Hello and welcome to the February newsletter from Orkney.com.
We’ll be bringing you our usual mix of features and photos from the islands, including a look at our busy events calendar, another special attraction to visit and our latest wildlife watch.
You can always find out more about Orkney via the Visit Orkney website, and remember to follow us on social media too.
Visit Stronsay in 2018
The island of Stronsay is one of Orkney’s hidden gems. Think beautiful beaches, wide open spaces and a warm welcome from local residents and you’d just be scratching the surface! The island has just launched a new drive to attract more visitors to see its stunning scenery, coastline and craft trail – find out more via our short video and blog to get some island hopping hints and tips!
Keeping communities connected
One of the most important aspects of island life is keeping local communities connected. That’s exactly what Orkney Library’s Mobile Library service has been doing since it was launched more than fifty years ago. The service has been bringing books to all corners of Orkney since 1963 and has become a vital part of island life. We spent a day on ‘the mobile’ visiting the islands of Rousay and Egilsay recently – check out our blog to find out more.
New wave energy device installed in Scapa Flow
The latest wave energy device to be tested in Orkney has been installed in Scapa Flow. Despite wintry weather, Swedish marine energy developer CorPower Ocean has successfully installed its new half-scale C3 wave energy converter in Orkney waters. The device was put in place at the European Marine Energy Centre’s Scapa Flow scale test site by local contractor Green Marine (UK) Ltd, another demonstration of the strength of the Orkney marine energy supply chain. Read about the project via Orkney.com.
Winter walks to clear the cobwebs!
The west coast of the Orkney mainland is famous for its spectacular scenery and walking routes, but we’ve been turning our attention east to find out what that part of the islands has to offer. There is an excellent coastal path that leads along the south-east coast of the mainland in the parish of Deerness, complete with bays, geos, small sea-stacks and much more. Take a look at our blog to see some images from this relatively undiscovered part of the mainland.
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.
February in Orkney
February’s events calendar is already filling up with plenty of things to see and do across Orkney.
Performance seems to the key word for February. There are concerts, plays and opera to catch your attention throughout the month. The Kirkwall Amateur Operatic Society has its take on 'The Beggars Opera' running between the 6th and 10th at the Orkney Theatre. Tickets are available from the Orkney Soap Shop on Albert Street in Kirkwall.
Scottish Opera will be bringing its Opera Highlights team to Kirkwall on the 17th at the Orkney Theatre. The performance will include favourites from ‘Barber of Seville’, ‘Cosi fan tutte’ and ‘Candide’. Find out more about the event and how to get tickets from the Scottish Opera website.
Local artistic talent will be on display at the end of the month at the Orkney Drama Festival. Catch thirteen plays across four nights of entertainment at the Orkney Theatre from the 27th until the 2nd of March. Ticket information will be published on the Orkney District – Scottish Community Drama Association Facebook page soon.
February also sees a celebration of the burgeoning local gin industry at the inaugural Orkney Gin Festival, hosted at The Old Library in Kirkwall. Meet the local makers, including the Deerness Distillery, Orkney Distilling and the Orkney Gin Company, plus some visiting producers, at the event from the 16th of February. There is also the Gin Festival Dinner and Dance on the 17th – find out more about all the events on The Old Library Facebook page.
The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness has a very special exhibition on display this month. ‘Drawing Routes’ by MOTI, a group of recent creative graduates who have all either studied in, returned to or are based in Orkney, will open on the 10th and run until the 10th of March. This exhibition will focus on the art and act of drawing and will feature the work of twelve artists.
The Orkney Museum has a new exhibition this month too. Opening on the 3rd, ‘Recent Acquisitions’ highlights some of the artefacts donated to the museum and is the first display of its kind in several years. It will run until the 2nd of April.
Staying indoors and the Pickaquoy Cinema has plenty on offer this month. See Oscar favourites including ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ and ‘The Post’, as well as the likes of ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Coco’. You can view the full schedule on the official website.
The West Side Cinema in the Stromness Town Hall has ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ on the 10th and ‘In Between’ on the 24th – both films start at 7.45pm. Find out more via Facebook.
If you want to brave the February weather then remember you can get free guided tours of the Standing Stones of Stenness on Wednesdays at 10am and the Ring of Brodgar on Thursdays at 1pm. Wrap up warm, get some wellies on and go for it!
That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during February. 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.
Orkney wildlife watch
Local wildlife enthusiast Alison Nimmo has been focusing on a very special species this month.
Passing Skaill Loch recently, my eye was caught by the peak-headed profile of some ducks sheltering by the bank. I went back to enjoy a good look at these winter regulars with the sense of greeting old friends.
Goldeneye are a bright addition to Orkney’s lochs and bays, and indeed waters across the whole UK, from autumn to spring. The males are particularly handsome: crisp dark and white plumage, eyes gleaming from a green-glossed head as they dive and re-emerge from the pewter water.
Both male and female have a distinctive peaked shape to the head, noticeable if you find them amongst other ducks. The species’ name, Bucephala clangula, refers to it – boukephalos means ‘ox-headed’ in Greek.
The birds have come to spend the winter here in preference to the frozen taiga of the north. Perhaps unexpectedly, given the habits of most UK ducks, they spent the summer nesting in holes in trees there. Some do now breed in Scotland too, encouraged by a nestbox scheme in Speyside, and you can watch this Springwatch clip to see what happens when the ducklings emerge many feet above ground.
Before Orkney’s birds head back north in spring, you may catch the males in their fantastic courtship display, in which they throw their heads back, kick up spray and let out a loud whistle.
Orkney's seascapes spark creativity
February’s featured photographer is Martin Turner, who finds inspiration in Orkney’s coastline and seascapes.
My name is Martin Turner and I’m a 21-year-old fashion student from Orkney with a huge passion for photography. It is something I’ve always been interested in - I think it started when we went on a family holiday to Tunisia and I was given my first camera. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a little point and shoot, but ever since I’ve always been attracted to cameras and the idea of photography.
From there I started using my parents’ digital cameras, shooting family life and things like that. The first step into really getting into photography was when my Dad bought me a Canon EOS 100D and I began to experiment with what a camera could do.
Studying photography at school and college allowed me to refine techniques that I had been playing around with previously. This included using slow shutter speeds and long exposures, focusing on the movement of water; still my favourite technique to use.
The sea is something that is seen all through my work. I was born close to the sea and being surrounded by it has been a huge inspiration. Growing up and being able to live in such an amazingly beautiful place is bound to inspire creative people.
Some of my favourite places to visit when I’m home include Yesnaby; it's where jagged rocks meet the immense power of the ocean and is truly awe-inspiring. Another old haunt of mine has to be the Brough of Deerness - it is a magical place and with good lighting it’s even more beautiful! Living in St Margaret’s Hope I’ve managed to find some hidden gems here too. Windwick and Burwick are places I always visit when I’m home due to their dramatic landscapes.
Recently I bought myself a new Canon 70D along with some USM prime lenses; the difference in my photography is massive and there will be plenty more to come!
Explore uncovered Orkney
Our featured attraction this month takes us to the north-west coast of the Orkney mainland and one of our finest historical sites.
The Broch of Gurness is a scattering of stones and ditches surrounding a grand Iron Age broch, perched on the coast overlooking Eynhallow Sound and the island of Rousay. It really is an incredible site to visit – you can walk through the base of the old buildings and into the broch itself, soaking up the history as you go.
It’s described as Scotland’s best-preserved broch village and is part of a coastline littered with at least 10 other brochs. It’s estimated that the complex at Gurness began between 500BC and 200BC, with excavations taking place in the early 20th century. Between deep ditches and ramparts you can find the remains of a broch tower and small stone houses, complete with their own yards and sheds.
There is a Viking connection here too – the grave of a Viking woman was found at Gurness, with other human bones and Viking objects discovered at the site as well.
Because of its location, the Broch of Gurness is often relatively quiet and you could have much of the site to yourself. There are few locations like it, with almost complete access. There is also a small visitor centre with artefacts and interpretation information – it’s open during the spring and summer months.
The Broch of Gurness is definitely worth taking time out of your touring schedule to visit. Find out more via the Historic Environment Scotland website.
Explore our ‘Uncovered Orkney’ map for more hints and tips on some of our favourite hidden attractions across the islands.
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.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.