January 2017 Newsletter

January 1st 2017

Happy New Year and welcome to January in Orkney!

We hope you enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to getting 2017 underway in style.

Keep reading to find out what’s happening in Orkney this month. There’s a look at life in the island of Sanday too – the perfect way to get your summer holiday planning started.


What’s on in January

It might be a bit quieter than usual in Orkney during January, but there are always things to do across the islands.

The main event

In fact, one of the biggest local events of the year takes place right at the start. The New Years Day Ba’ will be held on the 2nd of January this year, with the boy’s game beginning at 10am ahead of the men’s version at 1pm. The Uppies and the Doonies will once again take to the streets of Kirkwall to battle their way to their goals at opposite ends of the town centre. It’s a unique and spectacular event so make sure you don’t miss it.

The Kirkwall Ba' game in Orkney is a unique event, held every Christmas and New Year - image by Premysl Fojtu


Find out more from our dedicated Ba’ page.

Island life on the BBC

There is another important event to put in your calendar on the 2nd of January, but this one is a bit more sedate! Orkney’s history, nature and landscape will be the focus of a special three-part BBC Two series this month. ‘Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney’ will begin on the 2nd at 9pm and looks at Orkney’s Neolithic past. Join presenters Neil Oliver, Chris Packham, Dr Shini Somara and Andy Torbet as they explore the islands.

The excavation at the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney will feature as part of the BBC Two series - image by Adam Stanford


At one with nature

Clear your head after the festivities and get outside for some fresh Orkney air. The local branch of the RSPB has two free activities on Sunday 8th January for all ages. There’s a Wild Scavenger Hunt in Binscarth Wood at 10am before a Winter Wildlife Walk at the Brodgar Nature Reserve at 2pm, where you’ll be able to spot some of the wintering wildfowl on the lochs. You’ll need some waterproof footwear for both events – for more information phone 01856 850 176.

The Ring of Brodgar in winter - image by Mark Ferguson


If the weather outside is frightful…

We know January can sometimes be a bit challenging weather-wise but don’t worry, there are still plenty of indoor activity options. If the conditions are miserable then get cheered up with the West Side Cinema’s Comedy Season. Head to the Stromness Town Hall every Saturday in January to see a comedy classic on the big screen. The doors open at 7.15pm so bring some refreshments and grab a seat for the show. You can vote for the films you’d like to see via this link and find out more from the official Facebook page.

If blockbusters are more your thing then the Pickaquoy Cinema has a great range of films on show during January. You can see ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, ‘Moana’ and much more. There are also live broadcasts of Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House performances too.

Looking ahead to summer

The Orkney Museum is hosting a lovely exhibition at the moment, focused on the Boy’s Ploughing Match, a unique event held in South Ronaldsay every summer. The exhibition also marks the Festival of the Horse, held at the same time. Head along to the Museum on Kirkwall’s Broad Street to see it before it closes on the 11th of February.

The Boy's Ploughing Match in Orkney


Remember to take a look at our special ‘Winter in Orkney’ blog for all the island inspiration you need this month too.

That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during January. 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.


January area focus

This month we’re heading north to the picturesque island of Sanday.

It’s a place littered with beautiful, white sandy beaches, turquoise water and shallow, gently sloping bays. It’s also full of life and activity, making it an ideal place to visit during a trip to Orkney.

One of Sanday's stunning beaches - image by Colin Keldie


Brilliant beaches

As the name suggests, Sanday has some of the best beaches to be found anywhere in the islands. Some of the highlights include Backaskaill, Tresness, Sty Wick and Whitemill, but you can also find your own favourites and, on most occasions, you could have them completely to yourself. You’ll find dunes, lochs and marshes to explore too – a real natural wonderland.

Wildlife delights

You can expect to see plenty of wildlife in Sanday too. Bird life is abundant, with waders a regular sight in the shallows. Otters are often spotted at Kettletoft and at the pier at Loth. The island also has one of the largest seal populations in the UK – hardly a trip to the shore goes by without seeing a seal pop up out to sea to keep a close eye on you!

A grey seal in Sanday, Orkney - image by Adam Hough


The island has its own Ranger service to help visitors explore the various wildlife attractions on offer. Every summer there is a packed calendar of events and activities, including guided walks and excursions. Find out more from the Sanday Ranger website.

History everywhere

History is also at the heart of Sanday’s attractions. The Quoyness Chambered Cairn is a fantastic example of a Neolithic structure, similar in style in Maeshowe in Orkney’s World Heritage Site. There are hundreds of other brochs and burial chambers scattered around the flat landscape of the island too. The burnt mound at Meur has recently been removed and reconstructed close to the Sanday Heritage Centre, a perfect chance to see it in more detail.

Inside the Quoyness Chambered Cairn in Sanday, Orkney - image by Colin Keldie


The Centre itself is full of interesting displays and exhibitions looking at island life over the years. Nearby is a beautifully renovated croft house, designed to give visitors a chance to experience life in Sanday in the past.

There are wartime relics in Sanday too with air raid stations and structures dotting the landscape. One of the most fascinating finds is on the beach at Lopness – at low tide you’ll see the remains of a German destroyer that came ashore as it was being towed to be scrapped during the First World War nearly 100 years ago. It’s certainly something different to see during a walk on the beach!

Other attractions

Start Point Lighthouse is one of the most popular attractions in Sanday. It sits on a tiny tidal island and its distinctive black and white stripes make it stand out in the low-lying landscape. It was built in 1870 and the Sanday Ranger arranges regular walks to it, including the chance to climb the stairs to the top.

The Orkney Craft Trail is a great way to see different parts of the islands, and Sanday has its own stop. Artist Bill McArthur has been drawing inspiration from the seas surrounding Sanday for the last forty years and displays a number of his seascape oil paintings in his studio. It’s well worth a visit – find out more via the Orkney Crafts Association website.

Some of Sanday artist Bill McArthur's work


If links golf is your thing then Sanday has a great nine-hole course to tick off your list. For just £10 you can tackle the wind, sand and rabbit burrows on the 2,600 yard course and see if you can break par!

Community spirit

The local community has also been coming together in recent years to host regular weekends of activities, aimed at bringing more people to the island. The Sanday Soulka events have been incredibly popular and have featured everything from walks and talks to fishing competitions, live music, dances and much more. It’s all set to get underway in 2017 again so why not time your visit to Sanday to take advantage of some real community spirit. Find out more from the Sanday Soulka website and Facebook page.

Another of Sanday's white sand beaches - image by Iain Sarjeant


Finally, if you’re short of time then the ‘Sanday Experience’ might be perfect for you. It’s a guided, day-long excursion of the island and a great opportunity to see the sights.

Getting to Sanday is easy with regular ferry and flight options – view timetables with Orkney Ferries and Loganair.

Find out more about Sanday via the official island website, with our own island page and Orkney.com.

Sanday boasts an excellent range of accommodation for visitors, from hotels and guest houses to bed and breakfast and self-catering options. Search for your dream destination via the Visit Orkney website.


Discover more

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

Remember to tune in to BBC Two on January 2nd at 9pm for the first episode of 'Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney'. The three-part series will run throughout January - find out more about the programme from our blog.

2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology - see our suggestions why Orkney is the best place to experience it all over the coming months.

If you're thinking of making a permanent move to Orkney then catch up with the experiences of author, Richard Clubley. He's in the midst of his own move to the islands. Read his latest blog as he prepares to take the final steps.

Take a look at the January newsletter from Orkney.com which contains a wildlife watch update and more images of Orkney from January's featured photographer.


And finally...

We hope you found this January 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.