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Living in Orkney

The islands of Orkney are situated off the north-east coast of Scotland, between John O'Groats and the Shetland Isles. Orkney is a group of 70 islands and skerries with up to 20 of these are inhabited. The population of Orkney is approximately 21,500 with most people living on the mainland of Orkney.

Orkney has spectacular natural surroundings, unique wildlife and a wealth of history to be explored. The low crime, low pollution, rich culture and beautiful unspoilt scenery make Orkney a truly wonderful place to live. 

Watch the video to find out more about living and working in Orkney.

A rich history and heritage

Orkney has an abundance of archaeological history and tourists come from all over the world to admire Orkney’s Neolithic sites.

10,000 years of history can be seen throughout Orkney and new discoveries are still being made. From the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, the St Magnus Cathedral, the Ring of Brodgar, Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel, there is plenty to be explored in Orkney.

Voted the best place to live

In 2015 Orkney was named the best place to live in Scotland for the third year in a row, rating positively on employment, health, low crime, lack of traffic and even the weather.

Orkney was also named the best place in Great Britain to bring up children with a survey confirming that children benefit from a quality education in Orkney, with its schools often included in Great Britain's top 100 Best State School list.

Excellent housing and schools

There are 17 primary and 2 secondary schools located on the mainland of Orkney, with 3 Junior High schools on the outer islands. Further education is provided at Orkney College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Prices of properties on Orkney tend to be lower than the average for the mainland with a range of housing to buy or rent throughout the islands. Social housing is provided through Orkney Islands Council and the Orkney Housing Association.

Latest vacancies

Follow the link to view our vacancies on our recruitment site. For more information on our vacancies please contact the recruitment team on 01856 888186 or email

Transport links

Links from the mainland

Orkney is remote and geographically isolated however travelling to the islands is simple as there are various transport links to the mainland. You can travel to Orkney by sea with services operated by Northlink Ferries and Pentland Ferries. If you prefer to fly, you can use Orkney’s Air Services with several flights available each day to various Scottish airports.

Orkney residents are eligible for an islander discount operated by Northlink ferries.  For flights between Orkney and Scottish airports, Orkney residents are also eligible for discounted fares under the Air Discount Card Scheme.


Using public transport

Public transport is available through Stagecoach bus services who operate throughout the Orkney mainland. Transport services are also available through OCTO, a local company who provide Bus, Coach and Minibus hire to serve local community groups, as well as providing a service to tourist groups.

The nearest railway station is in Thurso on the Scottish Mainland where you can take a bus to the ferry services.

Making your own way

Northlink ferries operate a car-ferry service between Stromness and Scrabster in the north of Scotland. They operate daily return journeys that take approximately one hour and thirty minutes. Northlink also operate a ferry service from Aberdeen to Kirkwall that takes around six hours, and if you’d like to go further north you can also get a Northlink ferry to Shetland from Kirkwall.

Pentland Ferries operate a car-ferry service from St. Margaret’s Hope in South Ronaldsay which operates daily return journeys between St Margaret’s Hope and Gills Bay on the mainland. The journey takes just one hour and is the shortest ferry crossing with your car.

Loganair operate Orkney’s main air services and there are flights available from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Shetland to Kirkwall Airport.

Flybe also operate flights from Aberdeen to Kirkwall.

Websites of Interest

Getting in touch

We shall be delighted to hear from you, so here are the various ways of contacting us:
By telephone to: 01856 888 000
By e-mail to:
By letter to the addresses shown here

Balfour Hospital

Balfour Hospital
New Scapa Road
KW15 1BH

NHS Headquarters

NHS Orkney
Garden House
New Scapa Road
KW15 1BQ