Five things to do in Orkney this autumn

September 20th 2016

Autumn is a great time to visit Orkney. The islands are quieter after a busy summer and the season brings beautiful light and all kinds of weather. Here are five of our favourite things to do and places to go in Orkney this autumn.


Beachcombing in Orkney

You’re never far from a beach in Orkney. Each island has its own special stretch of sand, and they’re perfect for exploring. You never know what you’ll find on our beaches. The Gulf Stream brings objects across the Atlantic Ocean – look carefully and you could find beautiful, water worn driftwood, fishing buoys and tags from the US and Canada, maybe even a message in a bottle. Beaches on the west coast of the islands are perfect spots, including Marwick, the Bay of Skaill and Warbeth. Beachcombing is also a fascinating way to get outside and taste Orkney’s sea air. Read Orkney.com's blog on beachcombing in Orkney for inspiration.

Awaken your senses on Orkney's coastline this autumn - image of Dingieshowe beach by Premysl Fojtu

Setting the storytelling scene

Storytelling is such an important part of Orkney’s heritage. From the ancient Orkneyinga Saga to the modern day work of authors including George Mackay Brown, stories and poems help tell the tale of life in the islands. This tradition is celebrated every year with the Orkney Storytelling Festival, a weekend of tall tales from around the world. The 2016 event will be held between the 27th and 30th of October at venues throughout the islands, featuring stories from Orkney, Brazil, Ireland and further afield. Head along and soak up the special atmosphere at this warm and welcoming festival - find out more from the official website.

The 2016 Orkney Storytelling Festival gets underway in October

Explore indoors

Sometimes stormy weather arrives in autumn so it’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan. In Kirkwall you can tour the upper levels of St Magnus Cathedral or visit the fascinating Orkney Museum. The Stromness Museum is a treasure trove of artefacts and there are heritage centres across many of our islands too, full of exhibits focused on island life. There is also the Orkney Craft Trail – the perfect combination of sightseeing and shopping. If all the autumn air has made you thirsty you can tour the Orkney Brewery or our famous whisky distilleries, Highland Park and Scapa. Rainy days certainly aren’t boring in Orkney!

Take a trip to the tower at St Magnus Cathedral this autumn!

Go on the hunt for the Merry Dancers

Autumn in Orkney is a great time to see the Northern Lights dance across the darkening sky. With a higher chance of milder weather and clearer skies than during the winter months, Orkney can experience some spectacular displays of Aurora Borealis. Our relatively flat landscape and low levels of light pollution make the islands the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Beaches, coastlines and our historical sites are all favourite locations for aurora watchers here, but you’re just as likely to see them from your garden too. Either way, wrap up warm, check your camera settings and look north for an awe-inspiring view. Read Orkney.com's blog about the Northern Lights in Orkney for more inspiration.

The northern lights over the Standing Stones of Stenness - image by John Wishart

Perfect for nature lovers

The autumn months bring plenty of wildlife watching opportunities in Orkney. The grey seal pupping season begins in late September with hundreds of seals to be found on shorelines across the islands. You can see them from vantage points in Sanday, Stronsay and South Ronaldsay, but remember not to get too close to the pups and their mothers. Migrating birds brighten up Orkney’s skies too – you can see redwings, bramblings and large flocks of waders. You could visit one of the RSPB’s 13 Orkney Reserves, from Westray and Papay in the north to Hoy in the south. The Scottish Wildlife Trust also manages the Hill of White Hamars Reserve in Hoy – expect to see grey seals and seabirds amongst the spectacular coastal scenery, including cliffs, caves and blowholes.

Purple sandpipers in Orkney - image by Raymond Besant

Explore our website and Orkney.com for more on the islands. You can also sign up to receive a monthly update on life in Orkney.

Autumn in Orkney – it’s more than you’d imagine.