COVID-19 - update from Orkney

We know many of you have missed Orkney during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve missed you too.

Our community is just starting to emerge from the lockdown period and, although travel restrictions are set to be eased, life here isn’t quite back to normal!

Of course, you’ll always get a warm welcome in Orkney but, if you are thinking of visiting us in the coming weeks and months, we’d respectfully ask you to read all of the latest official Scottish Government and NHS Scotland guidelines relating to COVID-19 before deciding to travel.

For now, capacity on our ferries and flights remains restricted which could mean you’re not able to travel when you’d really like to.

We don’t want you to be disappointed, so please check with travel operators and accommodation providers if you are planning a holiday here. Find out more by visiting the NorthLink Ferries, Pentland Ferries and Loganair websites.

Our community has worked hard to protect its most vulnerable members from COVID-19 and ensure our limited health services have not been overwhelmed during the pandemic.

It’s vital we continue to ensure the safety of our community as travel restrictions are eased, but we also want to look after our visitors too.

With that in mind, we’d kindly ask you to follow this advice while in Orkney. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t travel to Orkney if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Please respect any changes or systems a tourism business has had to implement to protect staff, themselves, visitors and the local community.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser wherever it is provided.
  • Observe cough etiquette, physical distancing and mask wearing rules at all times (particularly on public transport).
  • Avoid direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation and are buying supplies, check availability with local shops. Some are offering a delivery service to avoid too many people being in their premises at once.
  • If eating out, book your table in advance or consider ordering takeaways rather than sitting in.
  • Check notices on the doors and windows of shops, visitor attractions, cafés, bars, restaurants, etc., as they may be limiting the number of people they allow in. If they’re busy, go back later, or alternatively, give them a call.
  • Use contactless payment in local shops as much as possible, or arrange for pre-payment.
  • Advise the tourism business you’re staying with immediately if anyone in your party shows symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a change in sense of smell or taste) during or 14 days after your visit and follow the current Scottish Government advice about returning home and self-isolating.
  • Enjoy our outdoors spaces and please remember to take your litter away with you.

If you can join us when the time comes, then great! You might find that some of our visitor attractions aren’t yet open – it’s best to check directly with attractions you’re keen to see - but what we do have in abundance is outdoors space.

When you come to Orkney, you become part of our community – however brief your visit. We know you’ll treat our beaches, seas and countryside with respect, but we’d also like to ask you to be patient as our local businesses and facilities return to some kind of normality.

If you are travelling to our smaller islands, travel restrictions apply and we would ask you to take particular care as there are limited health services in these communities.

We’ll update visitor information when necessary and will try to answer some of your questions too over the coming weeks, so keep checking back with us.

By helping us at this unusual time, you’ll be playing your part in our community’s efforts to rebuild Orkney’s tourism industry and we greatly appreciate your co-operation.

Current travel information

Following the Scottish Government announcement on Thursday 2nd July 2020, NorthLink Ferries has opened sailings to and from Orkney for all travellers. To allow physical distancing on board there will be restrictions to the numbers that can sail, so passengers must book ahead to avoid disappointment. Bookings can be made online via the NorthLink Ferries website or by phoning 0845 6000 449 (Calls cost 5p per minute plus your telephone company’s network access charge) or 01856 885500 (International and UK mobile telephones).

Pentland Ferries is operating a service for essential travel, key workers, and for those visiting friends and family. Any passengers booked to sail during this period of restrictions will be contacted directly. Find out more via Pentland Ferries website.

Loganair is currently operating a reduced service to and from Orkney. Find out more via the Loganair website.

Bus services in Orkney are currently operating on a revised timetable. You can view the new schedules on the Orkney Islands Council website. Orkney Ferries is also running a reduced service at the moment. View the new timetables on the official website.

Event/attraction information

Many events and activities planned for 2020 have been postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of attractions are also closed. We've tried to highlight as many as possible below. If you have any questions surrounding a specific event or activity, it's recommended you contact the organisers directly.

VisitScotland's iCentre in Kirkwall is currently closed in line with Government advice until further notice. Enquiries are being answered by email at kirkwall@visitscotland.com.

Highland Park Distillery's visitor experience is closed until further notice. The Highland Park store on Albert Street in Kirkwall is also closed.

Historic Environment Scotland has closed all its staffed historic sites in the country, including Skara Brae and Maeshowe in Orkney until further notice. Unstaffed sites, such as the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, remain open and free to access.

The Orkney Fossil & Heritage Centre is closed until further notice.

Tomb of the Eagles is closed until further notice.

The Pier Arts Centre is closed until further notice. Enquiries can be directed through info@pierartscentre.com

The Orkney Distillery Visitor Centre and Cafe/Bar in Kirkwall is closed until further notice.

All Orkney Island Council-run leisure, cultural and library facilities, including the Pickaquoy Centre, the Orkney Museum, Corrigall Farm Museum, Kirbuster Museum, and the Scapa Flow exhibition at Lyness, (including guided walks around the Lyness Wartime Trail), are closed until further notice.

St Magnus Cathedral is closed.

Orkney Brewery's cafe, tours and tastings are closed, but the brewery shop is currently open daily between 10 am and 4:30 pm.

The Ness of Brodgar excavations in 2020 have been cancelled.

The Stromness Museum is closed until further notice.

The 2020 Stromness Shopping Week has been cancelled.

The 2020 North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival has been cancelled.

ALL of Orkney's agricultural shows in 2020, including the County Show, have been cancelled.

The Festival of the Horse and Boy's Ploughing Match in South Ronaldsay has been cancelled.

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