Welcome to Orkney in March!

The spring flowers are beginning to show and people across the islands are taking advantage of the longer days.

Keep reading for photos, features and articles all focused on Orkney - including what to do and some advice on where to go and what to see.

What's on in March

March is very much a month to get out and about. Why not take advantage of some local RSPB events over the coming weeks and get the chance to see some of Orkney as well as its wildlife highlights?

You can head to the Peedie Sea in the centre of Kirkwall on the 4th of March from 10.30am to join volunteers from the charity. You'll be able to see swans, ducks and much more (and you're not far from a warming cup of coffee either). Take a look at the Wildlife Focus on the Peedie Sea by Orkney.com for more information on what you can expect to see at the site.

The Peedie Sea is a great wildlife spot in the heart of Kirkwall

Head west for wildlife watching

The next RSPB event of the month will be held in Stromness, with a guided walk around Hamnavoe. The gentle stroll will give those taking part the chance to see ducks, waders and various other species sheltering in the bay. Anyone interested should meet at Stromness Primary School at 2pm on the 19th of March

Finally, head to The Loons hide in Birsay on the 26th of March and you might see hunting hen-harriers and short-eared owls. RSPB staff will be present from 2pm - and free hot chocolate will be on offer too! Call 01856 850 176 for more information on all the RSPB events this month.

Indoor activities

The Next of Kin exhibition has arrived at the Orkney Museum

Looking indoors and the Orkney Museum has a fascinating exhibition open over the next few months. It's the final stop on the National Museums Scotland ‘Next of Kin’ tour which takes a look at life in Scotland during the First World War. The focus locally is on two Orkney stories, including a gold ring lost by sailor Stanley Cubiss during the conflict and discovered by a diver in 2007. Also on display are autograph books, signed by men stationed in Orkney, and kept as treasured possessions by the Clouston family, who provided them with farm produce during the war. The exhibition is open until the 20th of May.

Head through to Stromness this month to see two new exhibitions at the Pier Arts Centre. ‘Innovators – Orkney’s Art Graduates 2015 & 2016’ looks at the work of the latest generation of Orkney artists to have graduated from art schools around the country. Meanwhile ‘Peedie Pier – Primary and Junior Secondary School Artwork’, showcases the work of the next generation of Orcadian artists. ‘Innovators’ is open until the 17th of April and ‘Peedie Pier ‘ on show until the 18th of March.

Work by artist Russell Gilmour will feature as part of the 'Innovators' exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre

Skaill House will host a performance with local singer Jo Philby on the 5th of March. Tickets cost £10 with free entry for under 18s - the venue has limited seating though so the advice is to phone 01856 841 501 to make sure you get your space.

Orkney Archaeology Society has an event on the 8th of March which takes a closer look at some of the finds uncovered during field walking surveys in Orkney’s World Heritage Site. Head along to the Stenness Hall at 7.30pm to see them all for yourself.

On the silver screen

If the weather isn't doing you any favours this month then take a trip to the Pickaquoy Cinema where there are some excellent showings planned. Films including ‘Lion’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ are ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ are all featured. The West Side Cinema has ‘The Fencer’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ in its schedule at the Stromness Town Hall this month. Find out more via the official Facebook page.

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

In a new feature we're going to be taking a closer look at some of Orkney's 'off the beaten track' highlights to encourage you, the visitor, to get out and about in our undiscovered landscape.

This month we're focusing on the Cuween Chambered Cairn, a 5,000 year old burial tomb just outside the village of Finstown. It's set in a stunning location, with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside and out onto the Bay of Firth.

The entrance to the chambered cairn at Cuween Hill in Orkney

Orkney is littered with cairns and tombs, all in a similar style and size, but each one has its own story to tell. At Cuween it's the fact that, when it was first excavated in 1901, dog skulls were found inside alongside human skulls. This could mean that the dog was a totem, or a special symbol, for those who built the structure - similar to the eagles at the Tomb of the Eagles in South Ronaldsay.

Now, part of the fun of discovering these kinds of sites in Orkney is the chance to feel like a real explorer, a bit of an Indiana Jones if you will! Although the main chamber inside Cuween is large enough to stand up in, you'll have to get on your hands and knees and crawl through a one metre high passage to get there. Remember to bring a torch and you'll be rewarded with some beautiful stonework inside.

The long, low entrance chamber at the Cuween Hill cairn

You'll also see four smaller chambers leading off the more spacious main one - very similar to Maeshowe. And, like its more famous cousin, Cuween is also thought to have been part of a signficant stone-age settlement. There is evidence of an ancient village below and the Wideford Hill cairn is visible to the east too.

The view from the top of the cairn towards the village of Finstown

Don't forget to enjoy the views from the cairn once you crawl out. You can see the small islands of the Holm of Grimbister and Damsay in the Bay of Firth, with the village of Finstown to the west. On a clear day you can see out to Orkney's north isles too. Further up the hill you'll find more recent structures - cairns built by visitors to Cuween Hill over the years.

Some of the new cairns at the top of Cuween Hill

Getting there couldn't be easier. Cuween Hill is off the Old Finstown Road, east of the village. It's well signposted from the road and there is a small car park at the bottom of the hill too. Follow the path up and be prepared for that short crawl through five thousand years of history!

Find out more via the Historic Environment Scotland website.

Discover more...

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

The town of Stromness is set to celebrate the 200th anniversary of becoming a 'Burgh of Barony', when it took control of its own affairs for the first time, this year. Named after the town's motto 'Per Mare', meaning 'By the Sea', there will be events and activities all year round. Find out more and view our short video via our new blog.

Have you ever dreamt of moving to Orkney on a permanent basis? Author Richard Clubley is in the middle of his own big move to the islands - keep up to date with his progress from his latest blog on Orkney.com.

Tickle your taste buds and read all about a new combination by two Orkney Food and Drink members. Jollys of Orkney and Orkney Distilling Ltd have joined forces to create Kirkjuvagr Gin & Orange Smoked Salmon. Read more and buy your own via the Orkney Food and Drink website.

Read the March Newsletter from our sister site Orkney.com for more on life in the islands this month, including a wildlife watch and images from our new featured photographer.

And finally...

We hope you found this March 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 claim a holiday to Orkney!