Spring is here and it's the perfect time to get out and about to sample everything Orkney has to offer. Over the next few months the islands come alive with events and activities and, with the days getting longer and skies brightening, there is always somewhere to explore. Here are some of our favourite things to do during spring in Orkney.
Get Folk Festival fever in May
With more than thirty performances spread across the islands, the Orkney Folk Festival really has become a must-see event for music lovers. Sample the community spirit in the streets of host town Stromness with impromptu pub sessions and late night ceilidhs, or follow festival performers to concerts in the islands of Hoy, Shapinsay and Westray. Now entering its 34th year, the Orkney Folk Festival continues to go from strength to strength. It all takes place between the 26th and 29th of May with the programme published soon - find out more via the Festival website.
Poppy display comes to Orkney
As part of Orkney's role in hosting the national commemorations of the Battle of Jutland this May, the iconic 'Poppies: Weeping Window' display will be coming to the islands. Thousands of ceramic poppies will spill out of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall to the Kirk Green below between the 22nd of April and the 12th of June this year. The poppies are from the installation 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', originally presented at the Tower of London in 2014. The display by artist Paul Cummins is presented by 14-18 NOW to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland and is sure to be a poignant and emotive attraction in the centre of Kirkwall. Read more about the other events planned in Orkney for the commemorations this year.
Explore the history of St Magnus
Getting out and about in Orkney during the bright and blustery spring weather will certainly invigorate you! Why not take the opportunity to learn a little about our history and follow the story of St Magnus? The 16th of April is St Magnus Day here and you'll see Orkney flags flying across the islands to mark the occasion. See his final resting place in St Magnus Cathedral and take a tour of the building built in his memory. You can also visit the St Magnus Kirk in Egilsay, the island where Magnus was executed in the early 12th Century. Explore Orkney's Norse heritage at the Orkneyinga Saga Centre in Orphir too. And, if you're feeling fit, come back to Orkney in the summer for the first ever St Magnus Marathon!
Find out about wartime Orkney in Lyness
Orkney's wartime heritage will be showcased this year as part of the commemorations of the Battle of Jutland. If you're a wartime buff then don't miss one of Orkney's hidden gems at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum in Lyness. A former Royal Navy base, this excellent attraction has had a facelift in time for the Jutland events and is opening earlier this season too. It contains artefacts, exhibitions and much more about the impact of two World Wars on Orkney and its people. New this year is a display dedicated to the Battle of Jutland and the sinking of HMS Hampshire. Take the ferry to Hoy and explore the past at Lyness, then enjoy the rest of the island's attractions too.
Work up a thirst in Orkney
Orkney's larder is envied across the country. The islands have some of the very best producers providing beef, shellfish, lamb, chutneys, meat, bread, bannocks and much more. But did you know that Orkney also has two world famous distilleries and two award winning breweries? Highland Park and Scapa Distilleries are both based on the outskirts of Kirkwall and produce very different single malt whiskies. You can see behind the scenes at both with special tours and tastings available. Craft beer is as fashionable as ever and Orkney has been ahead of game for some time. The Orkney Brewery, which makes the iconic Dark Island and Skull Splitter ales, has an excellent visitor centre and cafe with regular tours. The nearby Swannay Brewery is a smaller operation but has enjoyed fantastic success in its short ten years of production. No tours are available at the moment but you can enjoy the Brewery's beers at locations throughout the islands.