This post is part of a paid partnership with Be Our Guest Scotland to showcase the diverse range of bed and breakfast and guest house options around Scotland.
Staying at Straigona B&B in Orkney
When your B&B is recommended in a Rick Steves guide, you know you are doing something right and Straigona owners, Julie and Mike, have worked hard on perfecting their offering over the years as I recently found out.
Julie is part Orcadian and spent her life visiting the Orkney Islands before a long term dream of moving to Orkney came to fruition in 2011. After buying an already established B&B with her husband Mike, they both revamped the accommodation, putting their own stamp on it and gathered up lots of little extras to ensure their guests are well catered for.
Over 10 years later Straigona is still going strong, with many returning guests and a steady stream of new visitors choosing it as their home from home during their Orkney vacation. And as I found out, it is very homely and welcoming, you are made to feel like one of the family as soon as you walk through the door which is exactly how a bed and breakfast should be and it is what makes this type of accommodation unique to the other options out there.
Located just a 5 minute drive from Kirkwall, Straigona benefits from a quiet rural setting while still being conveniently close to town. The whole house is a homage to Orkney with mugs and placemats featuring Orkney scenes, and local photographs and artwork adorning the walls.
I stayed in 'Inganess', one of three guest bedrooms. A family sized room, it was very spacious with a double and a single bed, a sitting area by the window and a desk which was perfect for me as I needed to catch up on some work while I was there.
Although there is a TV, I spent most of my time enjoying the view across fields to the sea and the small runway of Kirkwall Airport. After Julie mentioned an owl was using the adjacent field as a hunting ground, I also made use of the room binoculars to regularly scan the landscape but didn't manage to spot it on this occasion.
If there was an award for the best equipped guest rooms in a B&B, I'm pretty confident Straigona would win, it is certainly the best equipped bed and breakfast I've ever stayed at! From suntan lotion to insect repellent and hairspray to hot water bottles, Julie has gone above and beyond in supplying little extras. Of course, the standard inclusions like a hairdryer, kettle and well-stocked hospitality tray are all included too. For those heading out on a ramble there are walking poles, hats, scarves, gloves and binoculars available and even a guest mobile phone you can borrow.
Most importantly, at the end of a long day, I was glad of a super comfy bed as feeling rested in the morning is essential when you have more exploring planned. The spotless modern bathroom with a walk-in shower and supplied toiletries left me feeling revitalised in the morning.
If you like your sausages in the morning, you will love the sausage menu at Straigona, it is pretty impressive if I do say so myself and as I eat a gluten free diet, I was very happy to see that I was catered for too. If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can replace your sausage with a homemade veg patty if you're ordering a cooked breakfast.
Julie hands out the breakfast menu the day before so you can tick your options before bedtime. I appreciated the fact that she had marked up GF options for me in case I was unsure what was available. There is a choice of cooked dishes, including porridge, and other options include cereals, fruit etc
I opted for a traditional Scottish breakfast which was cooked up by Mike who has a background in catering. The hearty and tasty plate of food, washed down by coffee and apple juice set me up for the day.
However, the food is only one part of breakfast at Straigona, the other part is the friendly interaction between guests. Joined by a couple from Canada and a solo female traveller from California, we were soon swapping stories, travel tips and general chat like we were old friends.
Bed and breakfasts are conducive to this type of bonding as you are staying in a homely environment and guest numbers are generally small making it easy to strike up a conversation. Good hosts like Julie and Mike also have the skills to ensure the chat flows and everyone feels part of the family.
Home bakes - There are a range of home bakes available for guests to indulge on throughout the day. I sneaked off with a little pile of gluten free peppermint slices to enjoy in my room and although I didn't try Julie's shortbread, other guests were raving about it!
Maps, leaflets and books - You will never be stuck for ideas of things to do as there is a mini-tourist information in the hallway packed with brochures and books, and even more maps and guides located in the dining room. Julie has also put together comprehensive information folders covering all the Orkney islands that guests can borrow and each guest bedroom has a pack detailing lots of local information and tips on things to do.
Local arts and crafts - In the dining room there is a selection of Orkney handmade goods for sale that make unique local souvenirs.
5 Orkney hidden gems recommended by owner Julie
One of the benefits of staying at a bed and breakfast is being able to tap into the owner's local knowledge so I asked Julie for some of her recommended things to do nearby. She was able to supply some detailed driving routes with different points of interest. I opted to follow some of her hidden gem suggestions and she even accompanied me on a visit to a couple of them.
1. HAPPY VALLEY
This hidden gem in Stenness is so hidden it isn't even signposted so you do need some guidance to find it. The small stretch of woodland wedged between a characterful old cottage and a tumbling stream was the vision of Edwin Harrold who called this patch of Orkney home.
After his death, his garden was gifted to the people of Orkney and locals have been enjoying this little haven of nature ever since. Occasionally visitors have found their way there too and although small it is a lovely spot to pass some time. It is particularly spectacular during bluebell season.
2. WAULKMILL BAY
Despite boasting a large expanse of golden sand, this beach is easily missed as it is mostly concealed from the main road. Follow the short signposted detour and make your way down the winding path to one of Orkney's loveliest bays. Surrounded by hills and heather, all the elements combine to create a beautiful tapestry of coastal colours.
3. EARL'S BU & THE ROUND KIRK
The 12th-century round kirk in Orphir is a unique circular survivor among Scottish medieval churches and it is thought the design was inspired by the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church remains stand next to the site of The Earl's Bu, a great estate belonging to the Norse Earls of Orkney whose stories are brought to life in an audio-visual display in the neighbouring Orkneyinga Saga Centre. There is also a nice circular coastal walk from here.
4. KIRKBUSTER FARM MUSEUM
If you've been to Skara Brae and want an idea of what it was like to live in one of the 5000 year old dwellings then a trip to Kirkbuster Museum might give you some idea. Part of the farmhouse dates back to 1595 and is the last un-restored example of a traditional 'firehoose' in Northern Europe, the design has many similarities to those in Skara Brae.
Later extensions added in the 1700s depict life on a traditional Orkney farm over the following centuries. This is a fascinating time capsule of an almost lost way of life in the islands.
5. GERRI'S ICE CREAM PARLOUR
Amazingly I had never been to Gerri's Ice Cream Parlour until Julie suggested it but never one to turn down the opportunity to indulge in some Orkney Ice Cream, even on a chilly day in March, I quickly added it to my list of places to visit during my stay.
Julie joined me for a sweet treat and we sat outside chatting and setting the world to rights as we enjoyed our desserts. We might not have managed to solve every world problems but our yummy ice-cream definitely helped to make the world feel like a happier place!
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for a trip to Orkney and I can highly recommend Straigona as a place to stay during your trip, book your stay here. To discover more unique bed and breakfasts and guesthouses around Scotland, pop over to the Be Our Guest website.
I hope my latest Adventure Around Scotland has inspired you
Follow my Scotland travel adventures on social media
If you have found my blog useful and would like to support me in creating future Scottish travel content, you can by me a coffee on my Ko-fi page. All 'coffee' donations are hugely appreciated