Welcome to Orkney in July!

Summer is a perfect time to visit the islands with so much to see and do during our long, bright days.

Keep reading for a round-up of just some of the events planned as well as the chance to find out about our latest hidden Orkney attraction.

What's on in July

July is a busy month in the islands with events and activities galore - plenty to keep you occupied!

The summer weather means our special archaeological excavation sites can be uncovered once again. The main focus will be on the magnificent Ness of Brodgar, right in the heart of Neolithic Orkney. Archaeologists are on-site now, and free tours begin on the 5th of July. There's a special open day on the 16th of July with fun for all the family too. We can't recommend a trip to this site enough - find out more via our special blog and visit the official website to find out how you can see it.

The Ness of Brodgar dig is now open for the 2017 summer season - image by Hugo Anderson-Whymark

The Ness of Brodgar isn't the only archaeological project in Orkney though - explore what else is happening with Visit Orkney’s interactive map.

Stromness celebrations

July is one of the most important months in the calendar for the town of Stromness. This beautiful and bustling settlement comes alive with its annual Shopping Week on the 16th. The annual gala week includes parades, performances, live music, art activities, sporting events and much more. The highlight is always the creative and hilarious fancy dress float parade through the town on Saturday 22nd, followed by a spectacular fireworks display.

It's set to be a busy summer in the town of Stromness

The fun doesn't end there though. Stromness will mark 200 years of being a burgh during the following week. A wide range of events will get underway on the 24th of July to celebrate the town, its people and its history. Find out more via our events calendar.

Playing it for laughs

One of the UK's most popular comedians will be making an appearance in Orkney this month. Phill Jupitus, star of shows including Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI, will be travelling to Kirkwall on the 21st of July for a performance in the Orkney Theatre. It's sure to be a night full of laughs so make sure you book your seat early - tickets are available online.

Sheep, shipwrecks and island spirit

North Ronaldsay lies at the northern tip of our archipelago but it is very much at the heart of Orkney's events calendar this month. The island will welcome the return of the second North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival from the 31st. It's a chance to celebrate the island's famous seaweed-eating sheep, but those travelling for the residential holiday will also be able to make a real difference to the community. You can help rebuild and maintain the listed Sheep Dyke that encircles the entire island - a vital tool in maintaining the iconic sheep flock. It's not all hard work though, with the island also hosting dances, live music, exhibitions and tours of some of North Ronaldsay's unique attractions, including the iconic lighthouse. You can find out more from the official website.

The seaweed-eating sheep of North Ronaldsay take centre stage later this month

Take a tour in Orkney this summer

The summer months are ideal for getting out and about in Orkney. Why not take advantage of local knowledge at some of our sites? Our guides will make sure you won't miss a thing. There are free walks at the Ring of Brodgar every day at 1pm, as well as at the Standing Stones of Stenness and Barnhouse village on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm.

Tour the Ring of Brodgar with our Ranger Service this summer

You can also visit Maeshowe, a spectacular Neolithic chambered cairn. Find out more via our special page.

Live music

Orkney is a musical place and taking in a concert is a great way of tapping into our culture, as well as tapping your toes! The Reel on Broad Street in Kirkwall has music nights every Saturday from 8pm, and there are special Orcadian Summer Concerts too. Catch local performers in action on Tuesday 11th and 25th at 8pm.

Explore island heritage

Orkney's islands have plenty of attractions, and if you're island hopping during a summer shower then make sure you pop into one of the many local heritage centres. Westray, Eday, Papa Westray, Sanday and Stronsay all have excellent exhibitions and displays to highlight the history of each community.

Visit our islands for history, heritage and beautiful scenery

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

Every month we concentrate on a different attraction in Orkney to highlight some of the more 'off the beaten track' locations. For July we head north to the island of Papa Westray.

The view from South Wick in Papa Westray - iamge by Ross Jamieson

Orkney islands each have their own special attractions, from beaches and viewpoints to stunning coastline, wildlife and heritage. Even the smaller islands have gems all of their own to entice visitors for more than a day. Papa Westray definitely falls into that category.

Known simply as 'Papay' locally, the island has a vibrant community and no shortage of things to see and do. At the top of the list is the Neolithic farmstead of the Knap of Howar - the oldest standing stone buildings in north-west Europe. They date back to around 3800BC, and you can step inside the buildings to experience life as a farmer in Orkney nearly six thousand years ago.

The Neolithic farmstead of the Knap of Howar in Papa Westray

The small buildings have walls that reach a height of only 1.5 metres. The largest structure is only around ten metres long with a width of five metres and there is an eery similarity to the more well known houses at Skara Brae. Similar to that site, the Knap of Howar was covered by sand before excavations began in the 1930s.

The archaeologists of the day found hearths and fire pits, built-in cupboards, benches and similar innovations that had also been discovered at Skara Brae. Experts believe the settlement was in use for around five hundred years.

The Knap of Howar sits nestled by the sea in Papay

The Knap of Howar sits in a wider archaeological context too. Close-by is the chambered cairn on the Holm of Papay, with the huge excavation at the Links of Noltland in Westray only a matter of miles away too.

It’s a fascinating site to visit, in a beautiful island. Just two reasons to hop on a ferry or plane for an island hopping adventure in Orkney.
Find out more about Papa Westray via the Orkney.com website. Visit the Historic Environment Scotland website for more information on visiting the Knap of Howar.

In-built cupboards and shelves were found at the settlement

You can also visit the Knap of Howar on a Papay Peedie Tour, a day-long guided tour of the island. They run between the beginning of May until the end of August, with private tours available between April and September. Phone 07931 235 213 or email papayranger@gmail.com for more information.

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 summer months - take a look and let us know if you agree!

Author Richard Clubley is preparing for his move to a new life in Orkney - keep up to date with his progress in his latest blog on Orkney.com.

You might have read about the Ness of Brodgar above, so take a look at this special documentary on the site, made by two US film students last year.

Local jewellery designer Zoe Davidson has put together a new collection, marking 150 years of the RNLI in her home town of Stromness - find out more about the Saltaire collection and see some of the pieces via the Orkney Crafts Association website.

Read the July 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 July 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 a beautiful ring from one of Orkney's talented jewellery makers.