November 2016 Newsletter

October 31st 2016

Welcome to November in Orkney!

This is a month of change in Orkney – changing clocks, ever-changing light and a change in colour across the islands. You never know what November is going to throw at you!

That’s why it’s best to be prepared. Take a look at our monthly events preview for your Orkney inspiration. We also have a special focus on the parish of Firth and all its visitor attractions.

What’s on in November

November is here and, despite the unpredictable weather, there are plenty of reasons for getting out and enjoying everything Orkney has to offer this month.

Things kick off with a special talk hosted by the Orkney Archaeology Society. Dr Antonia Thomas will launch her new book ‘Art & Architecture in Neolithic Orkney’ on the evening of the 2nd of November at Orkney College. Head along to hear about some of the fascinating finds from Orkney over the years. It gets underway at 7.30pm.

A decorated stone uncovered at the Ness of Brodgar

Art collection

Artwork by a group of talented Orcadians will take centre stage in the Orkney Museum this month. The newly formed Moti Collective brings together former Orkney art students and showcases their work, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation art and moving images. Moti is a Norse word meaning ‘to meet’, so come and meet the collective on the 5th of November in the Museum at 11.15am for a tour and talks. The exhibition closes on the 26th of November.

The Moti Collective will be taking their inaugural bow in November

Fireworks and musical thrills

No-one will forget the 5th of November in a hurry this year with a packed calendar of events. You can visit Skaill House for its ‘spooky open day’ from 10.30am to enjoy children’s activities and tours of the supposedly haunted mansion. At night take in Kirkwall’s annual bonfire and fireworks display at the Peedie Sea before heading to the Masonic Hall for an explosive night of music. Local bands Bad Apple, Rocker and The Chair will be on stage for a special triple bill with doors opening at 8pm.

One of Orkney's most popular groups 'The Chair' will be in concert this November - image by Sean Purser

Playing for laughs

If you’re looking for laughs then head west to Stromness for the latest performance from renowned comedian Mark Steel. He’ll be bringing his ‘Who Do I Think I Am’ tour to Stromness Academy on the 5th. Tickets are available online.

Open doors at the library

The Orkney Library and Archive will become a radio studio on the 6th of November as BBC 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews presents her weekly show from the building. It’s part of the BBC’s ‘Love to Read’ weekend and the broadcast will feature plenty of Orcadian content, including music and storytelling. You can listen live on 6Music between 10am and 1pm on the day.

Christmas is coming

The Pier Arts Centre will spend much of the month preparing for its Christmas exhibition with local talent presenting their work in the Centre from the 19th of November. If you’re quick you can still see the current exhibitions though. ‘toandFRO’ by Neville Gabie and ‘Associations’, curated by the Pier Arts Centre’s study group, will close on the 5th at 5pm.

The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney - image by Alistair Peebles

The great outdoors

If the weather is kind this month and wartime history is your thing then book a tour of the unique Ness Battery in Stromness. See for yourself how the crews of the anti-aircraft site battled the elements overlooking Hoy Sound. You can also see the wooden mess huts of the camp, including the stunning mural painted by a former resident. Email or phone 07759 857 298 to arrange a tour.

You can also take advantage of free tours at Orkney’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local Ranger Service has tours of the Barnhouse Village and Standing Stones of Stenness on Wednesdays at 10am, and they also host a walk at the Ring of Brodgar on Thursdays at 1pm. More good news – they’re free!

Winter light at the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney - image by Mark Ferguson

If the weather just isn’t playing ball then stay inside with a tour of the upper levels of St Magnus Cathedral on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2pm. Booking is essential so phone 01856 874894 to reserve your space.

The silver screen

Films on show at the Pickaquoy Centre this month include ‘Trolls’, ‘Doctor Strange’, ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’. See the full schedule via the Pickaquoy Centre website.

In Stromness the West Side Cinema will be showing ‘The Measure of a Man’ at 7.45pm in the Stromness Town Hall on the 12th of November.

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

November area focus

Join us as we explore the central parish of Firth and one of Orkney’s largest settlements, the village of Finstown.

A view of the Bay of Firth and the village of Finstown - image by Paul Tomkins

Village life

The parish of Firth is very much focused on Finstown. It’s a picturesque place, surrounded by the beautiful Bay of Firth and rolling hills on its east, west and south sides. The village features a busy shop, a popular pub, small businesses and a garage. The Waterside Café has recently re-opened offering a delicious menu of local food too.

Much of the parishes activities are based in and around the village. The local Community Garden is a sprawling splash of colour in the centre, full of beautiful plants and flowers. It’s a real oasis and perfect for a picnic or as a place to just sit and relax.

Walkers paradise

The garden sits off the Heddle Hill – continue to the top for sweeping views over the village and the Bay of Firth, including the island of Damsay and the tiny Holm of Grimbister nearby.

The Ouse in Finstown, looking north to Rendall

If your legs are up to it then a short hike up Cuween Hill is a must if you’re in the area. You’ll be rewarded with one of Orkney’s finest archaeological sites, the Cuween Chambered Cairn. It's a mini-Maeshowe with a one metre high entrance passage. Once you exit the 5,000 year old structure make sure you enjoy the view over the Bay of Firth too.

There is also another hill walk in the parish. You can see the radio and TV masts on top of Keelylang for miles around, but there are also great views to the north and south to be had from the summit. Take the road past the Cruan Riding School and follow the track up.

Wonderful woodland

Orkney’s largest woodland sits on the other side of Finstown. The Binscarth woods are a haven for wildlife and perfect for exploring – a real unique treat in the islands. You can see wildflowers during the spring and wildlife all year round. It also forms part of a great walk that will take you through the woods and past the Wasdale Loch into the parish of Harray.

Inside Binscarth woods, a fascinating place to explore - image by Iain Sarjeant

From Binscarth to Buckles

Take a look at the hillside opposite Binscarth and you’ll see a strange structure stretch up to the sky. It’s the hand-built Buckles Tower, a stone cairn constructed in the late 1800s by a local herd-boy. It’s a unique and relatively unknown find in Orkney and a great place to visit. There is a small car park opposite the Heddle Hill Quarry, all you have to do is park there, walk down the hill around 200 metres and then take the first track you find on your left.

Buckles Tower outside Finstown

Community events

Firth is a thriving community with a busy events calendar, especially during the summer months. There’s the annual ‘Firth Brew’, a homebrew competition, and the Firth Community Gala, a yearly celebration of life in the parish with community activities and sports.

Find out more about Firth and the wider West Mainland area from the Visit Orkney and websites.

If you’d like to visit the area you can search for accommodation.

Discover more…

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

Orkney’s grey seal population is set to increase in the coming weeks as new pups are born on shorelines around the islands, and you can keep up to date from the comfort of your own computer. Read all about the recently re-launched Sanday Sealcam.

One of Orkney’s most popular tourist attractions could be set for a facelift. Find out what’s happening at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum.

Ever thought about making a permanent move to Orkney? Read author Richard Clubley’s latest blog on his plans to make the islands his home.

The project to restore the Kitchener Memorial on the spectacular Marwick Head has been awarded a special conservation award – our blog takes a look at the successful scheme.

The newsletter has more on life in Orkney this month, including the latest news, a focus on wildlife and beautiful images from the latest featured photographer.

And finally...

We hope you found this November update from Orkney useful. If you’ve been inspired to find out more about life in Orkney, explore our site and visit

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