Suspended between the Atlantic and the North Sea, just off the north-east tip of Scotland, the Orkney archipelago is famed for rolling green landscapes, spectacular sea cliffs, crashing seas, wide skies and huge horizons, as well as world class archaeological treasures and unrivalled wildlife.
With over 600 miles of stunning coastline, secluded bays and sandy beaches, offering peace and tranquillity, it’s little wonder Orkney is one of the finest places in Europe for bird watching. The RSPB manages over 8,000 hectares across Orkney, protecting the rich varied habitats and breeding grounds to species such as corncrake, red-throated divers, hen harriers and short-eared owls to vast seabird colonies home to fulmars, guillemots and puffin, some of the 350 species of bird recorded in Orkney. These species along with Orkney’s spectacular landscapes provide the inspiration behind Orkney Storehouse’s Natural Orkney Collection.
Wildlife is everywhere in Orkney, whales and dolphins are frequently sighted around the coastline, whilst grey and common seals bask around the sheltered bays. Wildflowers carpet the coast during spring and summer months such as: lilac pink sea thrift, coltsfoot, speedwell as well as primula scotica – a delicate primrose found only in Orkney.
Orkney’s 5,500 year-old Neolithic Heartland was granted World Heritage Site Status by UNESCO in 1999, which includes the incredibly well-preserved stone village of Skara Brae, the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, the vast stone circle at the Ring of Brodgar, as well as the Standing Stones of Stenness. More recent discoveries such as the Ness of Brodgar and Viking settlements at the Broch of Deerness keeps Orkney’s ancient past very much in the present.
More recently, the sheltered waters of Scapa Flow, was home to Britain’s main naval base during both world wars. In 1919, 74 warships of the German Fleet were scuttled in Scapa Flow, many ships were salvaged before World War II, however eight remain today and attract divers from all over the world. Orkney’s wartime legacy, detailing the sinking of HMS Hampshire, HMS Royal Oak along with many interesting artefacts are displayed at the visitor centre in Lyness, Hoy. A trip to Orkney isn’t complete without visiting the beautifully ornate Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, or the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
Orkney, plays host to many events and festivals during the year, such as the Orkney Folk Festival in May and St Magnus Festival a midsummer celebration of the Arts in June. The islands offer fantastic opportunities for outdoor activities such as trout fishing, sea angling, diving, cycling and coastal walks. With delicious local produce, stunning jewellery and crafts, Orkney will draw you back time and time again.
If you’re inspired to take a trip to Orkney see www.visitorkney.com.