This is one of the busiest months in the local calendar, so keep reading to find out all about life in the islands over the coming weeks. We showcase the work of another local photographer, there is our regular wildlife watch and much more too.
Remember, you can always take a look at the Visit Orkney website for extra information, and you can also follow us on social media.
Archaeology in action across Orkney
It has been another amazing summer of archaeology in the islands, and it’s not over yet! The dig at Swandro in Rousay has made international headlines after archaeologists uncovered an anvil stone, complete with what’s thought to be 1500-year-old handprints from a Pictish coppersmith! Meanwhile projects in Sanday will come to a close this weekend, and the Ness of Brodgar enters the last three weeks of excavation too. Find out more from our latest blog.
New addition to island social scene
Orkney’s newest restaurant has officially opened its doors. The old store on Bridge Street Wynd in Kirkwall has been transformed into The Storehouse Restaurant with Rooms, a stunning bar, dining area and small hotel. The focus is very much on the finest Orcadian welcome and the best island produce, and the business is already getting rave reviews. See more images on the Visit Orkney website and plan your own visit.
Orcadian influence helps furnish new city-centre hotel
Orkney knitwear designer Hilary Grant has provided bespoke blankets for a new high-end hotel that has just opened in Dundee. The island-based business was commissioned to supply blankets for the 102 room, multi-million-pound Hotel Indigo® - operated by IHG® - located in a former mill building. The project's interior designers eventually settled on the Wave Blanket from Hilary Grant for the hotel, which opened its doors earlier this summer. Find out more via the Orkney Crafts Association website.
Vote for your favourite Orkney Food and Drink
More than 6,000 nominations have been made for the 2017/18 Orkney Food and Drink Awards, and there is still time to vote for your favourite products and producers! Voting closes at the end of August, with the winners set to be announced at a special event in October. Twelve categories cover everything from best bar and takeaway meals, to the finest bakery, fish, drink and dairy products. Find out more about the awards and make your choices on the Orkney Food and Drink website.
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.
August is a month that’s packed with events and activities, right throughout the islands. Take a look at what’s on and come and be part of it!
As you read in our news section, a number of Orkney’s archaeological excavations come to a close soon. The dig at Swandro in Rousay ends on the 3rd of August, with the projects at Loth Road, Cata Sand and Tresness in Sanday all being covered up for the year on the 4th of August.
However, work at the Ness of Brodgar continues through much of the month. You can take advantage of free guided tours daily at the sprawling site until the 22nd of August. There’s an open day at the dig on the 19th too, with special events, activities and fun for all the family at the Ness, and at the nearby Stenness school. Find out how you can visit the dig for yourself.
August brings some of the most popular and traditional events of the Orkney summer too – it’s agricultural show season! The shows are the perfect chance to get out and about and celebrate the farming heritage of our islands. They’re real social events, with plenty of fun activities, displays, food and drink to enjoy.
The show calendar starts in Sanday on the 3rd of August and continues at the East Mainland Show on the 4th. Attention moves to Shapinsay on the 7th, South Ronaldsay and Burray on the 8th and to Dounby on the 9th. The main event, the County Show in Kirkwall, will be held in the Bignold Park on the 11th of August.
Once the day is done, the focus is on the football pitch at the Pickaquoy Centre and Orkney’s Parish Cup Final. It’s a mini-world cup for the islands and the game always attracts a large and vocal crowd. Kick-off is at 6.30pm.
If you’re looking for an excuse to clear the head following the Saturday celebrations then Orkney’s ‘Riding of the Marches’ is as good an excuse as any. The events sees riders and their horses take to the streets of Kirkwall before a traditional hack around the old town boundary. They gather in front of St Magnus Cathedral at 2pm on the 12th.
The Sunday after County Show also sees the return of the annual Vintage Rally, held at Orkney Auction Mart at Hatston, featuring some of the best vintage vehicles from private collections across the islands. It all starts at 10am.
There are two other events celebrating different aspects of our agricultural heritage this month too. The North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival is on now, aimed at highlighting the story of, and helping to preserve, the unique seaweed-eating sheep of our most northerly island. Find out more via the official website.
Then, at the opposite end of the archipelago, in South Ronaldsay, the annual Festival of the Horse and Boy’s Ploughing Match will be held. It’s one of the most unique events in the Orkney calendar and sees girls dress as working horses, wearing stunning handcrafted costumes handed down through generations of families. Later, local boys compete in a ploughing match on a nearby beach using miniature ploughs. See these special events at the St Margaret’s Hope school on Saturday 18th from 2pm.
There are plenty of events for those of you feeling fit this summer. The annual Wideford Hill race takes runners on a route from St Magnus Cathedral to the top of the town’s highest hill, before heading back to Broad Street. It’s on the 8th of August at 7pm – find out more via the Orkney Athletic Club website. The Kirkwall Half Marathon will take place in and around the town on the 19th of August – you can enter online – and then there is the Rousay Lap on the 25th. Head over on the ferry to tackle this challenging and beautiful route. Find out more via the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust website.
Music fans are in for a treat this month. The Sound Archive in Kirkwall has ‘Wrong Jovi’ and an 80s DJ set on Saturday 11th August from 9pm – tickets are available online. Meanwhile, The Reel in Kirkwall has another packed calendar of informal performances and concerts, including an Orcadian Summer Concert on the 21st. Check out the full diary of events on the official website.
The Orkney Arts Society is sponsoring the 'Stream of Sound Choir' on the 14th August in Stromness Town Hall. It starts at 7pm and entry is by donation.
Remember you can take advantage of some excellent guided tours across Orkney this month. See the Ring of Brodgar with an Historic Scotland Ranger every weekday at 1pm, and take a guided tour around the Standing Stones of Stenness on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10am too.
St Magnus Cathedral offers tours of its upper levels on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2pm (booking is essential on 01856 874864), and there are also guided walks around the Lyness Wartime Trail every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am. Book on 01856 791300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It might be summer but it’s always a good idea to have some indoor options available! The West Side Cinema in Stromness Town Hall is showing ‘I, Tonya’ on the 4th at 7.45pm. The Pickaquoy Centre Cinema has its usual mix of films, including ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’, ‘Skyscraper’ and ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’.
There are a number of excellent exhibitions to enjoy this summer too. The Pier Arts Centre has a display of films and poems by Margaret Tait and work by Tam and Paul MacPhail until the 8th of September. The Orkney Museum’s ‘Tracing the Lines’ exhibition is open until the 30th of September, with ‘Skara Brae Rediscovered’ on show at the Stromness Museum until the end of October. The Waterfront Gallery in Stromness has an ‘Orkney Mix’ of locally inspired work on show this month too.
And finally, for any keen birdwatchers out there, the 2017 Orkney Bird Report has just been published, highlighting all the species that were spotted in the islands last year. The book costs £8 and is available at The Orcadian Bookshop, the RSPB office in Stromness and at other shops around Orkney. You can also arrange for a copy to be sent out to you by emailing email@example.com.
That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during August. 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.
Join local wildlife expert Alison Nimmo as she experiences Orkney's wild side once again.
But have you spotted the predators at your feet? The island’s moorland slopes are home to some equally impressive carnivores, and they’re much more amenable to a close look.
Sundews grow in waterlogged areas. The soil here is poor - decomposition doesn’t happen easily in these conditions, and so nutrients are slow to find their way back into the ground. Sundews need to supplement the food they get from their roots with something else.
Enter a hapless insect…
The sundews’ trap is beautifully engineered. Serried ‘teeth’ sprout from the leaves and are tipped with glands that secrete a sticky substance, or mucilage. Each point is beaded with the stuff – the dew that gives the plant its name. The insect, lured in by its sweet scent, ends up stuck fast. The leaf then slowly curls around the victim, releasing digestive enzymes that reduce it to a nutritious and easily absorbed soup.
I enjoyed photographing these sundews along Hoy’s Old Post Road last summer, where they were growing right at the edge of the flooded track. You’ll find them in other wet, moorland areas too, for example in Rousay and Eday. Great sundew has oval leaves raised up in the air, whilst common or round-leaved sundew has round leaves lower to the ground. The delicate white flowers, rising on a long stem, are lovely.
Other moorland plants to look out for include cotton grass, bog asphodel, tormentil and butterwort, which is also carnivorous. With Orkney’s three heathers coming into flower - ling, bell heather and cross-leaved heath - it’s a great time to be looking down.
Our featured photographer for August is a relatively new Orkney resident. Isobel Thompson has been living in Westray for the last six months and has been soaking up plenty of stunning island scenery.
It’s been six months since I landed in Orkney all the way from Newcastle upon Tyne. Before I got my graduate placement in Westray, Orkney had never crossed my mind. I was vaguely aware of it as a northerly Scottish blur at the edge of the map, but that’s all I knew. It was north, it was windy and it wasn’t Shetland.
Now I feel like this archipelago has seeped into my very bones. I can’t imagine being away from the sea, not knowing everyone I pass in the street and being among the hustle and bustle of the city again.
This collection of islands has such remarkable natural beauty that it was very easy to start taking photographs. Armed with my Nikon DSLR 3400, a tripod and my two lenses, I can often be spotted wandering along the shore, up the hills and through the fields of Westray. Now and then you can spot me in my bright yellow coat and red hair getting lost on the other isles.
For budding photographers unsure where to start I can recommend the Nikon DSLR 3400. It’s a straight-forward camera to use and Nikon’s SnapBridge app makes it easy to transfer photos from camera to phone - an important feature for keen Instagrammers like myself. I started my Instagram years ago when I travelled, lived and worked in South East Asia, hence the name @startheadingeast.
These days start heading north would be more fitting. So far, I’ve explored most of mainland, visited Papa Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and North Ronaldsay as well as combed every inch of my island home of Westray. I’m not doing too badly on the exploring the whole archipelago front! My favourite haunts are all Westray based. While Fittie Hill, the highest point in Westray, is no Ben Nevis it’s still a steep climb with stunning views. On a clear day you can see the entirety of Westray and most of the rest of the islands, from the hills of Hoy to Birsay, to Sanday, Eday and Rousay all the way to North Ronaldsay. If you’re very lucky you might even spot Fair Isle on the horizon.
My other favourite spots are the Bay of Tafts, visiting puffins at Castle O’Burrian and watching the sunset at Grobust beach during the summer months. I’m keeping my favourite Groatie Buckie beach a secret.
From a photography perspective Orkney is a fantastic place to practice your art. The natural beauty, vibrant colours and the light make it easy! Ask any photographer in Orkney and they will talk for an age about the light here. You could visit the same spot every day, take a photo and each one would look completely different. I doubt I’ll ever get bored of the beauty here, I don’t seem to have run out of sights that send my fingers twitching for my camera just yet.
Every month we pick a slightly ‘out of the way’ attraction in Orkney that it’s well worth seeking out. For August we’re heading for a short ferry journey to the island of Shapinsay.
But explore that little bit further and you’ll always find a hidden gem. That’s certainly true in Shapinsay, which is just a 25-minute ferry hop from Kirkwall. This beautiful, green isle has plenty going for it, but no trip would be complete without heading to the north east coast to see the remains of an Iron Age broch, perched above the shoreline.
The Burroughston Broch was first excavated in the mid-1800s before extra work was carried out in the 1990s. The result is an intriguing, unique and peaceful site. Looking down into the broch you can see similarities with the Broch of Gurness, although here only the interior of the broch has been uncovered. There are fixtures and fittings and even built-in storage!
The broch is slightly overgrown and perhaps not as polished as some similar locations in the islands, but that all adds to the appeal. In fact, one of the real attractions of Burroughston is its remoteness. It’s very unlikely you’d have to share the site with someone else, giving you the chance to soak in the history, and the stunning coastal scenery too.
You can visit the broch by travelling north across the island on the main road. You’ll eventually come to a sign post on a side road to the right. Follow this to a small car park, with the broch just a few hundred feet beyond via a grassy path.
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.