Whichever island you choose, getting there is straightforward, thanks to fast, modern roll-on, roll-off ferry services.
Kirkwall is a go-ahead, substantial harbour town with a main street busy with locals and visitors. First impressions will include the extraordinary choice of upmarket craft shops along the main street while, overall, the bulk of St Magnus Cathedral dominates the skyline, as it has done for more than eight centuries. There are many more things to explore around Kirkwall, try the Orkney Museum, or the Orkney Wireless Museum, or go for a taster at the Highland Park Distillery.
Stromness is strung out along its sheltered shore, with its crooked main street revealing narrow glimpses of blue water between its plain and practical dwellings. Well worth the stroll, however, especially to see Stromness Museum and Pier Arts Centre. For the sailors in olden times, Stromness was the last watering place before the wild North Atlantic.
Quality of light, ever-changing colours of sea and sky, and a Viking heritage, all inspire local craftsfolk from tapestry makers to jewellers.