There are many ways to see Orkney.
You can plan your own itinerary, taking in as many sites, attractions and islands as you want. Or you could book a private tour, with a hit list tailored just for you.
There is a different option, though. The Creative Orkney Trail gives you the chance to visit some of our most talented makers and see stunning scenery spread across six different islands at the same time.
“The Creative Trail is a wonderful guide to what’s best in Orkney,” says Andrew Appleby, who runs the Fursbreck Pottery in the West Mainland. “Folk love to see their favourite crafts being made in from of them, and the sheer spread of stops on the trail encourages visitors to parts of the islands they might not normally see.”
That’s what the Creative Orkney Trail is all about – showcasing the talents of local residents, and highlighting what there is to see and do off the traditional tourism routes. You can watch Orkney Chairs being handmade in front of you in Kirkwall, see stunning artwork inspired by the sea in Orphir and marvel at beautiful wooden bowls being turned by hand in Harray.
En-route, you can cross the Churchill Barriers, taste local produce in a renovated and restored Kirk and walk through the stone streets of the old maritime town of Stromness. The Creative Orkney Trail is more than just a shopping experience.
“The trail is now more than thirty years old and some of the businesses have developed exceptional visitor experiences,” says Michael Gardens, Managing Director of Kirkwall-based jewellery designers Ortak. “Following the trail can make for a brilliant, exciting and educational day out.”
There is one part of the islands that it could be argued is at the very centre of the Creative Orkney Trail. Drive through the parish of Harray and you’ll see plenty of roadside signs highlighting stops on the way. In the space of just a few short miles you’re able to visit Michael Sinclair Woodturning, Andrew Appleby’s pottery, Alison Moore Designs and Castaway Crafts, a real treasure trove of knitwear and textiles.
It’s run by Fiona Mitchell, who makes the majority of her products on the premises in the village of Dounby. “We are really fortunate in this part of Orkney to be situated as close together as we are,” she says. “We promote each other as much as possible – highlighting the things close by doesn’t create competition, it actually gives the opposite effect of drawing more people to the area.”
Andrew Appleby agrees. “We have an excellent selection of crafts in such close proximity here, it’s great that folk can see most disciplines,” he says. “They find a trip to Harray and Dounby so rewarding.”
For Fiona, the Creative Orkney Trail is an added bonus to her membership of the local craft sector. “Initially I wanted to be part of a group of businesses that showcase the quality of ‘Made in Orkney’ produce. We now have business minds from across the islands working together to create this unique experience for visitors.
“Folk just love to see that things are made on the premises. It often encourages them to have another look around.”
The trail is more than just a drive to encourage more customers to come in through the doors, though. At each of the 21 stops, visitors will find our makers more than happy to stop and chat about anything and everything, from their holiday in Orkney, things to see and do and just to learn more about arts and crafts in their own home towns.
“We all feel a personal engagement with our customers,” says Michael. “The trail offers something for both us and our visitors that the digital world will never replace.”
It’s the same for Andrew at his pottery in Harray. “I love meeting people from all over the world and those with a genuine interest in crafts and pottery. The trail definitely assures people of a memorable visit.”
So, if you’re planning your visit to Orkney, be it for a return trip or for the first time, you might want to consider taking a tour or two on the Creative Orkney Trail. It’s the perfect chance to meet the makers, hear their stories and soak up the Orcadian scenery.
We’ll leave the final word to Michael. “The Creative Trail opens doorways into worlds you probably didn’t know existed.”
Download your own copy of the 2019 Creative Orkney Trail. Printed copies are also available at the Visit Scotland Information Centre in Kirkwall, at transport hubs across Orkney and at the workshops of our makers.
Find out more about the creative sector in Orkney via the Creative Orkney website.
The Digital Media Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.