Happy New Year from Orkney!
January is here and if you're looking to blow away the festive cobwebs then there is no better place to come. Orkney doesn't shut down for the winter - there is still plenty to see and do. We've put together a preview of some of this month's events and activities to help you plan your trip. There is also a focus on the parish of Holm, which is always a popular place for visitors.
What's on in January
January is a month for staying inside and keeping warm. Here in Orkney you can take in the finest theatre, the best of the silver screen and some really entertaining exhibitions.
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.
Find out about Orkney's past
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 Watefront 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.
Orkney's Viking legacy in focus
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.
Parish Focus - Holm
Every month we take a closer look at life in one of Orkney's parishes. For January we head east to Holm to try and uncover what makes the area so special.
Holm, like so many places in Orkney, holds 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 the parish of 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 inspired by the scenery and heritage of the area - visit her website to see some of her beautiful work.
Holm is a popular location for visitors keen to experience Orkney's countryside, with easy access to beaches and the great outdoors. 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.