Orkney’s culture is as rich as its history, developed over thousands of years as our population changed and influences came and went.
Today, our cultural heritage is evident in our songs and stories. It’s celebrated in our music and at midsummer festivals. You can experience it in poems and prose from Orkney, and in the workshops of artists and makers across the islands.
The many aspects of island life are regularly showcased across our thriving cultural scene, with a busy calendar of concerts, exhibitions and community events.
Festivals have long been a central feature of Orcadian life, offering locals and visitors the chance to come together to celebrate the islands. Festival season traditionally kicks off in spring with the Orkney Folk Festival and continues until autumn, when you can pull up a chair at the Orkney Storytelling Festival. In-between there is everything from nature and arts, to science and sheep to keep you interested.
Music is central to life in Orkney, and you’ll never be far away from the sound of a fiddle or an accordion. Many Orcadian children grow up with instruments close at hand thanks to youth projects and talented tutors. Pubs and venues are often home to live music, with concerts and performances a regular occurrence. As well as folk music, you’ll find plenty of rock, jazz and blues, too.
Orkney also regularly welcomes popular acts from further afield, with musical guests over recent years including Mumford & Sons, The Proclaimers and King Creosote. Keep your eye on local listings and social media to hear about the latest planned performances. There are often visiting comedians too - the likes of Kevin Bridges, Jon Richardson and Al Murray have all taken to the stage here.
Orcadians have always been inspired by the light and the landscape, and the seas that surround us. These days, local artists continue to embrace the wild weather and stunning scenery of the islands. Home to such renowned talents as Stanley Cursiter and Sylvia Wishart, the next generation of artists regularly display their work in galleries across Orkney, with an ever-changing programme of exhibitions at places like the Pier Arts Centre.
Orkney has played a central role in Scottish literature over the years too, with George Mackay Brown, Edwin Muir and Robert Rendall, and nowadays Amy Liptrot, at the forefront of our talented wordsmiths. You’ll see their incredible work in various places around the islands.
Explore just some of what’s on offer through our tabs at the top of this page or take a look at our listings below to find out more about Orkney’s culture and events. You can also view our events calendar to see what’s coming up and plan your visit accordingly.