There have been various SOC trips to Shetland and Orkney, and at least one planned which fizzled out through not quite enough people. That one was a great pity as the week we had pencilled in proved to be brilliant weather and was the week Sean Morley passed round Muckle Flugga on his solo circumnavigation of Britain and Ireland, so he would have overtaken us...
In 2009, we visited with Glenmore Lodge, doing day trips from a hostel base (with restaurant meals every night) which was certainly better than camping, given that we had strong winds and swell every day. This way of organising a trip - from a central base with trips out to visit the coastal highlights - not only ensures that sheltered water can be found in almost any weather, but also makes it easy in better weather to visit all the different highlights such as Papa Stour, Muckle Flugga and various spectacular stacks, skerries and caves.
The stacks and caves on the east of Yell - Horse of Burravoe
We were hoping to organise a trip of this nature in summer 2011, but another alpine river trip usurped that slot, and it has taken until 2018 to get organised for another trip (this one mainly because we were too slow off the mark to book another St. Kilda trip). September is supposed to have a better chance of good weather than August (2009 being a case when this statistic had poor predicitive value!), but earlier in summer is probably better again, and with some very long daylight hours too - the 2018 trip is scheduled for the end of June. The hostel we used in 2009 is quite big, and we'd probably want ten people to make it economic (it would hold a lot more) as it is only bookable on a whole-hostel basis. We'd probably want to return a bit sooner than another nine years (although 2019 is definitely booked for another attempt at St. Kilda, and Orkney is another destinastion we need to return to). Let us know if you are interested. Shetland is fairly serious, so we'd prefer to paddle with people we know well - preferably all SOC members.
Esha Ness looks a fantastic coast to paddle - but preferably without the four metre swell...
The most convenient way to get there (and back) is by overnight ferry from Aberdeen, although it is possible to island hop via a short ferry to Orkney and then the big ferry across to Shetland, if you want to do the extra driving to visit other places en route. If you are happy carrying your boat onto the Shetland ferry, it's possible to paddle the exciting Pentland Firth to Orkney, but there is always the risk that you fail to get to Orkney if the weather is bad, the short ferry is full, and you would lose your booking on the Shetland ferry, so a couple of days in Orkney for insurance might be a good plan.