We didn’t travel to Orkney for the food. The standing stones, Neolithic villages and beautiful landscapes were the main sites that drew us to the archipelago off the north coast of mainland Britain. In fact, based on past travels to rural regions of the United Kingdom, we weren’t expecting much beyond basic pub fare. Well, it’s fair to say that we were incredibly caught by surprise during our three days in Orkney. All the meals that we ate were incredibly delicious, utilising local produce including freshly caught fish and combining traditional Scottish cooking with modern influences. Here are some of the best places to eat in Orkney, both in the capital of Kirkwall and on the other islands.
Best Places to Eat in Kirkwall
Cafelolz@21 is the closest thing you’ll find to a hipster style East London cafe on the island of Orkney and they certainly don’t disappoint, making arguably the best coffee in all of Orkney. They serve a range of hot and cold drinks, have a number of breakfast options including traditional favourites such as hot porridge and also an extensive lunch menu. The cafe has ample seating as well as free WIFI making this place a good option if you happen to be a digital nomad!
If you want the cosy atmosphere of a traditional British pub then you can’t go past Bothy Bar, located on a narrow alley in the heart of Kirkwall. They serve typical pub grub such as burgers, pizzas, steaks and fish and chips. They have a great range of beers, ales and other drinks if you just want to pop in and enjoy what is most definitely a local pub! Be warned though that local Scottish sports leagues will take priority on the big screen…even if there is a big EPL game on! 🙂
Judith Glue Real Food Cafe and Restaurant
It’s easy to miss this charming cafe and restaurant when strolling Kirkwall’s cute streets as the front of Judith Glue’s shop is actually a gift shop selling a huge range of local products including food, knitwear and other gifts! However, the cafe and restaurant situated at the back of her gift shop is undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in Kirkwall. The restaurant serves great homemade food with extremely generous portions – I ordered a salad plate with fresh crab and could barely see any part of the plate! Judith Glue’s only serves dinner during peak summer season and it’s definitely worth the effort to eat here at least once if staying in Kirkwall.
Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you – we never ate here. We tried three times, including attempting to make a reservation a day before and it was booked out every single night in summer while we there! Helgi’s is consistently rated as one of the best places to eat in Orkney and judging by the happy customers when we walked in it definitely seemed like a fantastic place to eat. If you want to eat here, make sure to book in advance!
Best Places to Eat Outside Kirkwall
Julia’s Cafe, located in Stromness close to the ferry terminal is a great place to stop by before leaving Orkney for a meal and a cup of coffee. They have classic British breakfasts, baked potatoes, sandwiches and freshly baked treats. They also take their coffee very seriously here so you can be sure to get a great cup of joe!
The Orkney Brewery is a great lunch stop if exploring Stromness and has a range of traditional favourites as well as some fantastic platters including a seafood plate which I absolutely devoured! Even if you don’t make it here for a meal, you should absolutely still stop by the Orkney Brewery for a tour and some tastings. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the brewery and you get to try three beers as part of the tour – I recommend the Corncrake and the Dark Island!
Orkney Wine Company
So you can’t technically get a full meal here, however, the wine here is so good that I just couldn’t leave the Orkney Wine Company off this list. Located right next to the Italian Chapel, they sell a range of wines and liquors all made by hand and from natural ingredients. They’re very generous here with tastings and will allow you to sample a number of wines or liquors before you make a decision. Plus, they also have chocolate so I guess technically you could have a meal of wine and sweets! 🙂
One of the best places to eat in Orkney was one that we never actually intended to eat at. Skerries Bistro is located next to the Banks Chambered Tomb and we only decided to eat here after finding out the tomb was closed for the day and not wanting to drive off straight away. And boy were we impressed!
We started with delicious creamy seafood chowder, had beautifully seared scallops and a seafood platter for mains and polished it all off with a freshly baked strawberry and rhubarb crumble. The food was absolutely delicious and our only regret was discovering this place on our last day meaning we couldn’t make a repeat visit!
We were extremely surprised by the quality of meals that we ate during our time in Orkney. There are so many great places to eat in Orkney and it’s definitely worth spending the time to experience the culinary delights on this remote archipelago!
Have you been to Orkney? What are some of your favourite places to eat in Orkney? Add a comment below!