Welcome to Orkney in September!

The summer is slowly coming to an end, but that doesn't mean the islands are ready to go into hibernation just yet! In fact, September brings plenty of action across Orkney.

Keep reading for a rundown of our monthly events as well as a look at another hidden attraction feature.


What's on in September

Orkney's festival season continues with three special events in September. Getting things started with in style, the fourth Orkney Rock Festival will see Kirkwall's venues packed with music fans, all enjoying some of the best live rock music to be found in the north of Scotland. Local and visiting acts will be performing for free in the town's pubs between the 1st and 3rd of September, with an all day ticketed event in The Neuk at the Albert Hotel getting underway on the afternoon of Saturday 2nd too. It's open to all ages - tickets cost £15 and can be bought from Sinclair Office Supplies in Stromness and The Orcadian Bookshop in Kirkwall. Under 12s go free. You can also buy them online via the We Got Tickets website. Find out more via the Orkney Live Wire Facebook page.

The 4th annual Orkney Rock Festival gets underway on the 1st of September


A slightly more sedate, but no less interesting, festival begins later in the month. The Orkney International Science Festival starts on the 7th of September with its usual line-up of speakers, activities and events. The focus this year is on the sea and the programme includes a look at tidal energy, Orkney's relationshop with the water and even ancient Norse navigation. The popular Family Day returns on the 9th of September too. You can download the full programme via the official Orkney International Science Festival website.

The month's festivals end with the Orkney Blues Festival, which will be held in Stromness between the 15th and 17th of September. Local and visiting bands will be performing in the town's bars and venues, before the closing night at the Stromness Hotel. Visit the Orkney Blues Festival website for more details.

Elsewhere in Orkney, the UHI Archaeology Institute has a month long programme of activities as part of the wider Magnus 900 celebrations in Orkney this year. The 'Mapping Magnus' events this month give people the chance to try their hand at archaeological research, surveying, and excavations, all focusing on the subject of Orkney's Saint Magnus. There are activities scheduled throughout September, culminating in the excavations in Palace Village in Birsay between the 25th and the 6th of October. For more information on all the Mapping Magnus events visit the UHI Archaeology Institute website, e-mail studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or phone 01856 569229.

Get involved in archaeology in Orkney this autumn


There are plenty of other events and activities to keep you occupied across Orkney this month. The local Vintage Club will have a display and demonstration of machinery and vehicles on Broad Street on Saturday 9th of September. Head along for a chance to see some beautiful cars and tractors from yesteryear.

Guided tours of some of our most popular sites are stil available. See the Standing Stones of Stenness every day at Wednesdays at 10am, and the Ring of Brodgar on Thursdays at 1pm, accompanied by local experts. They’re free and there is no need to book. Tour the former Royal Navy base at Lyness in Hoy and explore Orkney's rich wartime history. Join the group at 11am every Wednesday until the end of October. Finally, take a trip up to the top of St Magnus Cathedral with an Upper Levels tour on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2pm – phone 01856 874894 to book your place.

You can get a bird's eye view of Kirkwall from an Upper Level tour of St Magnus Cathedral


We know the weather isn't always kind, so there are loads of things to do indoors this month if you're stuck. Enjoy some Orkney stories and refreshments at ‘Island Tales and Ales’ in the Stromness Hotel every Wednesday and Sunday at 8pm until the end of the month. Phone 01856 841 207 to book. You can see work from local and visiting artists in the Northlight Gallery and the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, and the Loft Gallery in St Margaret's Hope too. For movie fans, The Pickaquoy Centre and the West Side Cinema have plenty of options in September too.

The Loft Gallery and Workshop in St Margaret's Hope


Right at the end of the month you can see The Pigeon Detectives in concert at the Sound Archive, Orkney's newest venue. Tickets are available from Grooves on Laing Street in Kirkwall or via the Beyond Highlands website.

That’s just a taste of events in Orkney during September. 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 turn our attention to an ‘off the beaten track’ part of Orkney. For September we're off to the north isles and the island of Westray, where we find a unique building perfect for exploring.

Orkney's north isles are fascinating places, with a look, feel and attractions all of their own. Westray is no different. This fertile and friendly island is always worth a visit, and Noltland Castle is one of its most special sites.

Noltland Castle in Westray, Orkney


The imposing building is thought to be around 450 years old and is unlike any other structure in Orkney. It was used by its builder, Gilbert Balfour, as a comfortable home, but also as a stronghold to offer protection from a turbulent time in Scottish history, of which he had a central role. Balfour was a Master of Mary Queen of Scots household and was implicated in the murder of Cardinal Beaton in St Andrews, and in 1567 helped murder Lord Darnley, Mary’s second husband. He sought refuge in Westray following her arrest in 1567.

The castle is an imposing sight on the island landscape


The castle offered a real sense of security. Visitors nowadays can see seventy-one gun holes on its outer walls, and its position on a small rise above the village of Pierowall would have been perfect for spotting any potential attackers. Noltland was built with local sandstone on the traditional ‘Z’ plan layout and has 7ft thick walls. There is a large central block and two diagonally opposed square corner towers, along with a walled courtyard. At its tallest it stretches to four storeys and features a huge kitchen, an unfinished hall, storerooms and a grand staircase.

The unfinished building is a fascinating place to explore


There really is nothing else like it in Orkney. A visit to Noltland Castle offers the perfect opportunity to explore this beautiful island as well as centuries of Scottish and Orcadian history.

Noltland Castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland – find out more about visiting via the official website.

Find out more about Westray via our own dedicated page and the Orkney.com website.


Discover more...

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

New self-guided tours of the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral graveyard in the centre of Kirkwall are now available. Pick up a leaflet at the Cathedral to explore hundreds of years of history.

Author Richard Clubley has been documenting his permanent move to Orkney and has now moved into his new home - find out how island life is treating him.

Orkney butter from The Island Smokey is now on the menu in the world's highest restuarant, on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Read all about it via the Orkney Food and Drink website.

Local craftsman Leo Kerr and his company Kerr Carpentry is the subject of our new 'Business Focus' feature - watch our short film and read our blog to find out more about the business.

Read the September 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 September 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 selection of biscuits, handmade right here in Orkney.