Hello and welcome to the November newsletter from Visitorkney.com.
Every month we bring you a snapshot of life here in Orkney, hopefully to inspire you to spend some time in our islands - be it for a short trip or a longer stay. This month we'll be looking at some of the local events you can enjoy in Orkney in November as well as other things to inspire you. We'd love to hear from you too - get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Orkney.com and tell us all about your experiences of the islands.
Orkney takes centre stage for WWI commemorations
Orkney's wartime heritage will come into focus with a series of events scheduled for the islands next year. St Magnus Cathedral and Lyness in Hoy will host national commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland on the 31st of May. The battle saw the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet steam from Scapa Flow in 1916. A special ceremony will also take place at Marwick Head and the renovated Kitchener Memorial at the start of June to mark the centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire. Orkney Islands Council is also putting together a range of events and activities to mark Orkney's involvement in WWI.
Sealcam shows off Sanday's new arrivals
The fascinating Sanday Sealcam is up and running once again, documenting the grey seal pupping season around the island of Sanday. You can watch new born pups getting their bearings on the rocky shore from the comfort of your own home - and you might even get lucky and see a birth as it's happening! Tune in via the Sanday Ranger website. Find out more about the island of Sanday and, if you fancy a trip, book your accommodation through our website.
New look for award winning brewery
The Orkney based Highland Brewing Company has re-launched its award winning range of craft beers under a new name. The company's products, including Scapa Special and Island Hopping, will now be available under the Swannay Brewery brand, showcasing the brewery's Orcadian heritage and the rich maritime history of the islands. New bottle labels and pump clips have been produced for the Brewery's eight core brands, and the range will also include a number of innovative and modern beers in both keg and bottle, with a full release scheduled for 2016.
November in Orkney
The clocks might have gone back and the days are getting ever shorter, but that doesn't mean Orkney folk retreat indoors for the rest of the year. On the contrary, there are plenty of events, activities and performances to enjoy as winter begins to roll in.
Over recent weeks local farmers have been working hard to bring in their harvest, spending hours in fields, tractor cabs and combine harvesters across the islands. November is the month they get to celebrate the end of another season with a drink and a dance at Harvest Homes. These ceilidhs often last into the early hours and are a great way to experience the real Orkney. You can still get tickets for the Harvest Homes in Rendall and Harray - check with your accommodation provider for more details.
If you fancy a trip to the isles this November, Papa Westray will be hosting the first in its series of wildlife holidays. You'll be able to spend four days exploring Papay's maritime heath, looking for fungi, lichens and other mosses. Accommodation will be provided at the island's excellent Beltane House hostel. Get more information by contacting the island ranger, Jonathan Ford, at email@example.com or on Facebook.
As you might have read earlier, Orkney's seal pupping season is well underway. If you want to see the new born pups close up, then a trip with the Orkney Field Club provides the perfect chance. The Club will be leading a two to three hour cliff walk in South Ronaldsay on the 7th or 8th (depending on the weather) to count the grey seal pups on the shore below. Suitable clothing and walking boots will be required and binoculars would be useful too. It gets underway at ten o'clock from Burwick - contact Penny on 01856 761 168 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
If you'd rather experience Orkney in November indoors then why not take a trip to the cinema? Aside from the excellent Pickaquoy Centre, (Jaime link: http://www.pickaquoy.co.uk) which showcases new releases and live theatre performances in its modern Phoenix Cinema, here in Orkney we have a number of options for fans of the silver screen.
The West Side Cinema in Stromness hosts showings monthly in Stromness Town Hall, with candlelit tables and folk encouraged to bring their own refreshments to enjoy. The Gable End Theatre in Hoy has a mix of modern and classic films in renovated school buildings, complete with old style velvet seating salvaged from the original Phoenix Cinema in Kirkwall! You can also take in a show at the Screen in the Square in St Margaret's Hope, with the newly refurbished Cromarty Hall the perfect setting for a night at the movies.
November, of course, brings bonfire night, with the biggest community event being held in Kirkwall at the Peedie Sea. There will be fireworks and a performance from the Kirkwall City Pipe Band on Saturday the 7th of November, with the action getting underway at seven o'clock.
Art enthusiasts have plenty to keep them occupied this month. The Pier Arts Centre will open its annual Christmas Open exhibition on the 21st of November. Visitors will be able to see work from artists across the islands, right up until Christmas Eve.
And, with Christmas just around the corner, why not get your festive shopping done nice and early in Orkney? The Kirkwall BID Festive Fun Day will be held on Sunday 29th November, with plenty of activities, events and special offers available throughout the town.
There's lots more happening around Orkney - you can find out more by having a look at the Visit Orkney events page and you can also pick up a copy of local newspaper 'The Orcadian' every Thursday. BBC Radio Orkney broadcasts a daily diary of events too, every weekday morning from 0730 on 93.7FM, and on Facebook.
Cross the barriers to brilliant Burray
Our monthly parish feature takes a trip across the Churchill Barriers to one of Orkney's linked south isles. Burray is a beautiful place to stop, with plenty of attractions for anyone travelling over the causeways...
It's one of the great drives in Orkney. Heading south from Kirkwall through Holm, you come to the Churchill Barriers, great rock causeways linking four islands, built during the Second World War to help with the defence of Scapa Flow.
The barriers changed the way of life in Burray and South Ronaldsay forever. Once only accessible by boat, they have now become extensions of the Orkney mainland - but they both maintain their unique island character.
Burray boasts some of the best beaches and views of Scapa Flow anywhere in Orkney. A special lay-by has been built into the verge just after you cross the third barrier, offering a stunning panoramic scene over the Flow for sunsets and stormy weather. But when the weather is calmer, Burray offers the perfect chance to experience life beneath the waves.Scapa Scuba runs its Try a Dive course from the shallow shore on the west side of the third barrier. It's a fully instructor led dive around wartime blockships, which lie on the seabed in-between Burray and Glimps Holm. It's an incredible experience for anyone without diving qualifications keen to experience Orkney's unrivalled wreck diving. On the other side of the road is the beautiful beach at Weddell Sound. Although strictly still on the uninhabited Glimps Holm, at low tide the gently sloping sandy beach stretches along the coast between the second and third barrier, with lovely views across to Burray and the remains of the blockship Reginald. It's a perfect spot to stop and take a wander - and the kids will love it.
Burray's wartime heritage doesn't end there though. Overlooking Weddell Sound is the imposing gun emplacement at Northfield. It was an important part of the defence of Scapa Flow during WW2 - but now it has a new lease of life. Orkan Adventures uses the site as a paintball arena, offering an energetic and fun activity for anyone aged twelve and over. The company also runs clay pigeon shooting, boat trips and lots more - plenty to keep visitors occupied. For those looking for something slightly more relaxing, just a short drive away is the Burray Fossil and Heritage Centre. It hosts a fascinating collection of fossils from Orkney and around the world - some more than three hundred million years old. The Heritage Centre is full of local books, images and documents and a new exhibit focusing on the building of the barriers. There is also an excellent community café and gift shop, making it an essential stop during your trip to the island.
On your way toward the Burray village, the Littlequoy road leads you on a picturesque drive along the coast, before bending to the south. There you first see the island of Hunda, linked to Burray by a man made concrete barrier - built as part of Scapa Flow's defences against small surface craft during WW2. The island itself is uninhabited and used to graze sheep, but there is also a rich collection of wildlife to be seen, with nesting birds and sea life galore. You can take a walk around the island, but it's courtesy to call at Littlequoy Farmhouse first to check with the owner.
The village of Burray itself has grown over recent years with new local authority housing and private plots helping sustain and increase the island's population. Orkney Islands Council also built a brand new school on the outskirts of the village in 2006 and it provides a modern and spacious facility for local pupils. There is also nursery provision at the school, with the roll continuing to grow.
The village also has a well stocked shop, garage and a popular pub, restaurant and hotel - The Sands. A strong community spirit sees plenty of events in the area, with the inaugural 'Glastonburray' music festival held in the local hall earlier this year. The community has also come together in recent months to raise funds for a brand new play park and crazy golf course in the middle of the village - work is continuing with an official opening soon. There are excellent transport links with Kirkwall and Stromness - Burray sits on the main bus route with a regular service to and from the town and St Margaret's Hope every day.
You can find out more about the island and its varied events and activities by visiting the Burray Community Association website. The BCA also has a Facebook page with the latest news.If you want to make Burray your destination during your visit to Orkney, have a look at our accommodation options and other hints and tips through our website.