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Orkney’s festivals – 4 reasons to visit in 2014

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With the warm spring weather of recent weeks ushering in swathes of colours throughout the countryside, there has never been a better time to start planning (or finalising) your 2014 Scottish adventures. If exploring an island paradise bursting with exciting events sounds like just the break you need, then a trip to Orkney’s beautiful islands is well worth considering this year.


Orkney’s white sandy beaches, rich heritage and delicious local delicacies bring visitors flocking to the islands year on year, but time your adventure carefully and you could also take part in one of the exciting festivals that are happening throughout 2014. To help with planning your visit we’ve put together a quick guide to some of Orkney’s biggest 2014 celebrations;

Orkney Nature Festival (10 – 18 May)

Famed for its beautiful landscapes and glittering coastlines, Orkney’s 70 islands and skerries are wildlife havens set against clear blue waters. Discover breeding waders in the wetlands, puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes nestling on the cliffs and orcas appearing out to sea, hunting for Orkney’s resident seals and porpoises.

The Orkney Nature Festival offers visitors the chance to discover more about all these fascinating creatures at a range of exciting events – many free and most led by expert guides. Take part in an invigorating boat tour of some of Orkney’s smaller islands, go on a marine adventure or join the Stromness biodiversity hunt.

The first day of this year’s festival is also set to be a special one. Working with the world-renowned Highland Park Distillery, festival organisers are giving visitors the chance to explore whisky’s ‘wild side’. The day will begin with a tour of the distillery before visitors are guided around close-by RSPB Hobbister nature reserve on a Victorian themed guided tour. You’ll learn more about the animals that live on the reserve as well as how the distillery works with conservationists to maintain the peat that flavours their famous malts.

Orkney Folk Festival (22 – 25 May)

Enjoy live music by some of the traditional music scene’s brightest stars at the Orkney Folk Festival. With its varied mix of often sold-out formal events and informal pub-based music sessions, it’s little wonder that the festival is famed for its wonderful atmosphere and loyal following. Locals and visitors return year on year to experience its fine combination of music and hospitality, and to take part in its exciting events, such as the opening and farewell concerts, festival clubs and country ceilidhs.

As well as local talent, this esteemed festival attracts a diverse range of visiting artists who travel from all over the country to perform in venues throughout Stromness and the islands. Acts you can book tickets to see include;

  • Orkney Folk; The Gathering – a bumper cast of 30 Orcadian musicians who have performed at prestigious events including Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival.
  • Pentlands Ceilidh Band – regulars on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Take the Floor’ who will make their debut appearance this year.
  • Mànran – a phenomenal six piece whose characteristic blend of Gaelic and English has resulted in sellout shows worldwide.

Tickets go on general release on Saturday 3 May.

St Magnus International Festival (20 – 26 June)

As one of Britain’s most highly regarded arts festivals, the St Magnus International Festival features fascinating cultural and art events alongside performances by musicians of world importance. Events are located throughout Kirkwall and fill Orkney’s vibrant capital with musicians, writers, painters, composers, choirs and orchestras.

Enjoy a special concert on the opening night and celebrate the historic connections between the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, and the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which is also the historic setting for this unique event. The concert will mark the official opening of an exhibition of works by the Norwegian painter Håkon Gullvåg, who will present his newly created St Magnus panel.

Other events on offer throughout the week include arts events – such as the knitting workshop run by Norwegian knitwear designers Arne and Carlos, mesmerising performances by esteemed musicians, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and fascinating cultural events, such as the expert-led talk on the history of the Italian Chapel and its talented creators.

Tickets can be bought online via the booking office, which opens on Tuesday 6 May.

Orkney International Science Festival (4 – 10 September)

Take a scientific look at Orkney’s history, nature and culture at the Orkney International Science Festival, which boasts a range of events throughout Kirkwall and Stromness. Although the 2014 programme is currently still to be announced, past events have included the archaeoastronomy at Brodgar and medical developments from the study of sea creatures.

Last year’s festival also featured a special family day – packed full of exciting activities to entertain the kids – as well as a particular focus on astrology which has included inspirational talks by astronomy experts. Several of last year’s events were also combined with delectable food and drink tastings, such as the fascinating talk on Washington Irving – the writer who rediscovered the heritage of Moorish Spain – which was complemented by a Moorish-themed afternoon tea.

Tickets will be available this spring, after the festival programme is released.

Find out places to stay in Orkney and start planning your trip today.


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