Arts and culture in Orkney

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Whether it is the light, the landscape, the sea or thousands of years of history, there is something about Orkney that fires the creative spirit. Visit these magnificent islands to be inspired yourself.

The creative spirit of Orkney provides inspiration for many crafts, including jewellery, knitwear, furniture and pottery. There are many attractions you can visit to see beautiful pieces being created and shops where you can pick up a treasured item to take home.

Jewellery-making is very prominent in Orkney, the islands being home to the highest concentration of jewellers anywhere in Scotland. Many designers take commissions for one-off pieces of jewellery, so you can have an individual memento of your trip to Orkney, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion. One such jeweller is Sheila Fleet, who creates beautiful jewellery, often inspired by the landscape of the islands.

A variety of other crafts which are produced using the local environment and materials are available throughout the islands. The Woolshed’s high quality knitwear is made from local North Ronaldsay wool. In addition, the wide range of pottery created at Fursbeck Pottery includes experimenting with the Neolithic techniques which were once used on Orkney.

If you prefer paintings, visit Shorelines Gallery to see work by local artist Jane Glue, who is often inspired by the unique landscape and wildlife around her.

Or why not purchase a craft item with a special place in Orkney’s heritage? The high-backed Orkney chair, which once sheltered occupants in crofts, is now sought after in many homes. Orkney Handcrafted Furniture and Scapa Crafts produce these iconic chairs, keeping the old Orkney traditions alive.

Orkney contains a number of workshops, studios and galleries that welcome visitors, and a great way to see them is via the Orkney Craft Trail. Meeting the craftspeople, photographers and painters will give you a unique insight into the ideas behind their work. See paintings, jewellery, tapestries, furniture, pottery and more in Orkney's arts and culture attractions which include workshops, galleries and shops.

Another highly skilled craft is the Bride's Cog, a wooden drinking vessel with either two or three handles which is used for a warm, spicy and sweet alcoholic punch. The cog is usually carried around the dance floor by the bride and groom who offer a drink from it to all their guests. This Orkney wedding tradition is still honoured today and you can purchase your own cog - choose from different decorations and finishes and have your names and wedding dates put on the side. 

As well as picking up a product to take home, you can sign up to classes and workshops or watch the experts as they show off their talents and craft skills.

Orkney has also inspired many writers and there are several with literary connections to these islands. Renowned composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, now lives in Orkney and writes most of his music there. Davies has been working on music for more than five decades, in a broad range of styles, which always communicates with the listener directly and powerfully.

These craft items will serve as a reminder of the customs of Orkney and the wonderful experiences of a trip to the islands.

  • Some of the remaining monoliths of the Ring of Brodgar at dawn
    Some of the remaining monoliths of the Ring of Brodgar at dawn
  • Shot of Andrew Appleby making pottery at Fursbreck Pottery
    Andrew Appleby's Fursbreck Pottery, Harray
Northlight Studio on Graham Place, Victoria Street, Stromness, Mainland, Orkney

Literature

Explore the literary connections of the Orkney islands in the 20th century and appreciate the scenery that inspired many works.

Tapestry artist at work in the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery, South Ronaldsay

Attractions

Explore arts and culture attractions in Orkney and see for yourself the amazing finished products inspired by the islands.

Sheila Fleet Jewellery, Kirkwall

Shopping

Visit a variety of arts and craft shops in Orkney, a group of islands which have long been inspiring artists and craftspeople.

The Sheila Fleet Jewellery Workshop, Tankerness, Mainland, Orkney

Orkney Craft Trail

Find information on the Orkney Craft Trail, set up by the Orkney Crafts Association to showcase the beautiful local arts and crafts made in studios and workshops across the islands.