Welcome to Orkney in March!

Despite the wintry weather at the moment we're told that spring is on the way! We'll try and brighten your mood this month with a look at what's happening across the islands in March.

You can keep up to date with our busy events calendar and another 'uncovered Orkney' location too.

What's on in March

Kicking March off with snow and wintry showers wasn't part of the plan, but our advice is to get outside and breathe in the fresh island air anyway! There are a few options available to the hardy amongst you in March.

The Ring of Brodgar, photographed this week in traditional Orkney spring weather...!

The local branch of the RSPB has its annual Winter Bird Race on the 4th. The event sees birdwatchers of all abilities take to the roads, fields and beaches of the islands to try and record as many different sightings as possible in one day. It's a fun way to see Orkney and enjoy our wildlife at the same time - find out more via the RSPB website. Take a trip to Sanday on the 8th too for more birdwatching activities. Join the local Ranger for a tour of the island to see what is about. Meet at 11am at the Heritage Centre. Follow the Sanday Ranger Facebook page for more details.

The spring months are a great time to visit Orkney. The majority of our main sites and attractions are open for business and you'll be able to take them in ahead of the busier summer season too. We've put together a guide to some of the tours you can take at the moment, including behind the scenes at St Magnus Cathedral, at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and at some of our wartime heritage sites. Find out more about all these tour options with our blog.

Tour St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney this spring

Back indoors and the Orkney Archaeology Society launches its excellent calendar of talks in March. First up is Andrea Brendl hosting a dicussion on Norse women in Scotland - that's at Orkney College on the 14th at 7pm. Meanwhile the Orkney Field Club has a talk on the landscape and natural heritage of Japan on the 23rd. That's at the St Magnus Centre on Palace Road in Kirkwall from 7.30pm.

March brings a number of varied and interesting exhibitions across Orkney. The Pier Arts Centre has a double header for visitors to enjoy. Members of Orkney's MOTI collective are hosting 'Drawing Routes' at the moment - that's open until the 10th and you can read all about this talented group with our special blog. The Centre also has ‘A Window into their Worlds’, a collection of drawings selected from the Pier’s own collection, curated by 3rd Year Fine Art Students at Orkney College. That's open until the 10th of March too.

The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness

In Kirkwall The Old Library has extended its 'Out of the Wood' exhibition, featuring fantastic wooden creations from 12 local makers, until the 21st of March. The Orkney Museum's current exhibition looks at some of the recent acquisitions it has received over the past few years. It's open until mid-April.

There are plenty of options for music fans this month. The Sound Archive at The Old Library has a packed programme, with performances by Ben Ottewell, Tide Lines and King Creosote and Hamish Hawk in March. Find out more via Facebook. In Stromness, Julie Felix will be performing in the Town Hall on the 25th from 7.30pm - tickets are available from Sinclair Office Supplies in Stromness.

Cinema-goers have lots of choices in March too. The Pickaquoy Centre has its usual mix of movies, including Downsizing and Early Man. View the full schedule via the Centre’s website. The West Side Cinema in Stromness has two showings planned - ‘The Party’ on the 10th and ‘Letters from Baghdad’ on the 24th. Find out more on Facebook.

And one bit of advance notice - the 32nd Hoy Half Marathon will be held on the 17th of June this year and entry is open now! This special event always attracts a lot of interest so if you're keen to tackle this challenging route make sure you get your name in quickly!

Tackle the Hoy Half Marathon in Orkney this summer!

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

Every month we take a look at an attraction in Orkney that doesn't always feature on the to-do lists of visitors to the islands. March sees us heading across the Churchill Barriers to South Ronaldsay.

As far as road trips go, the route over the Churchill Barriers in Orkney has to be up there with the best of them. Four concrete causeways, closing Scapa Flow off from the North Sea, complete with rusting blockships, beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas - it's a very special road indeed!

But it's also well worth getting out of the car to enjoy the linked islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay. There are loads of places to visit, and our featured attraction this month is a stunning stretch of coastline on the east coast of South Ronaldsay.

Windwick, South Ronaldsay - image by Fiona Annal

Windwick can be found by travelling south through the island. A long, thin strip of road will take you to a small car park. Beyond the stone wall you'll be greeted with an amazing vista and sweeping views out over the bay, which features a rocky shore, huge towering cliffs and small sea-stacks sticking up out of the sea.

The conditions at Windwick can change quickly. One minute you can be looking at seabirds soaring on the thermals, the next the wind can pick up and bring crashing waves into the cliffs. It really is a place of contrasts. It's also a fantastic location to spot wildlife. Aside from the aforemention seabirds, Windwick is a great place to see grey seal pups during the autumn pupping season. Stay above them and don't venture onto the beach though, you don't want to disturb them or their mothers.

Windwick can be a dramatic place in wild and windy weather

The South Ronaldsay coastal trail includes a stretch at Windwick too. Walk along the east coast, taking care not to venture too close to the edge, for beautiful views of the coastline, cliffs and sea-stacks.

The view back towards the shore from Hesta Head - image by James Wright

It's also a place with a tragic history. Two Royal Navy destroyers were wrecked on the rocks here in January 1918, with the loss of 188 men. A small memorial is built into the wall at the car park to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

The memorial to HMS Narborough and HMS Opal at Windwick

Windwick is like so many places in Orkney – beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife and plenty of history. It’s definitely somewhere you should experience for yourself.

Explore our ‘Uncovered Orkney’ map for more hints and tips on some of our favourite hidden attractions across the islands.

Discover more...

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

Fancy visiting your own desert island? You can now take a boat trip to the Holm of Papay, complete with its own 5,000-year-old chambered cairn! Find out more and watch our video in our new blog.

Meet the members of MOTI, Orkney's newest creative collective, with the latest blog on Orkney.com. Find out how this unique group of artists are working together to promote creativity and community in the islands.

The 2018 dig dates at the Ness of Brodgar excavation in Orkney have been announced - plan your visit now!

Read the March 2018 newsletter from Orkney.com for more on life in the islands this month.

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 from the islands.

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.