Orkney's Food and Drink
Orkney is a food lover's paradise, where the pristine environment produces a bounty of delights. The green, fertile fields and clean, clear seas help local producers create much sought after goods.
The islands are full of small-scale artisan producers who are always happy to tell you exactly where your food has come from. Many are members of the local group Orkney Food and Drink, which helps bring them together and promote the products to a wider audience.
Meat from cattle and sheep raised on Orkney's lush green fields enjoys protected European status and is highly prized throughout the UK. For a uniquely delicious flavour you can sample the hogget or mutton from North Ronaldsay lamb, a hardy ancient breed that feeds almost exclusively on seaweed. There's even a herd of water buffalo in the islands, with the rich and healthy meat produced by Orkney Buffalo proving increasingly popular. Orkney's butchers are also well versed in using local meats to create a range of prize winning produce, including sausages, black pudding, haggis and pies. Four local butchers work together to ensure the islands abbatoir is kept in use so local meat is available to local buyers.
Our clean seas offer a sustainably managed harvest of salmon, hand-dived scallops, crab, lobster and spoots (razorfish). Salt and air dried fish - the traditional way of preserving fish in the islands - is another speciality widely available, as is soused herring, smoked white fish and kippers.
Orkney’s lush grass, which grows in pastures near the sea, provides a natural stress-free environment for dairy cows. And stress-free cows mean good milk and dairy products - Orkney Cheddar and Orkney Ice Cream are the most notable - created with great care using traditional processes.
You might think vegetables have a tough time growing so far north, but Orkney is actually the perfect place for producing quality potatoes, other roots and leafy greens. Growers also use polytunnels to grow succulent strawberries and ripen tomatoes during the long summer days.
Our bakers produce a scrumptious range of homebakes, biscuits, fancies, breads, rolls and the unique bere bannock - a thick scone of primitive barley grown and milled in Orkney and baked on a girdle (iron). Try one served with Orkney farmhouse cheese. Other favourites are oatcakes and Orkney fudge.
Restaurant specialities in Orkney include breadcrumbed and fried Grimbister Cheese as a starter, or plain and simple partan toes (crab claws). Orkney beef or seafood must top the list for main courses, and Orkney fudge cheesecake is the sweetest of all desserts. Orkney is also famed for its huge number of cafes and tradition of tearooms, in town and country.
There are two whisky distilleries in Orkney – Highland Park and Scapa - with the former's spirit voted the best in the world. Orkney's two breweries – the Highland Brewing Company at Swannay Brewery near Evie and the Orkney Brewery in Quoyloo, brew award-winning cask and bottled ales. Meanwhile, the Orkney Wine Company - the UK's most northerly winery - produces a fabulous variety of traditional fruit wines and liqueurs, and Orkney Distilling makes Kirkjuvagr Orkney gin and is set to open a distillery in Kirkwall in 2017.
You can find out much more about Orkney's food and drink producers by visiting the Orkney Food and Drink website and watching the short film below. For your own guide to where to find the very best food and drink, download a copy of the Orkney Foodies Guide 2015/16.