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Spiritual Orkney's ritual is based on those provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, but the wording is inclusive and designed to be accessible for people of all religions / beliefs and none.
Our Winter Solstice ceremony takes place just before sunset on the shortest day of the year - as we finish, the newborn sun will set into the Hoy Hills. We acknowledge the sun at its nadir and we beseech its return, for without light we are bereft. We also acknowledge the cycle of the sun's rebirth and ascent to its zenith as the days will now start to become longer.
Every Christmas Eve and Hogmanay, householders and shopkeepers along Kirkwall's winding central streets can be seen barricading doors and windows in preparation for the following days' ba' games.
The Kirkwall Ba' is a mass-football game played out in the streets of the town every Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
The game pits two rival "factions" against each other in a battle to secure a goal and win the game.
Why would you choose a New Year break in Scotland? Well, no other nation in the world celebrates the New Year with quite as much revelry and passion as Scotland does, and it's hardly surprising that the enormous celebration that engulfs the country is legendary the world over.
Hogmanay is what we Scots call New Year's Eve - 31 December - the big night that marks the arrival of the new year. Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.
The Orkney West Mainland Agricultural Society was originally formed for the purpose of holding a Ploughing Match in 1859. It was not until 1891 that the first Dounby Show was held. The show has grown and developed and is now held annually in our own Showpark in Dounby, attracting nearly 6000 spectators in recent years. In October 2005, the Society became a Limited Company.
The Society also holds an Annual Ploughing Match, which at the present time is very well supported.
Trophies from both events are presented at the Annual Farmers Ball and Presentation of Prizes, which is held at the end of November or begining of December.
I think it would be fair to say that Orkney’s salt water sea trout fishery is a far cry from the halcyon days of 50 years ago. This doesn't mean that sport nowadays is poor. Far from it, but it’s a lot harder.Whereas in the distant past when large catches of quality fish were commonplace and relatively easy to find, today’s salt water angler has to put in a lot of effort and time, often for meager reward. On the plus side, fewer local anglers are plying their trade in salt water and it is quite possible to find yourself alone in one of the hot spots. If you are fortunate enough to be in the right place, at the right time, and you know what you are doing, then you can still expect a few fish. If you can manage to string together a few “right places” etc on the same day then you will enjoy one of the best day’s trout fishing possible in the United Kingdom.
Orkney’s cliffs are home to vast numbers of breeding seabirds during the summer, with Marwick Head and Mull Head on the mainland, and Noup Head in Westray, popular sites for seabird spotting. If you’re looking for puffins, many of Orkney’s huge population are on the inaccessible Sule Skerry, but there are plenty of spots around the islands to catch a glimpse of these charming birds, particularly the Castle o’ Burrian in Westray and Marwick Head on the west mainland.
Waders breed in Orkney’s wetlands and can also be found in the lochans on the moors of the mainland, Rousay and Hoy. The moors are also the place to see hen harriers and short eared owls.
The Clan Gunn is one of the oldest Scottish Clans descended from the Norse Jarls of Orkney and the Pictish Mormaers of Caithness.
The Brown Trout Season has just started and for the first couple of months it’s best to wade in the Loch of Harray as the shallow water close to the shore is warmer and the fish feed there. Towards the end of May, and through June, July and August, it’s best to use a boat on the Loch of Harray as the Brown Trout move out to deeper cooler water as the weather warms up.
A fun packed weekend of dance workshops and ceilidhs with various tutors and bands
Music from three local and one South band, tutors covering a multitude of different dances and a selection of daily workshops to choose from.
Ceilidhs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night with live bands and super served to your table.
The Jazz Festival takes place in The Stromness Hotel with this year’s line up including performances from Diplomats of Jazz and Bill Salmond’s Louisiana Ragtime Band.
Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd April
Performances start around 9pm in the Lounge Bar of the Stromness Hotel.
Sunday night includes a 3 course Orcadian buffet before the band starts at 9pm.
This years line up includes performance by Diplomats of Jazz and Bill Salmond’s Louisiana Ragtime Band.
We are the only tour company in Orkney to be run by archaeologists, who live and work here all year round and have in depth understanding of Orkney’s archaeology, cultural traditions and history – as well as knowing all the best places to see seals! We specialise in all-inclusive holidays limited to a maximum of eight guests, but unlike other tour operators we do NOT require a minimum number of bookings before the holiday goes ahead, and we do not apply any surcharges to our prices, so you can book ahead with confidence.
The Orkney Rugby Sevens tournament has become one of the most popular events in the Orkney sporting calendar.
Local sides are joined by visiting clubs from all over Scotland for the competition, with a full day of rugby entertainment held at Orkney Rugby Club's playing fields at Pickaquoy.
There are refreshments and entertainment available throughout the day before a dance at night. Sunday sees the annual Kirkwall Ladies Hockey Club tournament before a disco in the Rugby Club on Sunday night.
The festival, which takes place slightly earlier this year, is organised by local business Kirkness & Gorie, and has become more and more popular each year, with this year’s tickets selling faster than ever. Explaining the three themes to the 2017 festival, its founder, Duncan McLean said there will be a series of events focused on New Zealand, reflecting Kirkness & Gorie’s award for being the UK’s best Kiwi Pinot Noir retailer.
There will also be two Spanish events using new wines discovered during a trip to Rioja late last year.
Orkney Nature Festival celebrates all the wildlife and bird watching this small island has to offer. The event is organised by the local RSPB team and includes a number of events that includes talks, workshops & guided walks.
Orkney became part of Scotland in 1468. For about 500 years before it had been ruled by Norse Earls, whose influence stretched as far as Ireland and who travelled as far as the Holy Land. Their influence can be seen in Norse derived placenames, surnames and dialect. Their most visible monument is the 12th Century St. Magnus Cathedral.
On 17 May we celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day and at Christmas we light a Norwegian tree outside the Cathedral as part of a whole "Tree-Lighting" Ceremony
There we go, folks – that was the 35th Orkney Folk Festival!
Thank you to each and every person that helped make the festival, yet again, such a huge success – from each one of the 7,000 ticket holders, to all of our artists, and all of our many hundreds of volunteers. It couldn’t happen without you all, and whilst we can’t wait for it to happen again, we’re also looking forward to a peedie lie down and a couple of months off!
The 36th festival will take place between May 24-27, 2018, with the first names expected to be announced around December this year.
There is always great excitement in Orkney when a pod of killer whales or orcas is spotted. This happens several times most years - in fact 90 per cent of sightings of orca in the UK are off Orkney and Shetland. This large member of the dolphin family can measure up to 9.75m in length. It is easy to recognise by its distinctive black and white livery. This awe-inspiring predator lives in social groups called pods with the oldest female in charge. Pods with up to 150 animals have been spotted east of Orkney. They mainly hunt for fish including herring and mackerel but also snatch seals and porpoises, often seen throwing their prey up in the air. The best time to see them around Orkney is between May and September although they are present year round. Sightings include Sanday, North Ronaldsay, Yesnaby and mid Pentland Firth.
The Hoy Half Marathon is a low key race that fills quickly. Anyone interested is advised to apply as early as possible.
Being an extremely hilly course, organisers are not afaid to say that this won't "be your fastest half marathon". However they add that "it will probably be one of your toughest and most scenic".
St Magnus International Festival is Orkney's midsummer celebration of the arts. Founded in 1977 by a group including the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Britain's most highly regarded and adventurous arts events
The marathon route follows that associated with the journey undertaken by his followers after the martyrdom of the Viking Earl Magnus to the ancient Christ’s Kirk in Birsay, finishing at the nearby Birsay Community Hall.
Starting from the front of Kirkwall’s historic Cathedral the marathon route proceeds into the beautiful north-west corner of the mainland, Orkney’s “Hidden Treasure” of Birsay. It will provide great photo opportunities at various points on the route; the UK’s most northerly, it is also one of the most rewarding distance runs, through wonderful coastal scenery, with challenging gradient changes in the early stages and gentle gradients latterly. A map of the route can be found at
The Gardeners of Orkney have will be holding a Garden Festival Trail over two weekends in June. Thirty-four gardens will throw open their doors across Orkney, Kirkwall and Hoy.
There are often ongoing excavations in Orkney, and we include visits to these if any are accessible during your holiday. The most famous is the excavation of the Neolithic site of the Ness of Brodgar, situated between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar in the middle of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. If your chosen ‘Orkney Adventure’ holiday coincides with the dig season we will include a visit to the dig as a bonus extra in the holiday itinerary
During Shoppping Week in Stromness there is a wide range of street entertainments that thrill, excite and engage both children and adults alike.
The award winning Stromness Royal British Legion Pipe Band plays selections of music throughout the week in various locations and are sometime joined by guest Pipe Bands.
The Shopping Week's Resident Band also plays at various times throughout the week at the pierhead and in local pubs at night and of course at the open air dance on Saturday night where they play from 7pm until Shopping Week comes to an end at 11pm.
The club started out as the Westray Sailing Club (and Papay residents could also be members). Throughout the years it was also known as the Westray & Papay Sailing Club and the Westray Yachting Club.
We have in our possession the original minute book, which records the proceedings of the meetings since 1925. The club has being going strong since then, although it stopped twice in its history, once out of respect for the Gairy Boat Disaster in 1929 and again for World War II.
2017's Sheep Festival has come to an end, with a staggering 330 metres (or 'paces') built in a fortnight, bringing the past two years' total to over half a mile of fallen sheepdyke re-built by hand, from scratch, by our band of incredible volunteers!
To celebrate their achievement, we'll be updating the homepage with pictures and testimonials over the next few weeks, and keep an eye out for the announcement of 2018's Festival dates - we've already got a waiting list!
Established in 2009, Paddle Orkney is a small bi-annual symposium based on Mainland Orkney. It is organised voluntarily by local paddlers with a passion for sea kayaking and has attracted folk from all over the UK and from further afield.
The North Isles are a fantastic archipelago and our aim is to create an experience that provides top class coaching in some fantastic and variable waters around our coastline.
The County Show brings Orkney's show season to a close on the second Saturday of August. The Bignold Park is transformed into a hive of activity, with the best livestock from around the islands on display. Winners from the other local shows join other entrants and the competition is fierce! There are prizes for horses, dogs and pets too. Visitors can also enjoy an impressive machinery display, fundraising stalls, funfair, food vans and plenty of entertainment.
Will be held at the Auction Mart in Kirkwall. This event displays all kinds of stationary engines, tractors, cars, motorbikes, farm implements and there is an indoor exhibition of curios.
This year we are sponsored by Northlink Ferries such that entrants from outside Orkney will recieve a 50% discount on the ferry fares.
This traditional event sees horses, ponies and carriages take to the streets of Kirkwall before their riders carry a standard around the old boundary of the town.
The route takes them from Broad Street, through Albert Street towards the Pierhead and around the outskirts of Kirkwall. They gather in front of St Magnus Cathedral at 2pm before heading off - it's an incredible sight to seem all gathered in the heart of the town. You can also catch them at Scapa beach as the horses take to the water, crashing through the surf on their way.
St Margaret's Hope is the venue for one of Orkney’s most unique occasions.
Once a year in the village of St Margaret's Hope in South Ronaldsay, Orkney, young girls gather at the local school for a contest. Their costumes glint and jangle as they circle the square dressed as working horses, complete with collar and headdress in costumes handed down through generations.
The boys compete in a match at the Sands O' Wright - a vast beach just outside the village. They use their miniature ploughs to draw lines in the sand, learning the craft of the finely tilled furrow.
The dates for next year’s Festival are 6-12 September 2018. Various topics and speakers are already confirmed and we expect to be able to post up an early outline here around November.
The Orkney Storytelling Festival is a long weekend of oral storytelling. Organised by the Orcadian Story Trust, it has become an established annual event in the Orkney calendar since its re-emergence in 2010.
The festival events take place in locations across Orkney. In 2017 these will include Deerness, Orphir and Egilsay as well as Kirkwall and Stromness.
Alongside local storytellers, both beginners and the experienced, the festival brings invited guests to our isles from all over the world.
Orkney is one of the best places in Britain to go seal-watching. In fact it is of significant international importance as a breeding ground for two species - the grey and common seal. Astonishingly, around 15% of the world's seal population make Orkney their home.
Along with the adorable puffins, Orkney's seals are a firm favourite with visitors and can always be relied upon to put on a show! They are naturally inquisitive creatures and can be spotted along the coastline, bobbing about in the shallows or lounging around on the skerries when the tide is out.
A superb community bonfire and fireworks display with music from the Kirkwall City Pipe Band. Pets and the use of sparklers are not permitted. There will be a collection for local charities and soup and hot dogs will be sold by the Glaitness School Parent Council.
Winter has well and truly arrived in Orkney. The days are short and sky is dark, apart from a glimpse of the low sun as it burns through the clouds.
And it’s the winter sun that plays a central role in one of Orkney’s most spectacular events. Every year, at midwinter, the setting sun shines down the entrance passage of the Neolithic tomb at Maeshowe, illuminating the back wall with beautiful, bright light.