The summer is a special time in Orkney. The months are full of long days and nights, when the sun barely dips below the horizon and communities are full of life and activity. It’s a busy time in these islands, with festivals and events filling the calendar for local residents and visitors alike. Here are just five of our summer highlights in Orkney…

Set sail for the islands

The island of Westray could be a destination for you with Orkney Ferries this summer
The island of Westray could be a destination for you with Orkney Ferries this summer

With more than seventy islands across this archipelago, you might guess that we’re big fans of island hopping. The easiest way to see some of them is with Orkney Ferries and its regular routes to all our main island communities. Take advantage of the special Sunday Excursion timetable this summer and spend some time in the likes of Westray, North Ronaldsay, Stronsay and Eday. The sailings take you from isle to isle every Sunday until the end of August with a longer stop-off in a different destination each trip. Sit back, soak up the scenery, search for sealife en-route and then explore one of our beautiful islands in your own time. The perfect Sunday in Orkney!

It’s show time

Orkney’s green fields are full of cattle and sheep at the moment, all enjoying the sunshine and wide open spaces. But, come August, they’ll be carrying the hopes of farmers from across the islands. Orkney’s agricultural show season is the centrepiece of the Orcadian summer. Six shows in total make up the calendar, starting in Sanday on the 5th of August and culminating in the County Show in Kirkwall on the 13th. The shows have a special atmosphere of their own with the serious business of livestock judging sharing a stage with food, drink and funfairs. There really is nothing else like it so be prepared (bring sun-cream and wellies!) and sample the sights, sounds and smells of show season.

The County Show in Kirkwall always attracts the crowds
The County Show in Kirkwall always attracts the crowds

Can you dig it?

One of the main attractions of the Orkney summer is the chance to see thousands of years of history being uncovered right in front of you. Drier weather and longer days bring archaeologists back to the islands to continue excavations at some of our most fascinating sites. The world famous Ness of Brodgar will open again to the public between the 6th of July and the 24th of August with tours available seven days a week. Work at The Cairns in South Ronaldsay gets underway again on the 13th of June, with archaeologists on-site at the Links of Noltland from the 20th of June and at Swandro in Rousay during much of July. Find out what you can see and when, and visit the Orkney College UHI Archaeology Institute blog for more details.

The Ness of Brodgar excavation in Orkney sits in the heart of our World Heritage Site
The Ness of Brodgar excavation in Orkney sits in the heart of our World Heritage Site

Hit the beach

We might not be able to offer the tropical temperatures of the Mediterranean but Orkney’s beaches have a special attraction all of their own. Our clear, pristine blue waters roll into our bays full of clean, golden sand, providing a playground for children and the perfect place to spend a long Orcadian summers day. Sanday, Stronsay and Eday boast some of the best beaches in the north isles. Dingieshowe, the 3rd Churchill Barrier and Waulkmill are favourites on the mainland with Rackwick in Hoy still one of the most dramatic and beautiful locations in Orkney.

Blue water and golden sand in the Orkney island of Sanday
Blue water and golden sand in the Orkney island of Sanday

Woodland walks

Happy Valley in Orkney - a small haven of trees and flowers
Happy Valley in Orkney - a small haven of trees and flowers

Orkney’s reputation as a treeless landscape is perhaps slightly more fiction than fact – look closely and you’ll see there are some special locations ready to be explored. Binscarth in Finstown is the largest woodland in Orkney with tracks and trails winding through the trees. South Ronaldsay has the unique Olav’s Wood, full of burns, plants and an almost mystical pine forest. You can also head over to Hoy and walk through the UK’s most northerly ancient woodland at Berriedale, set against the spectacular island backdrop. There’s also the much loved Happy Valley in Stenness. It’s a small patch of woodland in the heart of the parish, complete with stone bridges, waterfalls, flowers, trees and a lovely old cottage at the heart of it all. It’s a great place for a walk and a picnic. Who says there are no trees in Orkney!

Find out more about Orkney by exploring our site and Orkney.com. You can search accommodation options with Visit Orkney too.

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