Welcome to October in Orkney!

Autumn has arrived and we’ve enjoyed a beautiful, bright and sunny start to the month – perfect for getting out and about and exploring everything the islands have to offer.

Keep reading for a round-up of October’s events and activities. We also have a special focus on the parishes of Evie and Rendall in Orkney’s West Mainland.

What’s on in October

The main event on the Orkney calendar this month is the Orkney Storytelling Festival. The popular annual event sees storytellers from Orkney and further afield entertain audiences with traditional tales from the past.

The 2016 Orkney Storytelling Festival begins on the 27th of October

This year’s theme is Dreams and the busy programme includes talks, tours and children’s sessions. Events are set to be held across Orkney and there is plenty on offer for all ages. It gets underway on the 27th of October - find out more from the official Orkney Storytelling Festival website.

Food frenzy

Orkney’s larder is the focus of special ceremony in the middle of the month. The biennial Orkney Food and Drink Awards will be held in Stromness Academy on the 15th of October. There are 16 awards available for local producers, suppliers and retailers. Discover how you can attend via the Orkney Food and Drink website.

Fiddles and guitars to the fore

Well known local musicians the Wrigley Sisters will be hosting a Fiddle and Guitar Festival between the 24th and 28th of October. Expect some quality performances and workshops during the event! Find out more from the official website.

Archaeology in focus

Orkney will welcome the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) Conference this year. It’s a chance for delegates and members of the public to focus on rural issues and archaeology in Orkney. There will also be field trips, exhibitions and a film night during the event between the 21st and 23rd of October. Find out more and book your place via the official website.

The Brodgar peninsula, the heart archaeology in Neolithic Orkney - image by Jim Richardson

Spooky Saturday

The Kirkwall BID team are planning a Halloween 'Spooktacular' on Saturday 29th of October. There will be special events, deals and offers available throughout the town – as well as the grand fancy dress parade through the main street too. Keep in touch with the latest via the official website.

Orkney’s exhibitions

October is the month when many of Orkney’s summer exhibitions and displays come to a close. 'The Loss of HMS Hampshire and the Death of Lord Kitchener' ends at the Stromness Museum on Halloween.

‘On the North Russian Front’ at Skaill House also closes on the 31st of October.

In the isles you can still see ‘B-98 and U-70 Exhibition’ at the Sanday Heritage Centre, and ‘Vikings! – the story of Westray and Papa Westray between 800 AD and 1400 AD’ at the Westray Heritage Centre.

Inside the excellent Sanday Heritage Centre

Cinema schedules

Fans of the silver screen have a wide and varied programme to choose from this month. The Pickaquoy Centre will be showing plenty of popular releases, including The Magnificent Seven, Deepwater Horizon and Blair Witch – just to get you in the Halloween mood!

The West Side Cinema has a number of events this month with the Gable End Theatre in Hoy and the Screen in the Square in St Margaret’s Hope also opening their doors in October.

Get out and about

Guided tours are still available in Orkney for anyone keen to brave the changeable October weather. There are free guided walks at the Standing Stones of Stenness at 10am on Wednesdays and at the Ring of Brodgar at 1pm on Thursdays.

Rainbow at the Ring of Brodgar - image by Mark Ferguson

If the October weather isn’t kind then you can still tour the upper levels of St Magnus Cathedral on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2pm – contact 01856 874894 to book your place.

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

October area focus

Every month we pick a different area of Orkney and take a look at what there is to see and do. For October we head into the west mainland and focus on Evie and Rendall.

They are two of the smaller areas of the Orkney mainland, but these neighbours share some beautiful views and a rich collection of historical sites.

A view north from Evie - image by Colin Keldie

Beautiful Broch

There’s plenty for visitors to enjoy in the two parishes. One of Evie’s main attractions is the Iron-age Broch of Gurness. The sprawling site is thought to be more than two thousand years old and is a fascinating place to explore. It is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and the small visitor centre is open between April and September.

The broch is perched on the shoreline with lovely views towards the uninhabited island of Eynhallow and Rousay.

The Broch of Gurness in Evie - image by Iain Sarjeant

Beach and bird life

If beaches are your thing then make sure you stop at Aikerness en-route to the Broch of Gurness. Regarded as one of the best beaches in the West Mainland, you could get lucky and see seals and otters, as well as wading birds.

Birdlife is also the main attraction of the RSPB’s Birsay Moors Reserve. This autumn you can expect to see hen-harriers and other birds of prey. The area is a brilliant place for a hike too – head up the old peat cutter tracks for panoramic views of the mainland and north isles in a landscape almost out of place in Orkney.

There is also a hide at the top of Burgar Hill, a popular nesting area for Red-throated divers.

Sea stacks are Standard in Orkney!

Costa Head rises up at the north west tip of the Orkney mainland and features sheer cliffs and the sea-stack known as The Standard. Take a walking trip to the coast for spectacular views, but remember to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code as you’ll be heading over private land.

The Standard sea-stack in Orkney - image by Mark Ferguson

Get crafty

The Orkney Crafts Association is well represented in Evie. Head along to The Woolshed to see handmade felt and knitwear, with demonstrations and a wide range of products on sale. The Woolshed is part of the Orkney Craft Trail – find out more from the official website.

Rambling in Rendall

As you leave Evie you’ll enter the parish of Rendall. It’s a smaller part of the mainland but there are still things to see and do.

Take in the beautiful views of the north isles and Kirkwall from Gorseness, or visit the 17th Century doocot. The recently restored pigeon house can be found at the Hall of Rendall and is the only one of its kind in Orkney.

Ferry connections

Rendall also hosts an important ferry terminal for some of our island communities. The Eynhallow ferry sails from Tingwall and serves the islands of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre on a daily basis. All three are worth a visit - see our recent parish focus on the area.

Get comfy at Cottascarth

Our final recommendation for Rendall is the superb RSPB Cottascarth Reserve. The newly refurbished hide sits high in the hills with views over a wide expanse of moorland. It’s one of the best places in Orkney to see hen-harriers and the likes of curlews, kestrel, merlin and short-eared owls too.

The RSPB Cottascarth Reserve in Rendall

Find out more about Evie and Rendall from the Visit Orkney and Orkney.com websites.

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

Discover more…

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

Join us as we discover the world of Aurora Borealis hunting in Orkney, as the Northern Lights begin to light up the autumn sky across the islands.

Looking for inspiration this autumn? Find out about some of our Orkney recommendations this season.

The Orkney.com 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 October 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.