December in Orkney

It seems that many people's thoughts are turning to Christmas, so here's some information put together by Northlink to help you plan your December.

In Orkney there’s usually a flurry of activity during December. Our unique and independent shops are great places to find a present for loved ones – and Christmas shopping is rarely too stressful in Orkney.

There are tree lightings, Christmas concerts and pantomimes, school nativity plays and special Christmas church services throughout the islands – check the local press for details.

On Saturday 6th December 2014 at the Pickaquoy Centre there will be a class which will certainly get you in a Christmassy mood! Sandy’s Christmas wreath making class takes place between 1300 and 1500. Spaces can be booked at the Pickaquoy Centre for £20 and make sure you bring along secateurs, warm clothing and gloves!

A less festive event takes place in the Pickaquoy Centre on Thursday 4th December at 1830 and Saturday 6th at 1100 - The Crucible is a screening of the classic witch-hunt play starring Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), filmed from London theatre The Old Vic. This is a great opportunity to see a five-star West End production in Orkney!

To coincide with the lighting of the two Norwegian Christmas Trees inside and outside the St. Magnus Cathedral the St Magnus International Festival have organised a Winter ‘Festival in a Day’ on 7th December. There will be a concert in Dounby on the Sunday afternoon featuring Sean Shibe Classical Guitarist, a Cathedral Concert with the Mayfield Singers and Norwegian Brass Ensemble, Trio Vibrazzo and a Festival Club event at Wrigley and The Reel. You can see more details here.

On Saturday 13th, Sunday 14th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st December Santa will be visiting Kirkwall and will be touring with his friends from the Rotary Club of Orkney on his sleigh. Make sure you visit the town on those dates and listen out for his bell!

An extra reason to visit Kirkwall on Saturday 13th December is the Orkney Arts and Crafts Fair which takes place at the Kirkwall Town Hall between 1000 and 1600. You’ll be sure to find a lovely and unique Christmas present here from one of Orkney’s many talented craftsmen and women!

There are celebrations of midwinter on Sunday 21st December at the Ring of Brodgar! At 1400 there is a walk with the RSPB Rangers around Brodgar – an excellent chance to get a breath of fresh air and learn about the hidden wildlife found during winter in Orkney! Also at 1400 at the Ring of Brodgar, Spiritual Orkney will be holding a Winter Solstice ceremony free of charge for those with an open mind and warm heart. For more information please visit the website.

Make sure you also log in to see the Maeshowe webcam at midwinter – look out for it from late November as it runs for three weeks either side of the winter solstice and shows the amazing light inside the tomb at sunset.

On Christmas Eve we’d recommend a visit to St Magnus Cathedral to take part in the beautiful watchnight service.

One of the most celebrated events of the Orkney Calendar – The Ba – takes place on Christmas Day. The fierce battle for control of a leather ‘Ba’ takes place through the streets of Kirkwall and spectators will be on tenderhooks to find out which team – the Uppies or the Doonies – will win this year! Make sure you arrive in good time to watch the Ba’ – the boy’s game begins at 1030 and the men’s game at 1300, both outside St Magnus Cathedral.

Another regular event at Christmas time is the marvellous fund raiser for CLIC Sargent – the Scapa Bay Boxing Day Dip Wi’ a Nip! This great event has raised over £80,000 – why not come along and join or support the brave volunteers?

Finally, on Wednesday 31st December, Hogmanay, why not bring in the New Year on Kirkwall’s Broad Street or at the Stromness pier head? The lights of the Cathedral and the water of Stromness harbour add to the atmosphere and the celebrations are friendly and happy – you’ll have a memorable Hogmanay here!

If you’re looking for a great walk in December, why not try a walk along the west shore of Stromness? Travel past the golf course and you’ll find places where you can park. The road here, taking you past wartime searchlights and gun batteries is fine to walk along, sometimes rough, and always gives a spectacular view of Scapa Flow. The cemetery nearby is a perfect resting place for a fishing community and the poet George Mackay Brown’s grave can be found here. If you make it as far as Warbeth beach you’ll find lovely sand ideal for children, dogs and walkers!

Make sure, that on your trip back, you stop in Stromness – a town with superb gift shops and a world-class art gallery. The Pier Arts Centre Christmas Open Exhibition comes to an end on Wednesday 24th December 2014 so make sure you visit! This is a showcase of Orkney’s finest artists and a great place to pick up a present. Newsletter

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