A day inspired by the creativity of the people of Orkney
Ever since the first prehistoric settlers arrived here, Orcadians have used their creativity to make food, clothing, jewellery, art and music – all things that define a civilisation and give it identity and vitality. The appeal of Orkney lies as much in the creativity of its people as its natural environment and archaeological heritage. This one-day itinerary will introduce you to the wide variety of things made in Orkney; a delight for all the senses. It is a leisurely exploration, not a route-march, and we encourage you to follow your own interests and inspirations and talk to the talented and enthusiastic people you meet along the way. You’ll find Orkney’s landscape and culture reflected in everything we make.
- 1. Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall
Peat-smoky, distinctively delicious malt whisky has been distilled at Highland Park since 1798, though the inspiration for one of Orkney’s iconic premium products goes back to our Viking past and is reflected in the naming of the various expressions of Highland Park, such as Viking Honour and Viking Pride. The distillery offers a variety of tour options daily from April to October (weekdays only between November and March) to suit your interests and budget, with the opportunity to taste some of our island spirit. We recommend booking your tour option online in advance.
- 2. Sheila Fleet's Workshop, Kirk Gallery and Cafe, Tankerness
Your inspiring day continues at Sheila Fleet’s workshop Kirk Gallery and Café, Tankerness, a fine example of how Orkney’s talented community of jewellery-makers draws stimulus from their island home. Sheila Fleet OBE, is one of our highest profile designers, and the workshop is her creative hub. The recently-completed sensitive restoration and expansion of a former parish kirk beside the workshop in Tankerness provides a showcase for her work and a delicious taste of Orcadian hospitality in the café.
- 3 & 4. Kirkwall and Stromness, Orkney's Creative Towns
Leaving Tankerness en route for Kirkwall and then onwards to Stromness, you will want to spend some time exploring the arts and crafts, cafes and food shops that make our twin creative towns such a delight to amble through – enticement to left and right all along the narrow main streets. There are too many temptations for them all to be listed here, but in any case you’ll want to discover them for yourself, now or at other convenient moments during your visit to Orkney.
- 5. The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness
The Pier Arts Centre has an international reputation, attracting visitors and artists to enjoy the collection and take inspiration for their own work, whether resident in Orkney or drawn here to recharge their creativity. The Pier Arts Centre was established in 1979, to house one of the finest collections of 20th century art in the UK, including work by Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson in the permanent collection. There is a year-round programme of exhibitions and events. The Centre’s original building dates back to the 18th century and was occupied by an agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th century, connecting Orkney with North America. The complex of buildings now includes an award-winning new building on the waterfront.
- 6. The Orkney Brewery, Sandwick
Located in a former Victorian schoolhouse just a mile from Skara Brae, the Orkney Brewery provides tours (including children’s tours and activities), a gift shop and tasting hall café. The tours give a great insight into the craft of brewing and the history of the building. Adults and children particularly enjoy the schoolhouse artefacts and the opportunity to dress up! The brewery has a seasonal break until mid-March so please check opening times before visiting.
In order to make the best use of your time, we recommend viewing creative-orkney.com, downloading the Creative Orkney Trail 2020, viewing orkneyfoodanddrink.com and downloading the Peedie Orkney Foodies Guide. Use the in-room Insider Guide and Orkney.com to plan in detail what you want to see and do during your Made in Orkney day.
Other places to visit if you have more time
Opening times are sometimes restricted outside the main tourism season, so always check before visiting.
- The Workshop and Loft Gallery in St. Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, is a craft producers’ co-operative, showcasing the work of local craftspeople including high quality knitwear, ceramics, textiles and jewellery. The small Loft Gallery above the craft shop is a popular exhibition venue.
- Whilst in Kirkwall, you’ll come across a wonderful variety of shops, covering everything from food and drink to jewellery producers such as Aurora, Ola Gorie and Ortak who also stock a range of locally produced crafts. The Reel in Broad Street, hosts regular evening traditional music sessions, with the Orkney Accordion and Fiddle Club welcoming visiting players and listeners every Wednesday evening. See wrigleyandthereel for details and other events.
- Orkney’s two whisky distilleries have been joined by gin-making cousins in recent years, so whatever your preference there are opportunities to sample the spirit of Orkney. Scapa Distillery joins Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall in welcoming whiskylovers, while the Orkney Distillery does the same for gin aficionados at its new visitor centre in Kirkwall. Look out, too, for the Deerness Distillery and you can find The Orkney Gin Company’s artisan gins in various outlets. You’ll also discover Orkney rum and wine. If you enjoy craft beers, the Swannay Brewery’s range complements that of the Orkney Brewery.
- There are lots of options for eating out in Orkney, whether it is for coffee and home-made cake, fresh locally sourced pub meals or fine dining in comfortable surroundings. The Orkney larder is a delicious one, and a taste of Orkney will help make your visit to our islands memorable. You can also vote for your favourite meal during your stay, see the Orkney Food & Drinks Awards for more details.