Living in Orkney

Orkney is regularly voted one of the best places in the UK to live, so what is it that makes our islands so special?

Orkney is a vibrant, friendly and innovative community, one offering a range of unique professional opportunities and fresh challenges against the backdrop of an unrivalled quality of life.

Top-class education and health care systems, great internal and external transport links, superb sports and leisure facilities and a thriving arts and culture scene are just part of the story.

For generations, people from around the world have made this archipelago their home. Folk starting new jobs, seeking a change in lifestyle or just wanting to get closer to nature have all found their calling here.

New arrivals quickly settle into the Orkney pace of life. Things move a little slower here with a gentle flow to match the rolling, fertile farmland and the sea sliding ashore around the islands.

It doesn’t mean we stand still – far from it – but the rhythms of island life are different to what you’d experience on the UK mainland.

It could be our incredible natural environment that keeps us grounded. Our low-lying landscape means Orkney is big sky country, and you’ll quickly learn to embrace the elements. There are hundreds of miles of coastline to explore, and wildlife highlights range from hen-harriers, otters and orcas, to sea-eagles, seals and short-eared owls.

History and heritage

Orkney’s rich history is also very much part of who we are. Orcadians are proud of our rich Neolithic, Iron Age, Norse and wartime heritage, and we're aware that we all have a part to play in the ongoing story of these islands.

This is a creative community too. Local designers and makers have thrived with the islands for inspiration. Orcadian jewellery, knitwear and furniture is world-renowned, and the local larder produces the finest food and drink to be found anywhere. And Orkney has always been a haven for artists, musicians, writers and poets. That impact is still felt today, with a wide-ranging events calendar featuring festivals, performances, concerts and gigs offering something for everyone.

Creating connections

If you’re thinking of making a move to Orkney, rest assured you’ll receive a warm welcome, whether you’re starting a new life in one of our towns or villages, or looking to settle in one of our well-connected island communities.

We don’t consider ourselves to be remote or isolated in Orkney – if you’ve already visited, you’ll know we’re easy to reach and have everything you could possibly need right on our doorstep. There are excellent transport links with Scotland, with daily ferries and flights, and our internal routes offer gateways to the islands every day. There’s extensive 4G coverage and high-speed broadband across most parts of Orkney, so you’ll always be able to stay connected here.

Very low levels of crime and a strong sense of community help make Orkney a safe and secure environment for all ages too.

You'll find we have some of the finest services and facilities in the country. Our new hospital, The Balfour, opened in 2019 and extensive health services are available throughout the islands. In recent years Orkney has seen several new schools and leisure facilities built. We have a local University of the Highlands and Islands campus offering an excellent array of courses and qualifications, and the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus is home to Heriot-Watt University and its centre of excellence for renewable energy learning.

Quality of life

If it’s choice you’re looking for then Orkney has supermarkets and other recognisable chain stores, but more importantly there is a fantastic range of independent local shops, offering everything from food and fashion to fishing gear, hardware and electricals.

It's no coincidence that the islands were named Scotland's best place to live for the eighth year in a row in the Bank of Scotland Quality of Life survey 2020. According to the results, our high employment levels, low crime rate, strong exam results, smaller primary class sizes and good health and happiness scores all make Orkney a warm and welcoming place to be. There's a real sense of community here, and people make sure local groups, services, clubs and societies are vibrant and open to all. Doing your bit and volunteering is a way of life in Orkney, and it helps keep us together.

Economic strength

Our thriving economy also means that unemployment is low and opportunities are plentiful. Emerging industries like renewable energy and aquaculture offer exciting career prospects, with established sectors including tourism, food and drink and construction all in good health. The cost of living here is lower than you might think, with house prices well below the national average and plenty of choice within a buoyant property market.

Hopefully this has given you an insight into life in Orkney. Explore the rest of our live and work pages to find out more. Feel free to get in touch if you have a specific question about living here.