Welcome to Orkney in April!

Spring has arrived in the islands with longer days and plenty of colour returning to the countryside.

Keep reading for a look at what's happening in Orkney this month, as well as plenty of photos and features aimed at inspiring you to pay us a visit.

What's on in April

We think spring is one of the best times to see Orkney. You'll experience all the elements as well as having some of our sites and attractions to yourself - what else could you ask for! There is also a burgeoning events calendar to enjoy and we've picked some of our favourites below.

Celebrate Orkney's saint

The main focus this month is on the launch of the Magnus 900 programme. Throughout the year there will be events and activities commemorating St Magnus, Orkney's patron saint who was martyred in 1117 on the island of Egilsay. Things will get underway there on the 15th of April with a special re-enactment of the events leading up to his martyrdom. Later that day a new artwork will be unveiled in the St Magnus Church in Birsay, ahead of a the new St Magnus Foy in the Birsay Hall.

The St Magnus Kirk in Egilsay - image by Max Fletcher

Easter Sunday will see the launch of the St Magnus Way, a 51 mile walking route following the path the body of St Magnus took 900 years ago. Easter Monday will see people invited to walk the the full first leg of the Way, from the Broch of Gurness to Birsay. There will also be a special visual arts, music and literature programme called ‘The Inspiration of Magnus’, to be held in the St Magnus Church.

It's a packed programme of events - find out more via the official Magnus 900 website.

Get crafty

Now, how would you like to see Orkney's beautiful landscape and islands, mixed in with a few stops at some of our most talented arts and crafts producers? That's exactly what the Orkney Craft Trail offers - and the 2017 version will be officially launched at the end of the month. Tour the islands and see the finest jewellery, furniture, artwork and knitwear produced in the workshops and homes of our talented residents. Find out more from the Orkney Crafts Association website.

Leila Thomson from the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery, part of the Orkney Craft Trail

Explore Orkney's history

Take a closer look at Orkney's wartime history with a guided walk around the former Royal Naval Base at Lyness. Tours from the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum being again on Tuesday 4th April at 11am. Follow the wartime trail to experience what the sprawling site would have been like more than seventy years ago. The tour costs £5 and booking is advisable – phone 01856 791 300 for more details.

Also on the 4th of April, regular Orkney.com contributor Richard Clubley will be signing copies of his new book, 'Orkney: A Special Place' in Stromness Books & Prints. Head along between 1pm and 3pm to meet Richard and browse the fantastic selection available at the bookshop too.

April also gives you the chance to enjoy some of our favourite Historic Environment Scotland sites too. From April the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces in Kirkwall, the Broch of Gurness in Evie and the Hackness Martello Tower and Battery in Hoy will all be open for the season once again.

The Hackness Martello Tower in Hoy - image by Steve Henderson

Anyone interested in picking up a bargain can take advantage of the Kirkwall BID Spring Fling on the 1st of April. Meanwhile, on the same day, Stromness will host a ‘Super Saturday Shopping Event’, celebrating more than 200 years of trade with Hudson’s Bay in Canada. It coincides with the launch of the summer exhibition at the Stromness Museum, ‘Per Mare: Stromness, 200 years as a Burgh of Barony’.

Perfect for gig-goers

There's plenty for music fans to enjoy in Orkney this month. Canadian singer/songwriter Devon Sproule will be performing in Kirkwall’s King Street Halls on the 5th of April, with support from local band Saltfishforty. Tickets cost £15 and are available from Grooves in Kirkwall or online. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Later in the month you can catch Shetland band ‘Rack & Ruin’ at the Royal Hotel in Stromness on the 8th and in the Auld Motorhoose in Kirkwall on the 9th. Then it's the turn of the Orkney Jazz Festival to take centre stage - see local and visiting acts in the Stromness Hotel between the 21st and 23rd of April. Rounding things off will be Irish musician Nathan Carter. The Pickaquoy Centre will host his latest Orkney concert - tickets can be bought from the Centre on 01856 879900.

The Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall will host plenty of events this April - image by Colin Keldie

The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness has ‘Endeavour – A Creative Collaboration’ on display at the moment, bringing together work by South African artist Neville Gabie, the Centre’s Piergroup and students from Orkney College UHI’s Art and Design Department. Catch it until the 17th of April. Meanwhile you can see ‘Sun and Snowdrops – Linocuts’, an exhibition by Kay Driver, at the Loft Gallery in St Margaret’s Hope until the 18th of April.

Catch one of the UK's most unique performers at Stromness Town Hall on Friday 14th. John Shuttleworth with be performing as part of his 'My Last Will and Tasty Mint' UK Tour at 7:30pm. Advance tickets are available from Kirkness and Gorie in Kirkwall & Stromness Books & Prints. Unreserved balcony tickets are available at the door.

The RSPB has a special event planned on the 15th. Head along to the Rendall Community Centre at 9.30am and head to the Birsay Moors reserve to see Orkney's hen harriers sky dancing. Book your place with Graham and Kathie Brown on 01856 841 390.

Spring into sporty action

Enjoy some sporting action this month with the annual Orkney Rugby Sevens tournament. The competition attracts teams from all over Scotland and there is very much a party atmosphere at the Pickaquoy playing fields. It gets underway on the 29th of April and continues into the wee small hours with a dance at the local rugby club. Festivities continue on the following Sunday with a hockey competition and another dance at night. With Bank Holiday Monday afterwards, it's a great weekend to let the hair down!

The 29th is a great day for sports fans, with the Pickaquoy Centre hosting a Caithness Pro Wrestling event. ‘Invasion’ sees some of Scotland’s top wrestlers take to the ring. Tickets can be bought from the Picky Centre or buy phoning 01856 879900. Find out more from the Caithness Pro Wrestling Facebook page.

Silver screen

There is plenty to keep cinema-goers happy this month. The Phoenix Cinema at the Pickaquoy Centre has a full schedule as well as live broadcasts from the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House. Find out what's on show with the Pickaquoy Centre website. The West Side Cinema in Stromness Town Hall has showings of ‘Paterson’ on the 8th and ‘Cameraperson’ on the 22nd. Visit the official Facebook page for more details.

Grab a seat at the Phoenix Cinema this spring

That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during April. There’s always lots more happening around the islands – keep up to date with the Visit Orkney 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.

Explore Uncovered Orkney

Our next 'off the beaten track' attraction is a beautiful and fascinating site in Orkney's West Mainland, showcasing the farming history of our islands.

The excellent Kirbuster Museum in Orkney

Most visitors will be well aware of Orkney's famous stone-age sites, like Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar, and plenty of work to highlight our Viking connections has been carried out in recent years too. But our more recent history perhaps isn't a story that is as well told. Aside from life in the islands during the two World Wars, it can be hard to get a grasp on what life here was like during the 19th and early 20th Century.

That's why a site like Kirbuster Museum is such an important place to include on your Orkney itinerary. The Birsay based site has been open for more than thirty years now and, like its sister attraction Corrigall Farm Museum, offers a glimpse into the life and times of Orcadians.

Inside the old 'firehoose' at Kirbuster in Orkney

The network of old stone buildings at Kirbuster includes the last un-restored traditional 'firehoose' in Northern Europe, with the main part of the old homestead built around a central hearth. The room includes a stone neuk bed, highlighting how ahead of their times the people of Skara Brae were. When the peat fire is lit the smoke and smell in the small room really bring you back in time, with shafts of light shining through the small windows helping to create a special atmosphere.

You can see old household implements, including a kettle, tools, bottles, crockery and traditional Orcadian furniture. The buildings were occupied as late as the 1960s by two families, so there is a real connection with the recent past.

Some of the old household equipment at the Museum

Elsewhere on the site you can find old outbuidings full of farming equipment, which really shows visitors how hard a job it was to work the land successfully a hundred years ago, especially compared to the machinery led farming practices of today. There is also an Edwardian parlour and Victorian gardens to enjoy, with plenty of fascinating artefacts.

Kirbuster Farm is a great example of a hidden attraction and provides the perfect reason to get off the main roads and away from the most popular sites - come and visit during spring to enjoy the beautiful flowers too.

Spring has sprung at the Kirbuster Museum in Orkney!

The Museum is run by Orkney Islands Council and is free – find out more about visiting via the OIC website.

Discover more...

Want to find out more about Orkney? Take a look at the following articles and features for extra island inspiration.

We've picked five of our favourite things to do in Orkney during the spring months - take a look at our special blog and watch our video for plenty of ideas on things to see and do.

Local pottery and ceramics artists, Elaine Henderson, was recently commissioned to design and make the awards for the first ever Scottish Awards for New Music event recently. Read all about her trip to Glasgow for the big event.

Orkney recently welcomed its newest food and drink producer. The Orkney Roastery is a micro coffee roastery in Kirkwall, producing high quality coffees from around the world. Find out more about their plans for the future.

Read the April newsletter from Orkney.com for more features, photos and articles all focused on life here in the islands.

And finally...

We hope you found this April update from Orkney useful. If you’ve been inspired to find out more about life in Orkney, explore our site and visit Orkney.com.

You can also sign up to our Orkney mailing list to keep up to date with the latest news and get the chance to win a special prize - this month you could win some delicious flavoured butter from Orkney!