Sightsee across the beautiful Orkney Islands

Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar

For a scenic European cruise, be sure to book a trip that stops in Kirkwall, the largest port and capital of the Orkney Islands, located just north of Scotland.

These islands may not be a bustling party hangout, but they do offer you the chance to step back in time and discover ancient cultures. The area known as the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney," an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is perhaps the best place on the island if you want to learn more about history and culture.

The UNESCO designation actually encompasses a number of smaller locations, such as the archaeological site of Skara Brae. Unearthed by a powerful storm, this prehistoric collection of buildings is remarkably well-preserved, giving travelers insight into a bygone era. Continue your journey with a trip to the Ring of Brodgar, which can be thought of as Orkney's response to Stonehenge. Another stone formation, the Standing Stones of Stenness, makes for a great photo opportunity as well.

If more recent history is more appealing to you, consider a trip out to Balfour Castle. It's a bit far from Kirkwall, but you'll get a nice ferry ride and the chance to explore this grand estate, which once belonged to Scottish nobles.

Another option is staying within Kirkwall itself, taking in sights like St. Magnus Cathedral, an epic site that is rumored to have been built by Vikings in the 1100s.