• Gannets in Orkney - image by Antonella Papa

Experience Wild Orkney this spring

Take in the finest wildlife highlights at the Orkney Nature Festival

In Orkney, nature is all around you.

You can visit our seabird cities to see puffins, gannets, kittiwakes and guillemots, keep your eye on the coast for the chance to spot passing whales, dolphins or orcas, or enjoy our green fields and moorland, full of wildflowers and birds of prey.

One of the best ways to experience it all is with the annual Orkney Nature Festival, a week-long celebration of wild Orkney. This year’s festival will be held between the 13th and 19th of May across the islands.

Here are seven events from the 2019 calendar you don’t want to miss.

This is actually an early opener for the Orkney Nature Festival, but it’s definitely one that should be on your list. Raymond Besant is a local wildlife cameraman who has worked with the likes of the BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Springwatch. Join him at this special talk as he showcases some of his work and shares the secrets of wildlife filming from behind the lens.

Where: King Street Halls, Kirkwall

When: 7pm

How: Tickets cost £5 can be booked via the RSPB Office in Stromness or online.

Did you know that Orkney is one of the few places where you can find Primula Scotica, the Scottish primrose? This delicate flower only appears in the far north of Scotland and Orkney. At just 10cm high, it can be a challenge to find it, but take a walk with Orkney Field Club experts and your chances will increase greatly! Join them at Yesnaby to grab a glimpse of it, as well as some of the other wildlife highlights at this beautiful location.

Where: Yesnaby, Sandwick

When: 10am or 2pm

How: Booking is required for the 10am walk. Email jenny@jtlarch.co.uk to reserve your spot. The 2pm walk is open to all.

The island of Hoy’s pair of white-tailed eagles successful hatched a two chicks in 2018, the first in Orkney for nearly 150 years. Now with the youngsters fully fledged, the adult pair have returned to their eyrie, high up in the hills overlooking the Dwarfie Stane. They’re a stunning sight, gliding smoothly over the valley below. This special Eaglewatch Open Day will give you the chance to see them for yourself. You’ll also be able to join pupils from the local school on guided walks in the area.

Where: Dwarfie Stane car-park, Hoy

When: 11am – 4pm

How: No booking is necessary. Walks will be held at various times between 1pm and 3.15pm.

We all know that Orkney has some fantastic wildlife to enjoy above sea level, but have you ever wanted to explore what lies beneath? Book a spot on this snorkelling safari to see below the waves of Scapa Flow. You’ll be snorkelling in the shelter of the Churchill Barriers with local diving tutors – expect plenty of fascinating sea life!

Where: Churchill Barrier no.3

When: 10am, 12pm, 2pm

How: Booking is required, tickets cost £45. Email diving@scapascuba.co.uk or phone 01856 851 218.

The number of orca sightings in local waters has increased steadily over recent years, although you should still count yourself very lucky if you’re in the right place at the right time. However, spending time on the Orkney coastline will certainly improve your chances of a sighting of these beautiful creatures. Take part in the Sea Watch Foundation’s Orca Watch during the Orkney Nature Festival and keep your fingers crossed! At the very least, you’ll have the stunning scenery at Marwick Head to enjoy.

Where: Marwick Head, Birsay

When: 6pm

How: Meet at the Kitchener Memorial car park at 6pm or just drop in to survey points near the memorial afterwards.

We’d always recommend a spot of island hopping when you’re in Orkney. Take a trip to the peaceful island of Stronsay and one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline anywhere in the archipelago to see some of the local wildlife highlights. You’ll get a guided walk, let by the Stronsay Ranger and local RSPB staff, to the Vat of Kirbister, a stunning natural arch.

Where: Stronsay, Orkney

When: 9.30am – 12pm.

How: The walk is free and no booking is necessary. You’d need to arrange your own travel to Stronsay via Orkney Ferries or Loganair.

This is very much the jewel in the Orkney Nature Festival crown. Step onboard the NorthLink Ferries vessel MV Hamnavoe for a gentle cruise up the west coast of the Orkney mainland and see some fantastic wildlife highlights on the way. You’ll pass the cliffs of Yesnaby, Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay, giving you ample opportunity to watch thousands of seabirds, with RSPB guides to offer information and advice too. You’ll also be able to sample local food, all washed down with Orkney whiskies and gins.

When: 1pm – 4pm

Where: Stromness Ferry Terminal

How: Tickets cost £16 for adults, £11 for children and concessions. Phone 0845 6000 449 to book.

Find out more about the Orkney Nature Festival via the official website and on Facebook.

The Digital Media Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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