Orkney and festivals are just meant for each other. They are an essential part of the cultural calendar, a celebration of the islands' culture and traditions, and a chance for local communities to let their hair down and put on a show. Each month sees something new from our year-round festivals programme. Here's what we've got lined up for you.
Nothing captures the vibrancy of Orkney's arts and music scene like the St Magnus International Festival. Held each year in June, it is the undisputed star-turn of the islands' culture calendar, attracting orchestras, musicians, theatre and dance companies and writers from around the world. For six days in summer, Orkney is the place to be as the Festival draws enthusiastic audiences to venues big and small across the islands. Such is its enduring appeal that in 2016 the Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Now in its 25th year, the International Science Festival is another firm favourite and an important highlight of the cultural year. It is a fabulous fun week for budding scientists of all ages. The Festival also brings keynote speakers from around the world to Orkney, including in 2015 none other than Nobel Prize winner Professor Peter Higgs.
Visit Orkney in August and you'll witness two long-standing traditions dating back to the 19th century celebrated by the children of South Ronaldsay. The Boys Ploughing Match at the Sands o' Wright is not taken lightly as local lads compete for top honours, while it's the girls' turn to put on a spectacular show at the Festival of the Horse. Contestants dress as Clydesdale horses in elaborate and highly decorated costumes, many of which have been handed down from generation to generation.
Throughout the year, festival fever shows no sign of slowing down! Music festivals celebrating jazz, folk and blues take place in April, May and September respectively. June sees Scotland's only wine festival, while Stromness Shopping Week in July provides a chance for visitors to indulge in some retail therapy! In August the people of Kirkwall are busy hosting the Sailing Regatta, the Vintage Car Rally Show and the Riding of the Marches.
Still in the eighth month, we can promise you the highlight of the agricultural year - the Orkney County Show. In Kirkwall and at agricultural shows across the islands, farmers compete for top honours and everyone gets together for what is traditionally a great day out.
October sees visitors and locals gather to enjoy the Orkney Storytelling Festival, a four-day programme of walks, talks, story sessions and workshops with renowned storytellers from Scotland and beyond. Everyone loves a good story!