Happy New Year from Orkney! Hopefully you all had a brilliant time with family and friends over the festive period.
If your New Year’s Resolution was to get your 2016 holiday booked nice and early, this newsletter will hopefully inspire you to make the trip to our islands.
If you’re planning a visit or thinking about a move over the coming weeks and months, keep reading for photos, features and more, all focused on life here in Orkney.
Make Orkney your winter wonderland
You might be thinking of warmer locations for a holiday at the moment, but let us try and change your mind! We’ve highlighted five reasons why a trip to Orkney could be just the thing for you this winter. From spectacular displays of the northern lights to very special wildlife visitors, Orkney has plenty to keep you interested over the coming months. Find out more via our blog on the Visit Orkney website.
Local producers on the hunt for new markets
Some of the finest Orcadian food, drink and craft companies will be showcasing their products at two large trade fairs later this month. Fifteen local businesses will be represented at the SECC in Glasgow at Scotland’s Speciality Food Show and Scotland’s Trade Fair. The aim is to find new markets and customers for some of Orkney’s quality local goods including jewellery, pottery, knitwear, ice cream, fish and oatcakes.
Awards for Orcadian entrepreneurs
Two Orkney marine energy companies enter the New Year with a spring in their step after claiming industry awards at a national event. Green Marine UK and Leask Marine Ltd were named as joint winners of the Best Supplier Award at the 2015 Scottish Renewables Green Energy Awards in Edinburgh. The organisers praised both companies for their ‘innovative approach to supporting marine energy developments’.
Win prizes from Orkney!
Have you always wanted to visit Orkney? Your dream could become reality with the chance to win a trip to our beautiful islands! We’ve teamed up with Northlink Ferries and The Ferry Inn to offer free travel and accommodation to Orkney. Up for grabs is a return ferry crossing between Scrabster and Stromness for a car and up to four people, and two nights bed and breakfast for two people at the Ferry Inn in Stromness, between September 2016 and May next year. All you have to do is sign up to our mailing list to be in with a chance of winning. Good luck! [now closed]
New Year - new calendar of events!
You might think Orkney goes into hibernation after the festive period, but there are still plenty of events and activities for you to take advantage of during January.
The Pickaquoy Centre will be broadcasting a live performance of the National Theatre’s ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ on the 28th at 7pm. The award winning play features some famous names, including Michelle Dockery and Dominic West. Contact the Centre for booking information.
The West Side Cinema in Stromness has a special event at the start of the month. They’ll be showing the acclaimed ‘Slow West’ in the Stromness Town Hall on the 9th from 7.30pm. It’s the debut feature from former Beta Band member John Maclean, and he’ll be hosting a Q+A following the screening.
There will also be a showing of amazing documentary ‘The Wolfpack’ on the 23rd of January, again at 7.30pm. Follow the West Side Cinema on Facebook for the latest updates.
The Orkney Museum opens again for the year on the 5th of January. You’ll be able to enjoy current exhibition ‘Steaming Eccentrics’ until the end of the month. It features a collection of 00 gauge railways, steam engines and modern day locomotives from around the world.
Also at the Museum ‘From Dig to Display’ showcases the journey of an object from being uncovered to going on show at the Museum itself.
Orkney’s artists will be showcasing their work throughout January too. The Waterfront Gallery in Stromness has a ‘Feast of Paintings and Craftwork’ on display until February. If you’re quick you can also take in the For Arts Sake Festive Exhibition too. It’s open at the gallery in Kirkwall until the 9th of January.
If you’re in the mood for something different with a little bit of history, then the Centre for Nordic Studies might have just the thing. Professor Donna Heddle will be touring the islands at the start of the month delivering her talk ‘From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord, deliver us?’. It focuses on the legacy of the Vikings and their impact on Orkney. You can take in the lecture in St Margaret’s Hope on the 4th, in Kirkwall on the 5th, in Rousay on the 6th, in Westray on the 7th and finally in Hoy on the 8th. Find out more from the Centre for Nordic Studies website.
That’s just a taste of January’s events in Orkney. 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.
Visiting birds brave the winter weather
Orkney is a prime location to spot wildlife – no matter what the weather is doing! Alison Nimmo from RSPB Orkney has been sharing some of her January tips with us…
January is the perfect month for getting out and about to spot Orkney’s abundant wildlife. The winter weather can really invigorate the senses and you get the chance to work off those extra festive pounds too!
But it can be wet, windy and wild out at some of the best bird spotting sites. You can take comfort in the RSPB hides at The Loons, Cottascarth and on Burgar Hill, and there is also a great location right in the middle of Kirkwall.
The Peedie Sea plays host to some wonderful winter visitors, with bright white swans joined by various ducks of all shapes and sizes. A beautiful black swan has been sheltering in the pond as well, attracting a fair bit of attention from local wildlife watchers and photographers. The best thing is the Peedie Sea is just a short walk from Kirkwall’s various cafes and bars, so you’re never too far away from a hot cup of coffee!
Towards the end of the month the RSPB will be hosting the annual Big Garden Birdwatch once again. It’s the world’s biggest wildlife survey with around half a million people getting involved every year. Those taking part are asked to keep an eye on garden visitors for an hour over the last weekend of the month. The results help track bird numbers over the winter and it can be a really fun way to get the family involved in nature and conservation.
Last year Orkney’s top ten birds included starlings, blackbirds, greenfinches and collared doves – sign up to take part in 2016.
Follow @orknithology on Twitter for more fantastic images of wildlife in Orkney.
Northern lights inspire local photographer
Every month we share some images from a local photographer and hear why Orkney is the perfect place to practice their craft. This month our lens is trained on John Wishart...
I always enjoyed playing about with the family camera when I was young. I think they probably got sick of developing loads of cat, dog and horse pictures and eventually bought me my own camera in 1992 when I was 14 years old. It was a silver Canon IXUS which used Advanced Photo System (APS) film cartridges.
I managed to get my first digital camera in 1999, a Canon which had a 2.2 megapixel sensor, tiny by today’s standards. The next few years I enjoyed trying to take pictures of beautiful sunrises, stunning sunsets and everyday Orkney life.
I discovered Flickr, a photo sharing website in early 2003. Seeing other people’s pictures and reading their stories was fascinating and a great inspiration. After a few years and a bit of encouragement from some work colleagues, I plucked up the courage to add a few of my photographic efforts to Flickr for other folk to see. It was brilliant to receive comments about my work and also envious comments about how lucky I was living in such a beautiful place.
The Northern Lights have fascinated me for many years. The first big display that I can remember must have been when I was 12. My mother dragged us all outside to see the colourful display. It did look spectacular, the corona was right above the house and the shafts of red, green and purple were coming straight down. I’m still intrigued with the Northern Lights and love the “thrill of the chase” of trying to photograph them.
We are very fortunate in Orkney to get to see the Northern Lights quite a few times through August to March. The lack of serious light pollution and the latitude we are at gives us a great advantage of seeing even the smallest of displays. The popularity of seeing the Northern Lights has really grown over the last few years. There are a few good Facebook and Twitter groups who provide forecasts, sightings, tips and general discussion on seeing the Northern Lights. It’s fantastic to see everyone so excited once they have seen their 1st or 100th display.
For a photographer, Orkney is a truly fantastic place to immerse yourself in. The sheer variety of subjects through the seasons is wonderful. The opportunity to photograph new life in the fields during spring; the long summer days filled with wildlife, flowers and beautiful skies; the busy harvest time in autumn with all farmers and machinery working overtime and the powerful Atlantic storms hitting Yesnaby in winter, while the spectacular Northern Lights dance around the sky showing mother nature at her best.
Follow John on Flickr to see more of his fantastic images of Orkney.
Holm holds delights for both visitors and residents
For January's area focus we take a closer look at life in one of Orkney’s eastern parishes, and try to uncover what makes Holm so special…
Holm, like so many places in Orkney, has mystery in its name. Here, the parish is pronounced as ‘Ham’, something that still trips up newcomers to the islands. We just like to do things a bit differently here!
Holm is also a parish with a little bit of everything that makes Orkney special. It has beautiful rolling and fertile farmland, a maritime heritage, spectacular coastline and plenty of nooks and crannies off the beaten track to explore.
St Mary’s village is the main hub of the parish, with a shop, post office and restaurant and bar at The Commodore. It was once a thriving herring fishing port and its sheltered bay still plays host to weekly sailing races and a regatta during the summer months.
Dolphins are also regular visitors to the area – see if you can spot one from the village pier during the summer months. If birdlife is your thing, the Loch of Ayre close to the entrance of the village is a great place to see winter migrants.
In the heart of the village is the old storehouse, built hundreds of years ago and used to store grain for the Laird at Graemeshall. It was raided by French privateers in the late 1600s and today remains empty, although plans to restore it and bring it back into use have been discussed in recent years.
Life in St Mary’s was changed forever with the building of the Churchill Barriers during the Second World War. The first causeway links Holm to the small island of Lamb Holm and onto the larger, inhabited islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay. There is an interpretation board and small car park at the start of the first barrier that tells the story of their construction.
One of Orkney’s most popular tourist attractions sits on Lamb Holm. The unique Italian Chapel was constructed by Italian prisoners of war during WWII. They built the Chapel out of old Nissan Huts, using any materials they could get their hands on. Inside you’ll find beautiful artistry, hand-painted by one of the POWs, Domenico Chiocchetti, more than seventy years ago. If you are in Holm, make the short trip across the Churchill Barriers and see this amazing site for yourself.
On the road leading to the Chapel you’ll find the headquarters of the Orkney Wine Company. The business has been making fruit wines and liqueurs locally for nearly twenty years and has built up an extensive range. The small shop on Lamb Holm hosts a number of its products along with a range of Orkney gifts and goods – well worth a stop if you’re touring the parish before heading over the barriers.
Orkney’s wartime past has left a number of permanent marks on the Holm landscape. The gun battery at Graemeshall was positioned at a vital point for the defence of Scapa Flow, the home of the Royal Navy in both World Wars.
The east end of Holm takes you on a trip to a quiet, scenic part of the parish. The St Nicholas Kirk sits on the shore at Greenwall and is a great spot to stop during the summer, with wild flowers lining the verge. The Friends of St Nicholas group has been looking after the Kirk in recent years with the aim of preserving it for future use. The Vestry has also been restored and is full of facts, figures and photos about the Kirk and Holm’s past.
There is also a great walk in the surrounding area to Roseness. The coastline here is full of cliffs and geos and the scenery is spectacular.
Celina Rupp is a local jewellery maker based in the parish. Her collections and artwork are influenced by the scenery and heritage of the area – visit her website to see some of her beautiful work.
Holm is one of the most popular places to live in Orkney. Its location, just a few miles outside the main town of Kirkwall and with easy access to beaches and the quiet countryside, attracts families and new residents.
It also has a particularly strong community spirit with events centred on the Holm Community Hall in St Mary’s Village. Everything from brownies to Christmas parties and weddings takes place in the hall – find out more about life in the parish via the Holm News Facebook page.
In recent years a number of new housing developments have been built in St Mary’s Village, with various options of home ownership available. Have a look at our property pages to see what’s on offer on the private market.
The village and much of the parish also sits on the main bus route between St Margaret’s Hope and Stromness, offering easy access to Orkney’s main towns and tourist sites.
Younger residents of the parish go to school at the highly regarded St Andrews Community School and Kirkwall Grammar School with bus travel provided by Orkney Islands Council.
If you’d like to make Holm your destination of choice when in Orkney, have a look at the excellent accommodation options available in the parish via the Visit Orkney website. You can also find out more about Orkney via Orkney.com.
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.