Winter in Orkney

Winter is on the way here in Orkney but hibernation is not an option!

Winter is on the way here in Orkney but hibernation is not an option! Come and embrace our frosty mornings, our snow dusted hills, our wild coastline and warm and welcoming islands. If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve highlighted five of our favourite things to do in Orkney during the winter months…

Christmas is coming!

Get creative with your Christmas shopping this year and buy your loved ones something special from the islands. Orkney has a fantastic range of independent shops, talented arts and crafts makers and fantastic food and drink producers – it’s the perfect place to pick up a present with a difference! Our main shopping streets in Kirkwall and Stromness will be full of festive spirit in December with discounts, special events and traditional Christmas lights and decorations. Head to the islands to make sure your stockings are full this year!

Christmas in the heart of Kirkwall - image by Premysl Fojtu

Find out more

Explore what's happening in Stromness with the official town website. The Kirkwall BID website has details of all the festive events in the town. Find out about members of the Orkney Crafts Association and Orkney Food and Drink.

Let battle commence

There won’t be much Christmas spirit on display during the Kirkwall Ba’ games this year. Once again hundreds of men and boys, forming teams of Uppies and Doonies, will compete to try and force a beautiful, hand-crafted leather ball to their goals at opposite ends of Kirkwall. It’s a historic game and certainly one for spectators to enjoy – seeing the scrum form in-front of St Magnus Cathedral in the heart of the town is a spectacular sight! The games are on Boxing Day and the 2nd of January this season. There is a boy’s game at 10am with the men’s version starting at 1pm – both can last for hours so remember to wrap up warm...and don’t get too close to the action!

The dramatic Kirkwall Ba' game in full flow - image by Premysl Fojtu

See more images of the action via the Ollie's Ba Photos website.

Winter wildlife wonderland

Orkney is a wildlife watchers paradise all year round and the winter can bring some very special visitors. The islands are a hotspot for migrating and wintering birds – expect to see long-tailed ducks, great northern divers and Slavonian grebes, along with regular arrivals including curlews, golden plovers, sanderlings and turnstones. You don’t have to be an expert bird-watcher to catch a glimpse of them though. The Peedie Sea in Kirkwall is perfect for ducks and you can see many visitors from the pier at Scapa beach. Both locations are close enough to the town for a warming cup of coffee too!

A long-tailed duck at Scapa in Orkney - image by @orknithology

Find out more

Find out more about the work of the RSPB and its collection of reserves in Orkney. Join the Orkney Birding Group on Facebook for regular updates of winter visitors.

Start the New Year in style

If you overdo things over the festive period then a trip to the islands could be the perfect tonic. Imagine getting out and about on our spectacular coastline, our beautiful beaches or up into the Hoy hills to clear the senses. You could tackle one of our walking routes – head up the west coast from Stromness to Skara Brae, taking in sea-stacks and Neolithic settlements on the way, or travel to the island of Sanday to get vast stretches of white sandy beaches to yourself. Hoy is the place to go for hillwalking in Orkney – climb Ward Hill for a winter view of the islands or experience the solitude of Rackwick as a south-westerly wind rolls the waves onto the shore.

Yesnaby on Orkney's west coast - image by Premysl Fojtu

Find out more

Find out more about the islands of Sanday and Hoy via our dedicated pages. The Walk Highlands website has information on excellent walking routes in Orkney.

Indoors island inspiration

We know that the weather in Orkney can sometimes be less than perfect during the winter months, so what if we could offer you a road-trip route across the islands, complete with the chance to take shelter and see some of our most talented residents at work? The Orkney Craft Trail is the perfect way to experience the rolling landscape of the county, from the Churchill Barriers in the south to views over the north isles and the Brough of Birsay in the west. Follow the official map and see exquisite handmade jewellery, carefully crafted traditional furniture, local artists at work in their studios and lots more. Just remember to take a look out of the car window in-between stops!

Join Ingrid Grieve on the Orkney Craft Trail this winter

Find out more

View the Orkney Craft Trail and take a look at the Orkney Crafts Association website. Follow the Orkney Crafts Association on Facebook.

If you're inspired to visit Orkney this winter, search for accommodation via our dedicated listings and explore our website and for more information on the islands. You can also sign up to receive a monthly update on life in Orkney.

Winter in Orkney – it’s more than you’d imagine. Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to receive our newsletter and get the latest updates from our beautiful, vibrant islands.
Sign Up Now