• Stromness, Orkney

Six things to do in Orkney this spring

Spring is a 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, activities and things to see and do, all set against our ever-changing landscape. As the days get longer and the skies brighten, there is always somewhere to explore across our islands.

Here are some of our favourite things to do during the spring months in Orkney.

Orkney’s rich history can be enjoyed all year round at places like Skara Brae and Maeshowe, but time your visit right in the spring and you can also experience some other fascinating locations. The Bishop's and Earl's Palaces in Kirkwall open their doors for the season in April, as does the excellent Hackness Martello Tower and Battery in South Walls.

Spring is also the perfect time to take a free guided tour at the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. Join the local rangers to walk around these incredible stone circles and find out more about their intriguing past.

If you’re in Orkney during April, you can take the opportunity to explore the history of our patron saint too. St Magnus Day is marked on 16 April and you can find out more about his story with a tour of St Magnus Cathedral, or a trip to Egilsay to see the kirk named in his honour. If the weather is kind, perhaps you could take a trek on the St Magnus Way walking route, or come back in the summer to tackle the St Magnus Marathon.

There are plenty of other incredible historical sites to visit in Orkney. Get off the beaten path at places like Kirbuster Museum, the Broch of Gurness, and the Covenanters Memorial.

These islands are full of talented makers, crafting everything from gin, whisky, rum and beer, to jewellery, ceramics, furniture and artwork.

You can visit many members of our creative community on two bespoke trails, aimed at giving you the chance to see behind the scenes and watch food, drink and crafts being made.

The Creative Orkney Trail includes more than 20 different stops across six islands. Featuring small studios and workshops alongside larger galleries and showrooms, the trail offers a unique opportunity to see makers at work. Watch Orcadian jewellery being handmade in front of you or look on as our furniture makers add a modern take to the traditional Orkney chair. You can speak to artists, weavers and potters about their inspirations, with plenty of opportunity to pick up a piece to take home too.

The Taste of Orkney Food & Drink Trail is smaller but no less interesting. It includes ten businesses – from whisky and gin distilleries to breweries and bakers - across the Orkney mainland where you can stop off for a tour, tasting, or just an opportunity to talk to our talented artisans.

The Orkney Folk Festival is held every year at the end of May and has become one of the most popular events of its kind found anywhere.

Attracting an incredible mix of international artists and homegrown talent, the festival features large concerts, smaller gigs in intimate venues, and impromptu pub sessions that last into the early hours of the morning. Host town Stromness is full of fun, as well as fiddles, accordions, and guitars, over the festival weekend.

Find out more via the official Orkney Folk Festival website.

Orkney’s natural world is really a year-round attraction, but spring brings some truly special sights.

You can see the beautiful sky dance of hen harriers over the coming months, as the birds of prey soar and plunge through the air to attract a mate. The RSPB hide at Cottascarth in Orkney’s west mainland is one of the best places to take in this wildlife highlight.

Our colourful puffin community begins arriving back on our cliffs in late April. The best place to see ‘tammie norries’ is the Castle o’Burrian in Westray – the perfect excuse to hop on a ferry.

The cliffs and coastline on the west coast of Orkney’s mainland become a cacophony of noise and activity during the spring too, with fulmars, guillemots, shags, razorbills and gulls settling down onto their nesting spots for the season. See these seabird cities at places like Marwick Head and at Noup Head in Westray. Elsewhere you can enjoy the sound of curlews, lapwings and skylarks. You could also spot great northern divers and long-tailed ducks or, further out to sea, perhaps orcas or passing porpoises.

As spring continues you can try and find the rare and tiny Scottish primrose, Primula scotica. Yesnaby and the RSPB reserve at North Hill in Papa Westray are the perfect places to catch a glimpse of this beautiful and delicate flower.

The Orkney Nature Festival in May brings it all together with its week-long programme. Take part in walks, talks, tours and more, experiencing everything wild Orkney has to offer.

Spring brings beautiful, bright days and longer evenings, providing the perfect excuse to get out and about and soak up our scenery.

If it’s beaches you’re after then trips to Sanday or Stronsay are a must, with miles of empty sand and clear, clean water rolling in. Islands like Rousay and Hoy bring more dramatic landscapes with moorlands, hills and valleys to explore, not to mention incredible archaeology in the former, and the iconic Old Man of Hoy in the latter.

Orkney’s mainland has plenty of places to uncover too, like Mull Head on the eastern coast, the cliff-top trails of South Ronaldsay, and the dramatic coastline of Yesnaby and Marwick Head overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Check out our walking guides to pick the perfect route across the islands this spring.

Don’t forget to explore Orkney’s wartime heritage alongside our Neolithic and Viking history. The newly refurbished Scapa Flow Museum at Lyness is the perfect place to start your journey.

It opened last year after a multi-million-pound renovation which includes a new extension packed full of fascinating objects, all helping to highlight Orkney’s role as the base of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet during two World Wars.

In total, more than 250 artefacts are on display, showcasing the story of Scapa Flow and some of the major events during World War One and World War Two, including the Battle of Jutland, the sinking of HMS Hampshire, and the loss of HMS Royal Oak.

Special interactive exhibits help bring it all to life, and a new café facility is available too. It’s well worth the short ferry journey to Hoy to see it all.

The spring months give you the chance to experience Orkney at your own pace. Check out our Inspiration page for more visit ideas and information, and explore accommodation options across the islands.

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