There are three ways of reaching the Orkney Islands by vehicle ferry from the Scottish mainland:
Both the Northlink and Pentland Ferries services offer several sailings each day, except the Aberdeen route, which is once daily and much longer.
We chose the Pentland Ferries service from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope, on South Ronaldsay. This was both faster and cheaper than the equivalent Northlink service from Scrabster to Stromness. (Although South Ronaldsay is a separate island to the Orkney mainland, it is joined by toll-free road causeways, so reaching the Orkney mainland does not require further ferries and only takes about 20 minutes.)
You can get comparison quotes for both service by choosing the UK-Orkney option in the booking engine below:
Pentland Ferries Review (Gills Bay – St Margaret’s Hope Ferry)
We sailed on the Pentland Ferries service from Gills Bay (mainland Scotland) to St Margaret’s Hope (South Ronaldsay, Orkney) and also used the same ferry on our return from the Orkney Islands.
It was fast, well organised and modern and I would thoroughly recommend the service.
Don’t be misled by the rather basic terminal facilities at Gills Bay and St Margaret’s Hope – the ferry itself is very modern and well run and the office staff are friendly and helpful.
Payment can be made in advance by credit card, at the terminal before sailing by credit card or onboard, after sailing, in cash.
Boarding is a fairly simple process and the crew fit a surprising number of vehicles onto the ferry. The ferry loads from the rear only (it’s not roll-on, roll-off), so motorhomes, vans and other larger vehicles have to reverse on. This isn’t something to worry about, however – ample assistance is provided and it’s only a short, fairly straight reverse with good visibility.