Welcome to the October newsletter from Orkney.com. Keep reading for the latest on life in Orkney – we’ll be bringing you photos, features and lots more from the islands.
There will also be our regular wildlife watch and events calendar to help encourage you to visit us – either on holiday or for a longer stay. As always, you can find out more from Orkney.com or VisitOrkney.com.
No slow down in September
Orkney products steal the show
Some of the very best local food and drink took centre stage at the 2015 Orkney Master Chef competition in Kirkwall at the end of September. Four talented local amateur chefs conjured up some fantastic dishes at the Orkney Food and Drink event, sponsored by Jewson and NorthLink Ferries. From local cheese, chicken and vegetables to Orkney buffalo, pheasant and fudge, the food was first class. Hundreds of spectators took in the competition, which was won by Kerry Leask. You can see all the Master Chef menus here.
Ortak heads east on trade mission
Local jewellery manufacturer Ortak has been flying the flag for Orkney in Japan recently. The company has been taking part in two major trade events, hosted by the famous Hankyu department store. Ortak has been exhibiting its range at the British Fair in Fukuoka and at the retailer’s flagship Osaka premises. It’s the next step in the expansion of the Ortak brand, which has gone from strength to strength since its re-launch last year.
Plenty to do during the Orkney autumn
If you’re booking your October break and fancy somewhere less crammed than the Canaries and not as busy as the Balearics, why not give Orkney a go? To help you plan a trip north, we’ve put together five things to do here during the autumn months. From island hopping to spectacular scenery, Orkney is the perfect place to get away from it all during October. Book your stay with Visit Orkney.
Go online for Orkney crafts
Some of the very best Orkney arts and crafts are now available to buy online through the Orkney Crafts Association. The group has launched its first ever online shop and visitors will have the chance to purchase items including knitwear, art, woodwork and pottery. Ten local businesses have signed up and more are expected to join in the months to come. Visit the shop for yourself via the new website.
October in Orkney
October can seem like the calm after the storm in Orkney. The busy tourist season tends to have died down by the time autumn officially joins us – good news for those of you looking for some peace and quiet during your own short breaks. But Orkney is a place that never rests completely, and there are still plenty of activities and events to enjoy over the coming weeks.
The Phoenix Cinema at the Pickaquoy Centre will host two special showings of a documentary film featuring one of Orkney’s most famous events. ‘Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play’ is the story of the ball and its relationship with different cultures and sports across the globe. The crew filmed the Kirkwall Ba’ games during 2011/12 and footage from them will appear alongside scenes shot in locations including Brazil and Africa. You can see the film in Kirkwall on the 3rd and 4th of October, with special Q+A sessions with the Director and Writer/Producer. For more details visit the Pickaquoy Centre website, and have a look at the official trailer below
This weekend also marks the last chance to take in the excellent summer exhibition at the Orkney Museum. ‘Orcadians in the Trenches: The War on Land’ looks at the experiences of local men during World War One. It ends on Saturday 3rd – the Museum is free and is open 10.30-12.30 and 13.30-17.00.
You can also find out about Orkney’s wartime past at the Orkney Library and Archive. Its latest Orkney at War exhibition is in the upstairs corridor of the building in Kirkwall and features diaries, photos and more to highlight the effect of the war on the islands.
Now, after a busy summer of festivals, there is one very special event still to come. The Orkney Storytelling Festival is preparing for its seventh year and once again has a packed programme. The Festival is focusing on ‘Songs and Tales from Near and Far’ and features two of Scotland’s leading storytellers and singers, Jess Smith and Grace Banks. They, along with Orkney’s own storytellers, will tell tales and sing songs to create a magical experience for both old and young folk alike.
This year there are events in Papa Westray, Burray and Orphir – the perfect chance to explore Orkney at the same time. It all runs between the 22nd and 25th of October – visit the Orkney Storytelling Festival website for more.
And what October events calendar would be complete without mentioning Halloween? This year, the Kirkwall BID team is putting together a special ‘Spooktacular’ to encourage folk to head down to the main street. There will be a Halloween Ghost Hunt involving local businesses from the 17th, and on Halloween itself there will be some spooky themed promotions, special tours of Tankerness House and the Cathedral graveyard, and plenty of ghoulish fun throughout the town!
Remember there are always other events, activities, performances and exhibitions throughout the islands too. Keep an eye on the Visit Orkney events page for more. You can also pick up a copy of local newspaper ‘The Orcadian’ every Thursday, and BBC Radio Orkney broadcasts a daily diary of events every weekday morning from 0730 on 93.7FM, and on Facebook.
Autumn in Orkney perfect for wildlife watchers
The changing of the seasons in Orkney brings a new look to the local wildlife scene. Seal lovers will get the chance to see new born pups, and there is plenty more to keep enthusiasts enthralled. RSPB Orkney's Alison Nimmo has shared some of her October highlights...
Autumn is the pupping season for grey seals. With Orkney’s waters home to about 25,000 of them, almost a tenth of the world population, watching the daily life of their ‘rookeries’ is one of the best wildlife experiences of the colder months.
The cows gather on beaches and each give birth to a single white-coated pup. By late October there should be plenty of activity, usually peaking early November. It’s important to keep well back to avoid alarming the seals - a good place to watch them from a safe distance is the car park at Windwick, South Ronaldsay.
While around the coast, keep an eye out for tysties (black guillemots) in their winter plumage. They’ve gone from being black with brilliant white oval wing patches to grey and white, much harder to make out on increasingly wintry seas.
You might spot a great northern diver too, recently returned from its breeding grounds north of the Arctic Circle in Canada, Greenland or Iceland. These birds like the waters around the Barriers and Scapa Flow, but are also one to look out for from the ferries.
Meanwhile redwings and fieldfares will soon be wolfing down any berries they can find as they head back from their northern summer, and thousands of wildfowl like wigeons and teals heading back from Iceland and Russia will fill areas like the Loons and Loch of Banks with their raucous medley of noises. Whistling wigeons have got to be one of my favourite sounds of this great time of year.
Industry and innovation inspire local photographer
There is no shortage of scenery in Orkney to frame in a photo - that’s why, every month, we ask a local photographer to share some of their shots of the islands and tell us what inspires them. This month, Colin Keldie takes us through some of his favourite images…
I’ve been taking photos since my school days at Stromness Academy. We still used film and chemicals then, and we developed all our slides and film ourselves. It was quite exciting seeing the images slowly appear before your eyes. I never thought then that photography would become something I did for a living!
I was employed by The Orcadian newspaper for more than twenty years and worked in the dark room with a large format camera, shooting very big negatives of pages for the paper. The introduction of computers changed everything and I moved into graphic design and desktop publishing. I was still taking photos from time to time but it was only with the purchase of my first digital camera that my interest really took hold again.
I left The Orcadian to work part time for the then Orkney Tourist Board, which became Visit Scotland, and by myself as a graphic designer. My interest in photography at that time had more of a focus on landscape and the natural environment our beautiful islands have to offer.
Since I became self employed, more and more of my time is spent on photography.
In 2012 I became a Google Trusted Photographer and started offering ‘Google Tours’ to businesses in Orkney. I’ve done over sixty so far and I think the tours are an amazing way to show off your property and a great way to reach out to potential customers.
Much of the photography I do these days is driven by design work or photography of a ‘practical’ nature. Most of the photos you see on Orkney.com are mine and I was lucky enough to be commissioned to shoot all the members of the Orkney Food and Drink Group. It was a hugely enjoyable experience visiting them, shooting (and sampling!) their excellent products.
I also do a fair bit of work for Orkney Islands Council’s Marine Services section and the renewable energy industry.
I still get a kick out of 'things coming together' for a photo. From studio shots to aerial photos, it’s the constant variety that keeps me interested.
View some of Colin's Google Tours here and here. You can also see more of Colin's work at k4graphics.zenfolio.com. If you'd like to find out more about arranging a Google Tour of your business or property, contact him via email on email@example.com or call 01856 876581 or 07990 697 372.
Heritage and more to seek in Flotta
Our regular parish feature involves a short ferry trip to an island that has played an important role in Orkney’s history over the last 100 years. Flotta might be a quiet place now, but scratch the surface and you’ll discover a rich wartime heritage and a community keen to grow.
Flotta is an island that has changed much over the years. From its place at the very heart of Orkney’s military history to the building of the Oil Terminal in the 1970s, the island has always been central to Orkney’s economy and heritage.
The presence of the Oil Terminal, which sees workers commute back and forth on special ferries every day, sometimes means that many forget about the rest of the island and its attractions – but there is plenty to see!
The name Flotta comes from the Norse for ‘flat isle’. The island was the centre of the Royal Navy anchorage during WWI and WWII, when thousands of servicemen and women arrived – a far cry from the current population of around seventy.
Nowadays the fantastic Flotta Trail takes in the west and south coasts of the island – the eight mile route visits a wonderful array of wartime archaeology including the Naval Cinema, Signal Station and the dramatic scenery of Stanger Head and the remains of the signal station there. There are information boards throughout, and the island’s flat and quiet roads are perfect for walkers and cyclists. The trail starts at the Gibraltar Pier, where the ferry arrives.
The Golta Peninsula also features wartime heritage unrivalled across the UK. You can see the remains of the Scapa Barrage, a rocket battery built to defend Royal Navy ships from German bombers, the WWI YMCA building and discarded boom defence nets from WWII. It’s an incredible walk through a Century of history – if you plan on visiting Golta, phone the Flotta Oil Terminal security team on 01856 884359 before arriving.
The island is in the final stages of opening its brand new heritage centre to celebrate its history. The community led project has seen the renovation of an old croft building and will house artefacts and articles from the island.
Wildlife also plays an important part of life in Flotta. Its position in the heart of Scapa Flow means it’s the perfect place to spot sealife, including whales, dolphins and porpoises. There are several seal haul out sites to enjoy too.
Seabirds are also easily spotted, and great northern divers and long tailed ducks are regular visitors during the autumn and spring.
Despite Flotta’s reputation as a flat island, it also boasts some of the best views in Orkney. It’s the only place where you can see both Kirkwall and Stromness at the same time, and there is a panoramic view of Scapa Flow and its surroundings from the West Hill.
Although the island’s population is small, there is still plenty of community spirit. The school is currently closed due to a lack of pupils, but it also hosts the community centre and includes a bar. The local community association has regular social events and the island also has a nine-hole putting green, play park, a shop and Post Office.
If you plan on visiting, there is a regular ferry service from Houton and plenty of accommodation options. There is a self catering house available, which can sleep up to five people, and the island hostel, which has two twin and one single room, as well as a lounge, kitchen and bathroom.
Flotta also hosts one of Orkney’s most enjoyable days out, with the annual Flotta 10K. It attracts both serious and more relaxed runners, keen to test themselves on the relatively gentle route. It’s a community event, with young people encouraged to take part and islanders really coming out in force to support it.
The Oil Terminal might be seen as the face of Flotta, with its distinctive flare stack dominating the Scapa Flow skyline but, as is often the case, take a closer look and you’ll be surprised by what the island has to offer.
Thank you for taking the time to read our latest newsletter – hopefully there has been something to catch your eye.
In the meantime, it’s cheerio from Orkney, for now.