Orkney Springs: Hotel, History & Hiking Trails in Shenandoah County, Virginia

Located in Shenandoah County, Orkney Springs is best known for two things: Virginia House (formerly Orkney Springs Hotel) and the annual music festival.

Thankfully, whether staying the weekend at the historic hotel or attending the music festival, it’s easy to get in steps on the hiking trails across Orkney Springs.

What is Orkney Springs?

Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs

The name Orkney is curious, of course. The origin is unknown, though some believe it may be tied to some other Orkney, like the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

As for Springs, the mineral springs across the Shenandoah Valley likely played a role in the naming of this community in western Shenandoah County.

At one time in history, guests came from far and near to take advantage of the beneficial cold water springs. This charming small town was the place to escape.

Orkney Springs Hotel

Virginia House – also known as the Orkney Springs Hotel – is the most recognizable landmark in this small town with a population of only 28 residents.

Located at the Shrine Mont Conference Center, Virginia House was built in 1873 and restored in 1987. It sits at the base of the Great North Mountain.

Virginia House (formerly Orkney Springs Hotel) at Shrine Mont

Shrine Mont is a retreat center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. You do not need to have any religious affiliation for a stay at this historic resort.

The white clapboard structure with forest green shutters is unmistakable. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Across the Orkney Springs resort, you’ll find quaint cottages of various sizes as lodging options. Interestingly, there are no sleeping rooms inside Virginia House.

Family cottages at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs

Virginia House is home to a dining hall, a ballroom, and comfortable spaces for large and small meetings. There is also a gift shop and bookstore.

On-property, there’s plenty to do. The map touts a large outdoor swimming pool, tennis, pickle ball, campfire rings, horseshoes, and of course, scenic hiking trails.

Orkney Springs Trail Fun

Recently, I spent some time in Orkney Springs. On my short visit, I hiked more than seven miles across forested, shady trails in Virginia of varying elevations.

From this, I have three Orkney Springs trail recommendations. I cobbled these routes together from my lengthy hike across this Shenandoah Valley resort.

Note that while hikers are welcome, pets are not on the hiking trails. The resort has a strict no-pet policy for overnight guests that extends to the on-site trails. 

#1: Summit Hike (4.3-miles, out-and-back)

Views from Arrowhead Rock in Orkney Springs

The hike to a mountain summit (referred to by some as Arrowhead Rock) is steep and technical, but also rewarding with far-reaching mountain views.

For this out-and-back hike, begin at the parking area off Shrine Mont Circle that’s marked for the Atkeson cottage. This is a short drive past Virginia House.

The trail is not marked, but it’s relatively easy to find, though you will need to keep your eyes open. At the .2-mark, turn right at the sign for North Mountain.

North Mountain trail sign in Orkney Springs, Virginia

From here, the gravel trail is well-marked (mostly). At the .5-mark, you will see a sign to turn left for the two-story cross. Do not turn left, at least not now.

Follow the sign for Saltpeter Cave and North Mountain at the .9-mile mark. The Saltpeter Cave turns up at the 1.7-mile mark and is worth exploring on your way.

Saltpeter Cave on North Mountain Trail in Orkney Springs

At the 2.6-mile mark, turn left on a spur trail to Arrowhead Rock. It’s a bit technical to climb to the top of the rock, but you can enjoy views without a scramble.

From here, re-trace your steps to the parking area to complete your hike.

#2: Cross Hike (2.4-miles, out-and-back)

Wooden Cross at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs

The two-story wooden cross overlook is a must-see on a visit to Orkney Springs. You can hike there and back or complete the hike as a loop.

While the out-and-back hike is slightly longer, it’s also an easier hike with less of an elevation gain. For this hike, begin at the same parking area as the summit hike.

Proceed along the same trail, then turn left at the sign for the cross at the .5-mile mark. You will reach the cross at the 1.2-mile mark. From here, re-trace your steps.

#3: Cross Hike (2.3-miles, loop)

Trail sign leading to wooden cross at Shrine Mont

This hike to the wooden cross begins at the open-air cathedral called the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. A trail sign directs visitors to the cross.

In .1-mile, you will arrive at a meditation labyrinth. Make a stop, maybe walk the labyrinth, then continue on the gravel trail, which is about to get very steep. Eesh.

At the .3-mile mark, turn left to begin walking up the gravel trail to the cross. Along the way, note the 14 stations of the cross on the trees leading up the hiking trail.

One of the 14 stations of the cross at Shrine Mont

You will reach the cross at the .9-mile mark. From here, walk past the cross to continue on the trail. At the 1.6-mile mark, turn right to walk down the trail.

At the 2.1-mile mark, you will see a parking area for Atkeson cottage. For this hike’s starting point, walk up Shrine Mont Circle, then turn left on St. George Camp Lane.

In a few more steps, you will return to the open-air cathedral. Your hike is complete.

Shenandoah Valley Music Festival

The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival is the Orkney Springs music festival. In 2023, concerts take place on September 2 & 3.

Musical acts set up in the outdoor concert pavilion in Orkney Springs. Among the 2023 acts are The Steel Wheels, Firefall and Pure Prairie League.

The non-profit that produces the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival has been bringing music events to the masses in the valley for more than 50 years.

Things to Do In and Near Orkney Springs

Lake Laura in Basye, Virginia

Orkney Springs may be a small village in the Shenandoah Valley, but that’s not to say there’s not much to do. Here’s how to make it a weekend in Orkney Springs.

Lake Laura

At nearby Lake Laura, hike a shady loop around the 44-acre dam-fed lake. An easy 2.5-mile hiking trail circumnavigates the lake that’s owned by Bryce Resort.

In season, pair a hike with a paddle. Bring your own watercraft or rent a canoe, stand-up paddleboard or kayak from the beach shack on the lake.

Bryce Resort

Best known as a winter destination, there’s a lot to do year-round at Bryce Resort in Basye. In summer, enjoy disc golf, lift rides, a bike park and a golf course.

Winter brings all kinds of fun-filled cold-weather activities. Go to Bryce Resort for skiing, snow tubing, ice skating and snowboarding.

Route 11 Chips

In nearby Mount Jackson, it’s a must to stop in local potato chip factory, Route 11 Potato Chips. Stop in to buy old-fashioned kettle cooked potato chips. Yum-o.

The factory is open to the public Monday-Saturday. There are no facility tours, but you can watch them making chips through a giant window on select days.

Orkney Springs Distillery

Part of Seven Hollows Farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Orkney Springs Distillery hand-bottles craft spirits made from organic ingredients.

There is no storefront in Orkney Springs, but you will find Orkney Spring Distillery-crafted gin and vodka at Basye Brew Hollow, a local eatery with outdoor seating.