Hello and welcome to summer in Orkney!
Our July newsletter is full of features and photos from the islands to keep you up-to-date with life across our archipelago.
Remember, if you’re planning a trip to Orkney over the coming weeks, take a look at our COVID-19 section for all the latest travel advice and local information.
You can follow us on social media for visitor ideas and inspiration too.
Take a test before you travel
We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to Orkney over the coming weeks and months, but we do have a favour to ask from anyone heading to the islands for a holiday. Taking two lateral flow tests before you travel could really help protect Orkney, our communities and our health services. The Scottish Government advice is to take one test three days before travelling, then again on your day of departure. Test packs are available for free and by working together we can hopefully keep Orkney safe for everyone.
Eight things to see and do in Orkney
We often get asked for our top tips on what to see and do in Orkney, and it’s always a difficult question to answer as there are so many options right across the islands. But we know some of you will be visiting Orkney for the first time this summer, so we’ve put together a guide to just some of our favourite things here that you simply don’t want to miss. From wild walks to amazing archaeology, island hopping to fabulous food & drink, there’s something for everyone.
Plan the perfect Orkney picnic
If you’re planning a self-catering or camping visit to the islands this year then our local larder can provide the perfect ingredients for an Orkney feast. You can pick up everything you need – from fresh fish and beef, to beer, bread and bannocks – in our excellent range of shops. Buying local also gives you a real taste of Orkney and helps our talented producers after a challenging year. Our food blogger, Rosemary Moon, has put together a guide to what you can buy and where to help make your break extra special.
Morphing around Orkney
Orkney has welcomed a few celebrity guests recently. Just this year we've already enjoyed visits from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as TV royalty in the form of Lorraine Kelly and celebrity chef Phil Vickery. But last month perhaps the biggest name of all was soaking up the sights in the Orkney sunshine. The much-loved animation character Morph was here on holiday with co-founder of Aardman Animations, Peter Lord. The duo visited the Ring of Brodgar, the Italian Chapel and Stromness during their short break.
Join us on Instagram
Join us on Instagram where we post plenty of stunning shots from the islands. Make sure you follow Visit Orkney to see new images every week, and you can take part too. Tag your own images and use #VisitOrkney and #LoveOrkney to keep in touch.
Our regular wildlife blogger Raymond Besant is currently filming in a location even further north than Orkney, in Greenland. While he’s very much ‘out of the office’, we’re turning our attention to one of our most popular wildlife visitors, the puffin.
Orkney’s cliffs are spectacular places to be during the summer months. Take a trip to the coast and you’ll be greeted with the sound of thousands of seabirds swirling about above the waves. You’ll see fulmars, guillemots, gannets and much more.
In certain locations though, you should also be able to catch a glimpse of some really colourful characters. Orkney’s puffin population has been back on our craggy coastline since late April, building burrows before heading back to sea towards the end of this month.
Puffins are known locally as ‘tammie norries’ and actually spend most of the lives at sea, in the wild Atlantic Ocean. Their trips back to places like Orkney every summer sees them lay a single egg before nurturing their pufflings over the summer months.
Puffins are definitely one of the most popular wildlife attractions in Orkney. With their technicolour bills, black and white plumage and bright orange feet, they look almost clown-like as they waddle and bounce on cliff edges and ledges. But behind their comical appearance lies a gifted diver and a hardy character – they have to be given the environment they spend much of their lives in.
July is the last chance you have to see them here before they disappear again for the rest of the year. Orkney has some excellent locations where you should be able to get lucky and see them before they go. The Castle o’Burrian in Westray is definitely your best bet, with the sea stack home to hundreds of puffins during the summer.
Other island locations like Papa Westray and Stronsay offer good puffin-spotting opportunities, whilst on the mainland the Brough of Birsay is a good option, with puffins often seen on the tidal island’s west and north coasts.
But remember, be quick, as they’re building up for the great puffin departure once again.
Focus on photography
Our featured photographer of the month is John Stoddard, who spent a year exploring the islands during his studies in Orkney.
I like the ability to capture a moment in time to share and, as I enjoy the outdoors and respecting nature, I feel my genre of landscape and wildlife photography helps display the beauty around us - something many of us don't often manage in our busy lives. A particularly special encounter was watching a mother otter with her two young playing and resting on the banks at Loch of Stenness.
I moved to Orkney in September 2020 as a student at the Heriot-Watt University campus in Stromness to study renewable energy development, a subject I feel passionate about as well. I feel photography goes well with my other interests, such as hill walking, travelling and the need to preserve and protect the natural world, something I hope to convey in my images.
Orkney is quite different to the Scottish mainland which I was more familiar with. My favourite Scottish locations have been Glencoe, Rannoch Moor, Torridon and the Outer Hebrides, but now I would add Orkney to that list with its striking seascapes and abundant wildlife.
Despite Orkney not being a large land mass, it has a lot of diversity, with rolling hills, farmland and lochs, peaceful beaches leading into Scapa Flow, then the impressive rocks and energetic Atlantic on the west coast - and that's just mainland!
I love the rocky cliffs at Yesnaby, especially with large waves breaking. Landscapes can have quite a different feeling depending on changing light and dynamic weather, something Orkney has plenty of; I remember standing at Yesnaby castle after fresh snowfall with blue sky, the five minutes later another squall of strong wind and snow hit as the sky turned dark and stormy. There is also an abundance of history, from Neolithic standing stones to ruins of Viking settlements.
I took an interest in photographing the northern lights some years ago and had the idea to capture the aurora beyond the Old Man of Hoy. I managed to do this by camping one night on a good aurora forecast. I've got some tips on seeing the northern lights in Scotland on my online blog too.
I would definitely recommend Orkney to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, history, seascapes and wildlife watching. The changeable weather and light can make it rewarding for photography, especially during autumn and spring as the sun stays lower in the sky, giving golden light for longer as well as some moody weather.
I've now left Orkney for Aberdeen and miss being able to see the sea and hills of Hoy from my house in Stromness, but as a look back I thought I would produce a calendar for 2022 which will be stocked in some gift shops such as Birsay Bay Tearoom, Castaway Crafts and Harray Potter shortly.
Thank you for taking the time to read our latest newsletter. If you’re planning to visit the islands this year, take a look at our COVID-19 section to make sure you’re up-to-date with all the latest news and advice.
In the meantime, it's cheerio from Orkney for now.