November 2018 Newsletter
Hello and welcome to the November newsletter from Orkney.com.
We’ve had some wild and wonderful weather across the islands over recent weeks as autumn continues here at 59-degrees-north. There is a busy month ahead in Orkney so keep reading for our events preview, the latest news and much more.
Remember you can always get extra island inspiration on the Visit Orkney website and on our social media channels too.
Get away from it all in Orkney
If you’re looking for short break with a difference this autumn then Orkney could be the perfect place for you. We have quiet beaches, wild coastline and incredible islands, as well as fascinating historical sites and wildlife highlights too. To help you plan your trip, our ‘See you at the weekend’ promotion features a fantastic range of seasonal offers, including accommodation and touring deals, as well as inspiring itinerary ideas and films to help you make the most of your stay. Explore them all via the Visit Orkney website.
Celebration of the finest food and drink
Orkney’s larder was showcased in style last month at the biennial Orkney Food and Drink Awards. This year 31 local businesses were shortlisted for the twelve categories after more than 8000 nominations were received from members of the public. A gala event saw local businesses including The Foveran Restaurant with Rooms, The Brig Larder and the Birsay Bay Tearoom come away with wins. Highland Park Distillery was also given a special Outstanding Performance award on the night. See the full list of winners on the Orkney Food and Drink website.
Energy of Orkney takes centre stage
It’s not just Orkney’s food and drink producers that have been celebrating recently. Orkney’s reputation for energy innovation has been highlighted once again on the shortlist for the 2018 Scottish Green Energy Awards. Four Orkney-based projects and companies are in the running for recognition at the annual ceremony, which will be held in Edinburgh in December. Local firms Leask Marine and Orbital Marine Power, and projects involving Microsoft and Community Energy Scotland are all nominated. Read all about it from our blog.
Armistice Day commemorations for the islands
Orkney will be one of thirty locations to be part of a nationwide act of remembrance on Armistice Day later this month. Scapa beach will host the ‘Pages of the Sea’ project on November 11th, which will see large-scale portraits of WWI casualties drawn in the sand of beaches in communities across the UK and Ireland. Orkney played a vital role in both WWI and WWII, with the great natural harbour of Scapa Flow serving as the home of the Royal Navy during both conflicts. Orkney will also host a number of other events to mark the centenary of the ending of the First World War – check out the Visit Orkney website to find out more.
Join us on Instagram
Follow Visit Orkney on Instagram to see some beautiful images of the islands. We publish shots from around Orkney every week and you can join in too. Tag your own images so we can share your Orkney journey on social media. Use #VisitOrkney and #LoveOrkney to keep in touch.
November in Orkney
With autumn in full swing and winter just around the corner, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Orkney events calendar slows down in November. Well, think again!
The first of those festivals runs throughout November. The Film Focus Festival gets underway on the 1st with a packed programme of events and screenings scheduled for venues right across the islands. It’s a real celebration of film and there is sure to be something for everyone. This year will see the Screen Machine visit seven islands and there will be special showings at the Phoenix Cinema, the West Side Cinema, the Gable End Theatre and the Screen in the Square too. Add to that exhibitions, readings and pop-up cinemas and November will be full of the splendours of the silver screen! Find out more from the official website.
Later in the month a very unique event returns to Orkney. The ØY Festival in Papa Westray is a three-day celebration of islands, and this year the theme is ‘Space Station ØY’. Visiting artists, scientists, makers, performers and local islanders will re-imagine themselves as pioneers of far and distant planets throughout the weekend, which will be held between the 16th and 18th. There will be live performance, music, walks, workshops, exhibitions and cinema. Visit the website to see the full programme.
As you read in the news, there are a series of events to be held in Orkney to commemorate Armistice Day on the 11th. One of the main activities will be ‘Pages of the Sea’, which will see volunteers create a large-scale sand portrait of an Orcadian soldier killed during WW1 on the beach at Scapa. The time is still to be confirmed, but you can find out more via the Visit Orkney website.
Elsewhere during the month, you can try your hand at photogrammetry and learn the basic skills needed to create your own 3D models. Dr Anderson-Whymark will be leading free workshops at the Orkney Archive in Kirkwall on the 2nd between 10am and 4pm – booking is essential by emailing email@example.com
The following day you can make an early start on your Christmas shopping at the 2018 Annual Christmas Bazaar in the Kirkwall Town Hall. Come along and support local charities between 10am and 3pm. There will also be the chance to pick up some Christmas gifts at the Craftastic Christmas Fair at Kirkwall Grammar School on the 17th between 10am and 4pm.
The 3rd also sees a very special and spooky event at the RSPB hide at Cottascarth. Join in the fun for face painting, creepy crafts, apple-dooking and much more between 4pm and 6pm. Tea, coffee and Hallowe’en treats will be available! Phone 01856 850 176 for more details. Later in the evening you can take in the spectacular bonfire and fireworks display at the Peedie Sea in Kirkwall. It all gets underway at 7pm, with music from the Kirkwall City Pipe Band too.
If the November weather isn’t being too kind, you can retreat indoors to take in two talks later in the month. On the 6th join Shetland author Mallachy Tallack at the Stromness Library, where he’ll be discussing his new book ‘The Valley at the Centre of the World’, from 7.30pm. Admission is £6 or £1 for school children.
Then on the 9th you can hear from Orcadian wildlife cameraman Raymond Besant, who will give a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make wildlife documentaries. That’s in the Stromness Town Hall from 7.15pm for a 7.45pm start. Admission is free.
RSPB Scotland’s Orkney team will be taking a look back at a busy year in the islands on the 15th in the King Street Halls in Kirkwall. The focus will be on some of the activities of the branch this year and the arrival of Hoy’s two sea eagle chicks. It starts at 7.30pm (note – there will be a short RSPB Orkney Local Group AGM at the beginning of the evening).
Orkney’s wartime heritage will come back to the fore on the 23rd and 24th of November with the Scapa Flow Naval History Conference. The event will take a closer look at the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919, as well as the history and impact of that infamous day. Speakers will also focus on the role of the American navy during WWI, how the scuttling was interpreted in Germany and much more.
The event will be held at Kirkwall Grammar School across both days and two-day passes are available. Find out more from the official website.
Music fans should head to the Sound Archive at the Old Library this month. On stage there on the 2nd will be local favourites The Stereo Lobsters, followed by The Revellers on the 3rd, Talisk on the 4th, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry Tribute on the 17th and Siobhan Miller on the 24th. Find the Old Library on Facebook for ticket information.
If you’re still keen on touring some of Orkney’s finest sites then you can join guided walks at the Standing Stones of Stenness every Wednesday at 10am, and at the Ring of Brodgar every Thursday at 1pm. There are also tours of the upper levels of St Magnus Cathedral on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am and 2pm – phone 01856 874 894 to book.
You can still catch a number of excellent exhibitions this month too. ‘Stories of Our Time’ by Robinson RR is open in the Orkney Museum until the 3rd, with ‘Curious Beasts & Other Stories’ by Gillian Nash on display in the Loft Gallery in St Margaret’s Hope until the 9th.
The Pier Arts Centre has ‘Voice and Vision; the Poetry and Art of W.S. Graham’ and Barbara Rae: The Northwest Passage until the 10th. Further along the street in Stromness at the Northlight Gallery you can see ‘The Days Never Seem the Same’ by Gunnie Mobery & Margaret Tait between the 3rd and 17th.
That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during November. There’s always lots more happening around the islands – keep up to date with the Visit Orkney events page, pick up a copy of local newspaper ‘The Orcadian’ every Thursday or tune into BBC Radio Orkney every weekday morning from 0730 on 93.7FM or on Facebook
Orkney wildlife watch
Autumn is an exciting time to watch Orkney’s wildlife in action, from sea to sky. Find out what you can experience this November.
The main focus is definitely on the miles and miles of shoreline around the islands in November. The early part of the month is the peak of the grey seal pupping season, so remember to take a walk to some of their ‘rookeries’ – Windwick and Burwick in South Ronaldsay are great spots – to see our newly arrived pups. These locations offer clifftop vantage points, so they’re perfect for watching from afar. Remember not to disturb the pups or their mothers, and always keep a safe distance.
The Sanday Ranger’s sealcam is back this year too, so if you want to watch the action from the warmth of your house, just log-in to the official website!
You can also spot plenty of wildlife in more urban areas of the islands too. The Peedie Sea in Kirkwall is a fantastic place to go birdwatching, and you’re always within reach of a café for a warming cup of coffee too! November can bring long-tailed ducks to the Peedie Sea, as well as a wide selection of waders and gulls. It can be a busy place!
If we’re lucky, we might also see a welcome invasion of some very special birds. Waxwings generally pass through Orkney at the beginning of November and can be found in gardens foraging for food. These beautiful birds usually breed in northern forests before heading south for the winter, and sometimes there is an ‘irruption’, when poor rowan berry crops in Europe can send thousands of waxwings this way. They’re so distinctive, you can’t miss them!
November also bring the chance to see other migrant birds, including wheatears, wagtails, finches and warblers. And, with the dark nights arriving earlier now the clocks have gone back, keep your eyes trained on the moors in Birsay and at Cottascarth in Rendall to see hen harriers roosting. These birds of prey create quite the spectacle as they glide earthwards in the autumn light.
Local photographer on the hunt for different perspectives
This month’s featured photographer is James Grieve, who turns his lens to people, places and the beautiful Orkney scenery.
My interest in photography came out of the blue. I suddenly realised that I had a gap of photographic memories between my childhood and adulthood. I was a teenager during the birth of camera phones, so I missed out on that opportunity to gather images of people and places that are no longer here. In my early twenties this realisation really began to affect me, so I decided that from that point on I would take more photographs, and I soon became very addicted!
When I was younger, my mum would always make sure that a disposable camera was packed away in my bag when I was going on holiday or on a school trip. It was always a bit of an event when we would take the roll to get developed in Kirkwall. Since then, I’ve had various compact, bridge and DSLR cameras. I currently use two Nikon D750s with an array of different lenses, and I always have a Sony RX100 IV in my pocket for sudden bursts of creativity.
I love photographing weddings and people, but I also like to get out and about with my camera. I particularly like old houses and remnants of the past. Orkney is a very interesting place to take photos to say the least. From a landscape perspective, it can be incredibly difficult. Orkney is relatively low and open, so trying to get the balance between foreground and background is tricky and challenging. However, head to the coast and it’s hard to take a bad photo!
The Orkney weather also makes photography unique and keeps me on my toes, especially if you get combination of great light and strong winds. The light changes so quickly and you have to be quick to capture it. I try to go to places that are not stereotypical ‘photo spots’ so I can keep things fresh. Any stretch of coastline is great, especially in the south and west sides of the mainland. The islands are very unique and all have hidden treasures too.
I’d definitely recommend Orkney as a place to come and take photos. Bring a long lens and take the time to look at what is around you, as often the best things are closer than you think!
Explore uncovered Orkney
Our uncovered Orkney attraction of the month takes us to the exposed coastline of the east mainland, and a fascinating wartime site.
The coastline around Scapa Flow is full of imposing gun batteries, and places like the Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel help tell the story of Fortress Orkney. There is one site, however, that is tucked away in the east mainland, overlooking the island of Shapinsay, that is less well known.
The gun emplacements at Rerwick Head offer a fascinating glimpse into Orkney’s role during both World Wars. The site played a vital part in the defence of the eastern approaches to Kirkwall bay and boasted two large guns, searchlight positions and watchtowers, all aimed at protecting this part of Orkney from enemy attack.
Nowadays most of the buildings are still standing and you can get a real sense of how it might have been when squads of men were stationed here. Ammunition bunkers sit next to the gun batteries with small passageways and tunnels linking different structures. The foundations of mess and accommodation huts can still be seen, and you can even find the iron compass on the floor, indicating the direction of fire for the huge guns.
Orkney has a number of similar sites, but few are as complete as this. You can find it by heading through Tankerness and following the signs for Rerwick. There is a small car park and a well-worn path leading you along the shore. The coastline at Rerwick Head is worth a look too, and a route takes you along the low cliffs, past the gun batteries and several small geos.
Thank you for taking the time to read our latest newsletter – hopefully there has been something to inspire you to make a visit to Orkney, for a short trip or a more permanent stay.
In the meantime, it’s cheerio from Orkney, for now.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.