Events in Orkney
Orkney has a packed calendar of events running for much of the year, with our many festivals among the top attraction for visitors and residents alike.
Kicking things off in March is the Orkney One Act Play Festival, which sees Orkney’s local drama groups competing for a place in the Scottish Community Drama Association's (SCDA) divisional and national contests.
Stromness hosts the Orkney Jazz Festival in April, with celebrations for Orkney's patron saint, St Magnus, taking place on the 16th of the month. Orkney's famous folk festival is held towards the end of May, with some of the best traditional musicians in the world sharing a platform with our local talent. On Norwegian Constitution Day - May 17 - there's a parade, service and dance in Kirkwall to celebrate Orkney’s Norse heritage with our visiting friends from across the North Sea.
The internationally acclaimed St Magnus International Festival takes place in June, with performances from leading classical musicians, singers, orchestras and poets. Scotland's only wine festival is also staged here in June, as are traditional midnight golf matches that make the most of Orkney’s light summer nights. Stromness Shopping Week in July offers a whole week of entertainment for all the family, with a spectacular pier-head fireworks display and dance concluding this ever popular event.
There's no let up in August when the agricultural shows, held throughout the county, allow Orkney’s farmers to show off their champion animals. The shows are hugely popular days out for all the family, drawing exiled Orcadians back to the islands, along with many visitors. The Vintage Rally Show and the Riding of the Marches in Kirkwall are held after the County Show has taken place. Another event is the unique Festival of the Horse and Boys’ Ploughing Match in South Ronaldsay.
The Orkney International Science Festival, held in September, has grown in popularity with many of the fascinating talks and events sold out each year. Later in the month Stromness hosts the Orkney Blues Festival, with the town's bars the focus for gigs from local and visiting groups.
If you like to hear a good traditional tale, delivered by some of the best storytellers in the business, then October's Orkney Storytelling Festival has much to offer.
And for three weeks either side of the winter solstice on December 21 you can witness the light from the setting sun in the Neolithic tomb of Maeshowe. Christmas concerts and the lighting of the Christmas lights in all the parishes and isles are an opportunity for communities to get together in the dark days of winter.
On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day the famous Ba’ is played in Kirkwall in a men’s and a boys’ version. It's a serious business, reserved for those who know what they're doing, with games usually lasting for several hours.
Between the festivals there are many concerts, talks, art exhibitions, plays, operas, gigs, shows, sporting events and all manner of other activities taking place. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a week in the Orkney calendar when nothing was happening, so there's never a dull moment!