Pentland Ferries offer the shortest crossing time to Orkney for vehicles and passengers.
The route is mostly sheltered between Gills Bay in Caithness, and St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay in Orkney, providing a more appealing option to travellers. With three return crossings every day, passengers have a choice of departure time.
Pentland Ferries is a family-run business, established by Andrew and Susan Banks in 2001. The company currently own the MV Pentalina and also have a new, larger vessel being built which is due to enter service in summer 2018. With the head office situated in St Margaret's Hope, close to the family home, the family-driven business is tailored towards providing customers with a friendly and local service.
The purpose-built catamaran – MV Pentalina – is the first vessel of her kind to operate in Orkney waters. She is fuel-efficient and carries 70 cars and 350 passengers. Capable of a speed of 18 knots, she has a steel hull and aluminium superstructure, with 4 engines and 4 propellers for better manoeuvrability.
There are two comfortable lounges on the ship and an outside upper deck, which offers superb views. When you've taken in the sights, you can relax and enjoy hot and cold drinks from the on-board cafeteria. There is a wheelchair lift enabling disabled passengers to gain access from the car deck to the lounges.
Only about half of Pentland Ferries' 1-hour voyage is on the Pentland Firth. The remainder is within sheltered and scenic Scapa Flow – home to the Royal Naval Fleet during the First and Second World Wars. Look out for wartime defences on the islands of Flotta and South Ronaldsay as you pass.
The sailing passes the islands of Stroma and Swona. The last inhabitants departed Swona in the 1970s, leaving a unique breed of feral cattle you can see from the boat. Look for seals along the rocky shores, and a host of seabirds, including gannets and puffins. If you're lucky, you may see porpoises and even killer whales.