The 2014 Festival

From delicate Scottish primroses to the vast magnificence of the West Mainland sea cliffs, the second Orkney Nature Festival again showed off wild Orkney at its very best.

Almost 1,000 participants shared in often unique opportunities to get close to nature thanks to incredibly generous support and expertise from volunteers, local interest groups, businesses and wildlife specialists and enthusiasts. Thank you all!

Thanks to support from Homecoming Scotland 2014, the festival was topped and tailed by events in partnership with Highland Park. We started with the unusual opportunity to explore RSPB Hobbister nature reserve, where the peat is cut for Highland Park whisky, through the eyes of a most charismastic Victorian naturalist!

A sunny day followed exploring Stromness uncovered over 200 species of plants and animals, from hairy bitter cress to grey seals.

During the week, the boat trips to Switha and around the coasts of Deerness and Holmwere very popular. Unfortunately weather again prevented a visit to Auskerry, but we’re determined to get there one day...

Scapa Scuba and Snorkel Orkney teamed up again to offer a ‘snorkelling safari’, bringing people close to the colourful, teeming, usually unseen world below the waters of the Churchill Barriers - we saw little cuttlefish, lumpsuckers, starfish, sea urchins and host of other creatures.

The communities of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre all enabled fantastic days on each island. Locals and visitors alike were fascinated to see the likes of Faraclett head, RSPB Onziebust nature reserve, The Taing and Cubbie Roo’s Castle, while the Craft Hub in Rousay hosted a great display of wildlife images from local photographers.

The Stronsay community gave the festival a very warm welcome. There were opportunities to explore the island for migrant birds and test your knowledge with a bird quiz, walks to the Vat of Kirbuster, a fascinating talk on the mysterious Stronsay monster and nature-themed arts and crafts on sale. We also made a special visit to see the wildlife of Papa Stronsay.

Orkney Field Club’s exploration of Yesnaby was a wonderful opportunity to benefit from the expertise of the club’s naturalists in truly spectacular scenery – they pointed out everything from passing Arctic skuas to the geology of this dramatic stretch of coast.

The festival culminated in a grand sea tour of the West Mainland coast from the deck of the MV Hamnavoe, courtesy of NorthLink.