• Concert on-board a Tall Ship at the St Magnus International Festival

Orkney in 2020

We've picked out some of the not-to-be-missed highlights of the Orkney calendar this year.

Are you busy planning your holidays for 2020?

Well, if you’re looking for some special events and activities to enjoy this year, then Orkney could be the perfect place for you. The islands are a destination for all seasons, with a busy calendar full of festivals and fun all year round.

We’ve picked out 11 events you won’t want to miss in Orkney during 2020. Take a look and let us know which ones you’ll be enjoying!

Orkney Nature Festival – 9th-17th May

The Orkney Nature Festival Nature Cruise

Now entering its eighth year, the Orkney Nature Festival is a fantastic way to experience Wild Orkney at its best. Events – often including nature walks, photography workshops, kayaking, snorkelling and a nature cruise – happen around the islands, with input from the whole community. Come and celebrate Orkney’s nature and wildlife in 2020.

Orkney Folk Festival – 21st-24th May

Orkney Folk Festival - image by Sean Purser

This weekend of the finest folk music has become a real highlight of the Orkney calendar. Based in and around the pubs, clubs and venues of Stromness, the festival brings an energy and excitement that’s hard not to get caught up in. Expect late-night pub sessions, impromptu performances at the pierhead and some fabulous concerts. Special guests in 2020 include Karine Polwart, Madison Violet and Blazin’ Fiddles.

Orkney's excavation season - June-August

The Ness of Brodgar excavation

One of the highlights of Orkney’s summer is the chance to see history uncovered in front of your eyes. Archaeologists will be back at work at a number of sites across the islands between June and August, including the fascinating Ness of Brodgar dig (8th July-19th August), the Iron Age excavation at The Cairns in South Ronaldsay (15th June-10th July), at Swandro in Rousay (23rd June-11th August), a site under increasing threat of coastal erosion, and at Skaill Farmstead in Rousay (6th-24th July). All the sites are open to the public so make sure you pay them a visit.

St Magnus International Festival - 19th-25th June

St Magnus International Festival

The centrepiece of the Orcadian summer, the St Magnus International Festival celebrates midsummer in the islands with a week-long programme, packed with exciting events. Music is at the heart of the festival, but it also brings drama, dance, literature and visual arts to the islands. Community participation also sits alongside world-class performances amidst the almost endless daylight of summer in Orkney.

North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival – 27th July-7th August

The North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival

This unique event could see you spend some time in Orkney’s most northerly community, helping islanders and visitors alike to rebuild an ancient sheep dyke that encircles the entire island. The festival was originally launched to raise awareness of the famous seaweed-eating flock of North Ronaldsay sheep, and as well as the rebuilding effort includes island walks, exhibitions and ceilidhs, with dancing into the early hours of the morning. Take part and you’ll get a real sense of a community coming together, and welcoming visitors from around the world to their home.

Creative Trail

Fursbreck Pottery on the Creative Trail

Come and meet the makers in Orkney by following our fantastic Creative Trail. It features twenty-four businesses, ranging from potters and painters to jewellers and furniture makers, spread across four separate islands. The trail showcases their workshops and studios, and gives you the chance to see these talented folks at work.

Foraging Fortnight – 29th August-13th September

Foraging for seaweed in Orkney

Following on from a successful inaugural event in 2019, this year’s Foraging Fortnight programme will run alongside the Orkney International Science Festival and will include a real mix of walks, talks and activities. The festival aims to encourage people of all ages to become more aware of the benefits of wild plants all around us, and the beauty of our local natural habitats. There will be foraging outings, workshops and even cookery demonstrations.

Orkney International Science Festival – 3rd-9th September

Snorkelling as part of the 2019 Science Festival

This ever-popular festival will focus on sea, shore and distant horizons for 2020, celebrating Orkney’s seas and islands during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. The programme always contains an eclectic mix of talks, walks, workshops and much more, with topics this year set to include boat-building, music inspired by the songs of seals and whales and outings to Hoy and Papa Westray. The festival will run alongside Orkney’s Foraging Fortnight programme, so expect seaweed workshops and foraging walks too.

Taste of Orkney Festival – 25th-27th September

Some of Orkney's finest food and drink

Orkney’s reputation for the finest food and drink is well established around the world and this year, for the first time, the islands will come together to celebrate all our fantastic produce at the inaugural Taste of Orkney Festival. The programme is currently being finalised, but you can expect a packed programme of cookery workshops, tastings, tours, activities and talks, all focused on food and drink from the islands.

Orkney Storytelling Festival - 22nd-25th October

The Orkney Storytelling Festival

There’s nothing better than wrapping up warm and enjoying a good story during the dark October nights in Orkney. The annual Orkney Storytelling Festival brings together storytellers and tall tales from around the world every year, celebrating the spoken word and folklore. All you have to do is sit back and soak it all up.

Christmas in Orkney

The annual Stromness Yule Log pull

It might feel far away, but you might be planning further ahead than a spring or summer break. Christmas in Orkney is a really special time of year, with lots of festive fun and events to enjoy. The islands are perfect for Christmas shopping, with loads of independent shops and fantastic food, drink and craft options available. There’s the Kirkwall Ba’ games every Christmas and New Year’s Day, and the Stromness Yule Log pull too. Add in plenty of live music, pantos, Christmas concerts and much more, and you’ll definitely want to make Orkney your winter wonderland this year.

Visit our website for more information on how to visit Orkney, and search for your ideal accommodation in the islands too.

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

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