• Kirbuster Farm Museum, Orkney

November 2018 Newsletter

Hello and welcome to the November newsletter from Orkney.com.

We’ve had some wild and wonderful weather across the islands over recent weeks as autumn continues here at 59-degrees north. There is a busy month ahead in Orkney so keep reading for our events preview, the latest news and much more.

Remember you can always get extra island inspiration on our social media channels too.

November's headlines

Get away from it all in Orkney

Dingeshowe beach, Orkney - image by Premysl Fojtu

If you’re looking for short break with a difference this autumn then Orkney could be the perfect place for you. We have quiet beaches, wild coastline and incredible islands, as well as incredible historical sites and wildlife highlights too. To help you plan your trip, our ‘See you at the weekend’ promotion features a fantastic range of seasonal offers, including accommodation and touring deals, as well as inspiring itinerary ideas and films to help you make the most of your stay.

Celebration of the finest food and drink

Winners of the 2018 Orkney Food and Drink Awards - image by Tom O'Brien

Orkney’s larder was showcased in style last month at the biennial Orkney Food and Drink Awards. This year 31 local businesses were shortlisted for the twelve categories after more than 8000 nominations were received from members of the public. A gala event saw local businesses including The Foveran Restaurant with Rooms, The Brig Larder the Birsay Bay Tearoom come away with wins. Highland Park Distillery was also given a special Outstanding Performance award on the night. See the full list of winners on the Orkney Food and Drink website.

Energy of Orkney takes centre stage

Orbital Marine's SR2000 device - image courtesy Orbital Marine

It’s not just Orkney’s food and drink producers that have been celebrating recently. Orkney’s reputation for energy innovated has been highlighted once again on the shortlist for the 2018 Scottish Green Energy Awards. Four Orkney-based projects and companies are in the running for recognition at the annual ceremony, which will be held in Edinburgh in December. Local firms Leask Marine and Orbital Marine Power, and projects involving Microsoft and Community Energy Scotland are all nominated.

Armistice Day commemorations for Orkney

Scapa beach in Orkney

Orkney will be one of thirty locations to be part of a nationwide act of remembrance on Armistice Day later this month. Scapa beach will host the ‘Pages of the Sea’ project on November 11th, which will see large-scale portraits of WWI casualties drawn in the sand of beaches in communities across the UK and Ireland. Orkney played a vital role in both WWI and WWII, with the great natural harbour of Scapa Flow serving as the home of the Royal Navy during both conflicts. Orkney will also host a number of other events to mark the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

Join us on Instagram

Follow Visit Orkney on Instagram to see some beautiful images of the islands. We publish shots from around Orkney every week and you can join in too. Tag your own images so we can share your Orkney journey on social media. Use #VisitOrkney and #LoveOrkney to keep in touch.

November in Orkney

With autumn in full swing and winter just around the corner, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Orkney events calendar slows down in November. Well, think again!


Orkney is still the place to be for festival fun. November sees the Film Focus Festival get underway across the islands, featuring a packed programme of events. There will be showings in cinemas, town halls and community centres through Orkney, as well as a visit from the Screen Machine too. There will also be exhibitions, talks and readings, all aimed at celebrating the silver screen. It runs until the 24th of November. Find out more from the official website.

Mark Jenkins, organiser of the 2018 Orkney Film Focus Festival


The second festival of the month sees the return of the ØY Festival - Papa Westray's three-day celebration of islands. The theme this year is ‘Space Station ØY’ and those taking part will explore the theory of islanders as pioneers of far and distant planets. The programme sees performance art, music, talks and walks, and it will all be held between the 16th and 18th of November. Visit the website to see the full programme.

Armistice Day on the 11th will see events held throughout Orkney to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Scapa will host Orkney's involvement in the nationwide 'Pages of the Sea' project, with volunteers tasked with creating a large-scale sand portrait of an Orcadian soldier killed during WW1 on the beach. Find out more via the Visit Orkney website.

Thanks to a cancellation because of the weather, you can enjoy a delayed bonfire night with spectacular fireworks at the Peedie Sea in Kirkwall on the 10th of November. It all gets underway at 7pm, and there will be music from the Kirkwall City Pipe Band too.

Kirkwall's annual bonfire and fireworks display


It's always handy to have some indoor activities planned, just incase the November weather is particularly nasty. Shetland author Mallachy Tallack will discuss his new book, 'The Valley at the Centre of the World’, at the Stromness Library from 7.30pm on the 6th. Then on the 9th, Orcadian wildlife cameraman, Raymond Besant, will host a talk on what it takes to make wildlife documentaries. Catch up with him in the Stromness Town Hall from 7.15pm.

A very special event later in the month will focus on Orkney’s wartime heritage. The Scapa Flow Naval History Conference will focus on the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919 and the impact it had on Orkney and further afield. There will be a range of speakers across the two-day programme, which will be held in Kirkwall Grammar School on the 23rd and 24th of November. Find out more from the official website.

The German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow - image courtesy of the Orkney Library and Archive


The Sound Archive at the Old Library has a couple of great gigs this month. See a Taylor Swift and Katy Perry Tribute on the 17th and Siobhan Miller on the 24th. Find the Old Library on Facebook for ticket information.

Remember, there are always excellent options available if you'd like a guided tour in the islands this November. Join the Rangers at the Standing Stones of Stenness every Wednesday at 10am, and at the Ring of Brodgar every Thursday at 1pm. There are also tours of the upper levels of St Magnus Cathedral on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am and 2pm – phone 01856 874 894 to book.

Exhibition-wise, you can see ‘Curious Beasts & Other Stories’ by Gillian Nash in the Loft Gallery in St Margaret’s Hope until the 9th. The Pier Arts Centre has ‘Voice and Vision; the Poetry and Art of W.S. Graham’ and Barbara Rae: The Northwest Passage until the 10th. The Northlight Gallery has ‘The Days Never Seem the Same’ by Gunnie Mobery & Margaret Tait between the 3rd and 17th.

That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during November. There’s always lots more happening around the islands – keep up to date with our events page, pick up a copy of local newspaper ‘The Orcadian’ every Thursday or tune into BBC Radio Orkney every weekday morning from 0730 on 93.7FM or on Facebook.

Orkney wildlife watch

Autumn is an exciting time to watch Orkney’s wildlife in action, from sea to sky. Find out what you can experience this November.

The main focus is definitely on the miles and miles of shoreline around the islands in November. The early part of the month is the peak of the grey seal pupping season, so remember to take a walk to some of their ‘rookeries’ – Windwick and Burwick in South Ronaldsay are great spots – to see our newly arrived pups. These locations offer clifftop vantage points, so they’re perfect for watching from afar. Remember not to disturb the pups or their mothers, and always keep a safe distance.

Seals in Orkney - image by Raymond Besant


The Sanday Ranger’s sealcam is back this year too, so if you want to watch the action from the warmth of your house, just log-in to the official website!

You can also spot plenty of wildlife in more urban areas of the islands too. The Peedie Sea in Kirkwall is a fantastic place to go birdwatching, and you’re always within reach of a café for a warming cup of coffee too! November can bring long-tailed ducks to the Peedie Sea, as well as a wide selection of waders and gulls. It can be a busy place!

Kirkwall's Peedie Sea is a perfect place for birdwatching


If we’re lucky, we might also see a welcome invasion of some very special birds. Waxwings generally pass through Orkney at the beginning of November and can be found in gardens foraging for food. These beautiful birds usually breed in northern forests before heading south for the winter, and sometimes there is an ‘irruption’, when poor rowan berry crops in Europe can send thousands of waxwings this way. They’re so distinctive, you can’t miss them!

Waxwing - image by Derren Fox


November also bring the chance to see other migrant birds, including wheatears, wagtails, finches and warblers. And, with the dark nights arriving earlier now the clocks have gone back, keep your eyes trained on the moors in Birsay and at Cottascarth in Rendall to see hen harriers roosting. These birds of prey create quite the spectacle as they glide earthwards in the autumn light.

Featured photographer

This month’s featured photographer is James Grieve, who turns his lens to people, places and the beautiful Orkney scenery.

My interest in photography came out of the blue. I suddenly realised that I had a gap of photographic memories between my childhood and adulthood. I was a teenager during the birth of camera phones, so I missed out on that opportunity to gather images of people and places that are no longer here. In my early twenties this realisation really began to affect me, so I decided that from that point on I would take more photographs, and I soon became very addicted!

View of Scapa Flow - image by James Grieve


When I was younger, my mum would always make sure that a disposable camera was packed away in my bag when I was going on holiday or on a school trip. It was always a bit of an event when we would take the roll to get developed in Kirkwall. Since then, I’ve had various compact, bridge and DSLR cameras. I currently use two Nikon D750s with an array of different lenses, and I always have a Sony RX100 IV in my pocket for sudden bursts of creativity.

Stormy seas in Kirkwall - image by James Grieve


I love photographing weddings and people, but I also like to get out and about with my camera. I particularly like old houses and remnants of the past. Orkney is a very interesting place to take photos to say the least. From a landscape perspective, it can be incredibly difficult. Orkney is relatively low and open, so trying to get the balance between foreground and background is tricky and challenging. However, head to the coast and it’s hard to take a bad photo!

The Orkney weather also makes photography unique and keeps me on my toes, especially if you get combination of great light and strong winds. The light changes so quickly and you have to be quick to capture it. I try to go to places that are not stereotypical ‘photo spots’ so I can keep things fresh. Any stretch of coastline is great, especially in the south and west sides of the mainland. The islands are very unique and all have hidden treasures too.

Stromness, Orkney - image by James Grieve


I’d definitely recommend Orkney as a place to come and take photos. Bring a long lens and take the time to look at what is around you, as often the best things are closer than you think!

You can see more of James’ work on Instagram, Facebook, via his official website and in our gallery below.

Explore uncovered Orkney

Get off the traditional tourist trail in Orkney and find some of our hidden attractions. We pick an alternative location every month that is well worth a visit. For November we delve into the fascinating world of wartime Orkney.

Rerwick Head in Orkney's east mainland is a beautiful place. It has a stunning coastline, full of geos and sea stacks, and fabulous views across to the island of Shapinsay. It's also known for one of the finest examples of a military gun battery to be found in Orkney, showcasing the wartime heritage of these islands.

Some of the remaining bunkers and buildings at Rerwick


Rerwick was an important part of Orkney's defences. Along with other batteries in Shapinsay, the men stationed here were responsible for protecting the eastern approaches to Kirkwall bay. They lived and worked at the site, which was made up of barracks buildings and the imposing gun batteries themselves, along with ammunition stores and other associated structures.

Part of the gun battery at Rerwick


A number of the buildings still stand today. You can enter old gun emplacements, which still have compass markings on the ground, and see the view the gunners themselves would have seen. There are searchlight buildings closer to the shore, and there is even an old underground bunker you can walk through that leads to a main battery.

It's a fascinating place to explore


Rerwick really is an incredible place to visit, a trip back in time to the age of 'Fortress Orkney', when thousands of men and women played a vital role in the war effort across the islands.

Explore our other Uncovered Orkney locations with our special map.

And finally...

We hope you found this November update from Orkney useful. If you’ve been inspired to find out more about life in Orkney then explore the rest of our website.

You can also sign up to our Orkney mailing list to keep up to date with the latest news from the islands.

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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