning to wait in a queue.
If you wanted to use the Pentland ferry (privately owned and not subsidised like Northlink) it might be better to phone them up and ask about parking. From memory there wasn't much space at the terminal and I understand a terminal building and cafe have been built since I was last there.
The website indicates there are limted parking spaces and there is CCTV.
There was an article in the P &J last month about a decision to apply parking charges at John O' Groats but it doesn't say if it has happened yet or what the charges are. You could phone up the John O' Groats ferry company to check if it's still free for long term parking.
The distance between Scrabser and John O' Groats is an easy cycle so you don't necessarily need to use the same ferry company for the out and return journeys.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

gloomyandy
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 6 May 2019, 7:51pm

Ah bank holidays I'd not thought about that! I am planning on heading up there on Sunday 26th and was planning to camp near Kirkwall on the Sunday night. Do you think that is likely to be a problem? If need be I can probably wild camp somewhere. My main constraint is that I need to catch an "excursion" ferry on the following Sunday (2nd June) which goes to N. Ronaldsay. So I suppose I could travel up a day later when things might be a little less busy? But I liked the way the times worked out on the Monday ferry out to Eday and Sanday so I'd like to stick to that if I can. It looks like Sunday is the last day of the festival so I guess things will still be busy on the Sunday night. Hmm food food for thought, thanks for the heads up on this!

gloomyandy
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 6 May 2019, 7:58pm

Oh and I guess the folk festival will mean that the car parks on the mainland are likely to be busy, possibly full which would be a pain. Perhaps arriving on the Monday might be a better option (I'm likely to be catching the late ferry over, which I think leaves at about 19:00). But even on the Sunday I suppose there is a fair chance that someone will have returned early and moved a car. If all else fails I just get to camp on the mainland on the Sunday night I suppose. Anyone know of a good place to camp up there?

bogmyrtle
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 6 May 2019, 10:53pm

A lot of the festival traffic will return to the mainland on the first ferry on the Monday morning.
If you want to go over on the Sunday it might be better to avoid Stromness and go from Gills Bay or JOG. The parking at those sites is less likely to be affected by people attending the festival. You would also avoid the extra traffic that runs between Stromness and Kirkwall at festival time (although there is a back road option)
If I were you I would phone those two ferry companies up and ask them about long term parking.
You could return via Stromness and cycle back to where you parked.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

bogmyrtle
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 6 May 2019, 11:49pm

There's a campsite at Thurso so another alternative would be to turn up at Scrabster on the Sunday and see if you can get parked. If not, the campsite is close by. Then go over on monday.
The festival is based in Stromness so it will be busy there.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

gloomyandy
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Joined: 16 Mar 2012, 10:46pm

Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 7 May 2019, 8:12am

My current thinking is that it is likely that the car parking at Scrabster will probably fill up on Thursday/Friday/Saturday, but there is a fair chance that one or two cars will leave on the Sunday (folks needing to leave early) and I may get a spot. If not I will either go via one of the other ferries or just camp on the mainland and try again on the Monday! But I'll probably give the companies a call and see what they think things will be like as well.

bogmyrtle
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Joined: 5 Mar 2008, 10:29pm

Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 7 May 2019, 9:01am

Sounds like a plan.
Enjoy.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

captain offensive
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby captain offensive » 8 May 2019, 12:49pm

I'd agree with asking the JoG ferry people about parking. If you can do so it's a great little sailing across and you get to start the ride at the southern most tip of the islands. Let the tourist buses set off and then the road towards Kirkwall should be pretty quiet and nice riding.

As for leaving the car in JoG goes, as the landlord of the b&b I stayed in told me whilst explaining that the front door wasn't locked: "We have no crime here. Not like Inverness"

gloomyandy
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Joined: 16 Mar 2012, 10:46pm

Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby gloomyandy » 8 May 2019, 7:12pm

The JoG ferry does look good, but unfortunately the timetable does not work well for me as I will probably not arrive until early evening (and it May the last sailing is 16:30). It could be an option though if I can't find a place to park and end up travelling on the Monday instead. It is certainly nice to have so many options!

bogmyrtle
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby bogmyrtle » 8 May 2019, 9:31pm

Nothing to stop you parking at JOG if it's free and sailing either from Gills Bay or Scrabser.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

jk49
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Re: Visiting Orkney, which ferry, best place to leave a car

Postby jk49 » 11 May 2019, 1:17pm

Yes, we just left our car at the terminal in Gill's bay. There seemed to be lots of room and we had no problems. It is a fantastic area to visit, with much of interest to see, nice camp sites, and really friendly locals. Make time to go to Hoy and Rousay if you can.