2017 programme

Bookings will open on Thursday 20 April at 11 am - see the bookings tab for instructions.

If you need a paper copy, or know someone without internet access who does, please ring the RSPB Scotland office on 01856 850176.

 

In brief...

Monday 15 May

West Westray walk with RSPB Scotland

Poetry and pilgrimage: exploring the St Magnus Way with the George Mackay Brown Fellowship and Orkney Pilgrimage

 

Tuesday 16 May

Snorkelling safari with Scapa Scuba

Songwriting workshop with Jenny Sturgeon (supported by Starling Recording Studio, Quoyloo, Orkney)

Into the Gloup organised by the RSPB Local Group - full

 

Wednesday 17 May

Try a dive TODAY! with Scapa Scuba

Red-throated diver watch with RSPB Scotland

 

Thursday 18 May

Creative workshop on the Warebeth shoreline with Fiona Sanderson and Katherine Diaper

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group - full

Get your skates on! with Orkney Field Club and Orkney Skate Trust

Family nature activities with Wild about Scotland

 

Friday 19 May

Shapinsay by bike with RSPB Scotland

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group - full

Health walk with NHS Orkney

Family John Rae explorer trail with the John Rae Society

 

Saturday 20 May

Sanday wildlife day - life at the edge of the sea! with the Sanday Ranger

Birdsong of Onziebust with RSPB Scotland

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group - one place left

Children’s creative writing workshop with the Wirdsmit Young Writers Group

Into the Gloup organised by the RSPB Local Group - one place left

 

Sunday 21 May

Nature Festival service at St Magnus Cathedral

Per Mare Nature Festival cruise with NorthLink Ferries

Family West Shore walk with the Pier Arts Centre and Anne Bevan

Open day, afternoon of talks and launch of the Orkney Cloud Photography Competition at Stromness Museum

 

 

Monday 15 May

West Westray walk with RSPB Scotland

When: 11.05 am - 5.55 pm (excluding travel to Westray)

Where: Westray

Tickets: free apart from approximately £8 for minibus transport on the day, booking required

Links: rspb.org.uk/noupcliffs, westraypapawestray.co.uk/westray

This 12 km cliff-top hike from Kirbest to Noup Head offers spectacular scenery and wildlife-watching.

The cliffs are home to thousands of breeding seabirds, culminating in the clamorous gannetry at RSPB Scotland Noup Cliffs nature reserve. The whole route offers superb coastal views with a chance of spotting whales out to sea. Skuas and terns nest inland, wildflowers will be starting to flower along the way and Noup Head lighthouse stands at the furthest tip of the headland.

What more could you want – except late afternoon fish and chips at the Pierowall Hotel?

This is a remote walk over a variety of coastal terrain, covering roughly 12 km over about four hours for those who wish to reach Noup Head lighthouse. It is possible to stop short of that point, where the minibus will pick us up, at about 8 km.

You’ll find details of ferries at www.orkneyferries.co.uk. For those travelling to Westray, we have timed the event to fit with the 9.40-11.05 am Kirkwall-Rapness sailing, returning Rapness-Kirkwall 5.55-7.20 pm.

 

Poetry and pilgrimage: exploring the St Magnus Way with the George Mackay Brown Fellowship and Orkney Pilgrimage

When: 10 am - 3 pm

Where: Birsay

Tickets: free, booking required

Links: gmbfellowship.org.uk, www.stmagnusway.com

Explore themes of landscape, pilgrimage and time through walking and writing in this gentle workshop, led by writer Yvonne Gray of the George Mackay Brown Fellowship and David McNeish, Chair of Orkney Pilgrimage.

The newly established St Magnus Way will guide our feet and thoughts as we visit various locations in and around Birsay village. This long-distance walking route is being opened in sections during 2017, the 900th anniversary of St Magnus’ martyrdom. It traces the route of St Magnus’ body as it was taken from Egilsay to Birsay for burial, and then – some twenty years later – of his bones as they were carried to Kirkwall for interment in the cathedral built in his honour.

Here in Birsay, centre of ecclesiastical power at the time, the surrounding landscape is rich in natural heritage: seals watch from the bay, Arctic terns nest nearby and the rocks of the shore expose fossils that predate such human happenings.

Taking inspiration from these layers of place, Yvonne will lead us in creating a renga, a collaborative form of poetry that is itself 1,000 year old. Participants’ verses come together to form a group piece following the cycle of seasons.

For those who wish, there will be the opportunity to read and record the resulting poem in situ at the end of the day, capturing the background noises of the landscape, for incorporation into the bluetooth interpretation points of the St Magnus Way.

Those of all interests most welcome – there is no need to consider yourself a writer, walker or of any religious connection. Walking during the day will be at a gentle pace and distances and terrains covered will be entirely adapted to the wishes of the group. The amount of time spent outdoors and indoors will be adapted to the weather and again the wishes of the group.

You are also welcome to drop in and out of the process as desired - you may wish to bring a picnic and flask or plan to take a break in the middle of the day to visit the nearby Birsay Bay Tearoom. There are public toilets available in the village.

 

Tuesday 16 May

Snorkelling safari with Scapa Scuba

When: 10 am - 1 pm, 12-3 pm, 2-5 pm (three sessions available)

Where: Churchill Barrier No. 3, east side - or, weather permitting, at another sheltered location

Tickets: £40, booking required

Website: www.scapascuba.co.uk

With a plethora of flora and fauna there is no denying how beautiful the underwater world is.  Explore the magical landscape just below the surface – kelp gardens, brightly coloured sea creatures and a historical wreck creating an artificial reef which attracts a wide variety of marine wildlife.

Snorkelling is a relaxing and mesmerising experience. Floating gently on the surface, you will be amazed at the wealth of sea life around you in these shallow waters, including crabs, anemones, starfish, sea urchins and many fish including wrasse, pollack and cod. Nearby lies one of the famous Blockship wrecks - the Reginald, sunk as a Blockship in 1915 – which also acts as a haven for sea life and birds.

These sessions, at a special Nature Festival rate, include an introduction to snorkelling and the creatures living around the Barriers. All equipment will be provided, including dry suits to keep you warm and dry.

No previous snorkelling experience is required. You can take the session at your own pace with close support from PADI Instructors and Divemasters. There is no need to be a strong swimmer as the Churchill Barriers are very sheltered, although you do need to be comfortable around the water. It should be possible to spend up to 1.5 hours in the water, although you are welcome to come out sooner.

Suitable for ages 10+. All children must be accompanied (though accompanying adults can stay on the beach). Parking is at a roadside lay-by. There is a grassy bank down to the stony beach, which can be slippery with seaweed.

 

Songwriting workshop with Jenny Sturgeon

Supported by Starling Recording Studio, Quoyloo, Orkney

When: 10 am - 3 pm

Where: Mull Head, Deerness

Tickets: £35, booking required

Links: www.jennysturgeonmusic.com

With three highly lauded albums, Jenny is considered amongst the best of today’s song crafters. As a former bird ecologist, her knowledge and passion for nature seeps effortlessly into her work. 

This workshop is a unique opportunity to discover or develop your songwriting skills surrounded by the wildlife and dramatic coastal geology of Mull Head Local Nature Reserve. Seabirds nest precariously along the sandstone cliffs, waves crashing below, while skuas cruise overhead and curlews and skylarks sing from the fields.

Jenny will help you develop your writing through learning about lyrics, meter, melody and arrangement, in a manner accessible to all - you don’t need to have written a song before or play an instrument. The day will provide everyone with tools for exploring songwriting, including new approaches and ideas inspired by the natural world.

Need encouragement? Here’s some feedback from previous workshop attendees: “We ended up coming away from the workshop with a newly written song! I found the whole experience to be insightful, well explained, within a supportive and creative environment and ultimately a highly useful course to attend.” 

“Jenny created a relaxed atmosphere in which I felt free to let loose some creativity! Her exercises were well thought-out and productive. By the end of the morning I had written two songs! Jenny has a great presence as a teacher and is great at bringing together people from different writing backgrounds.” 

And reviews of Jenny’s work:

"Scot Jenny Sturgeon is as close to an organic folksinger/songwriter as you can get. She absorbs the culture, essence, stories and legends of her native region and manufactures them into inspired songs and tunes which reflect much of the natural world around her." Folk All

"Jenny Sturgeon is a singer-songwriter who brings together the old and new with a rare skill... From The Skein is one of the best debut albums you'll ever hear... I repeat - this is a knockout debut" R2 Magazine

Walking during the day will be at a gentle pace and distances and terrains covered will be entirely adapted to the wishes of the group. The workshop will involve sections together learning as a group and time to write individually. Weather permitting, we will be outdoors for much of the day but to avoid disturbing others or wildlife we will make use of the vehicles available between us when working individually on melody/rhythm - a car is a great mobile studio. 

We will break during the middle of the day for lunch, so recommend bringing a picnic and flask. Toilets are available at the Mull Head Local Nature Reserve visitor centre. If you do play an instrument, please bring it along, though Jenny will have tools available for introducing rhythm and melody to lyrics.

 

Into the Gloup organised by the RSPB Local Group

When: 2-4 pm (return time approximate)

Where: Skaill, Deerness

Tickets: £15, booking required

Venture into the Deerness Gloup by small boat, the best way to experience this magnificent sea cave with an opening in the roof.

The trip promises a range of wildlife to spot - nesting seabirds clamour from the cliffs all along this stretch of coast and on way back we’ll pass a common seal colony. 

Suitable for those aged 7 and over. Seating on board is uncovered, and boarding involves a slight step up/down between the boat and the pier with the boatman on hand to assist. Please note this event is particularly weather dependent.

 

Wednesday 17 May

Try a dive TODAY! with Scapa Scuba

When: introduction at 10 am, first and second group diving from 11.30 am, third and fourth group diving from 2 pm (optional trip to Burray Fossil & Heritage Centre in between – see below)

Where: Churchill Barrier No. 3, weather permitting, or another sheltered location

Tickets: £75 per person, booking required

Links: www.scapascuba.co.uk

Enter an incredible underwater world that you will, quite simply, never forget.

To breathe and move effortlessly underwater for the first time is a feeling unlike anything else. Wildlife is all around as you fin gently through this undiscovered landscape. Starfish and crabs stalk the seabed with sponges and sea urchins living amongst the wreckage of the three nearby Blockship wrecks - the Empire Seaman, the Martis and the Gartshore. Glance up and you may find a school of fish dancing overhead.

The underwater wildlife is one of the quiet wonders of Orkney’s waters. Diving gives you the opportunity to get down below the surface of the water and see for yourself how on a seabed comprising mainly of silt and sand, the wrecks have become rich artificial reefs. Each wreck is now a thriving ecosystem – ocean bottom animals such as starfish and urchins cover the wrecks and jellyfish, wrasse, pollock and ling can also be seen.

This whole experience, at a special Nature Festival rate, is simply about having fun, swimming underwater and blowing bubbles around Orkney's unique underwater attractions.

Scapa Scuba is one of the few places in the UK that can offer the opportunity to try your first dive in the sea. An opportunity not to be missed!

No previous diving experience is required. You will dive under the one-to-one support of a PADI Instructor at all times, giving you total comfort and safety. The session will be taken at your pace. There’s no need to be a strong swimmer although you do need to be comfortable around the water. You will also need to be reasonably fit and healthy and complete a medical questionnaire that confirms your medical fitness for diving - we will discuss this with you at the booking stage.

Suitable for ages 10+. All children must be accompanied (though accompanying adults can stay on the beach). Parking is at a roadside lay-by. There is a grassy bank down to the stony beach which can be slippery with seaweed.

‚ÄčThere will be a group briefing at 10 am, with individuals scheduled to dive from 11.30 am or 2 pm. In between we would highly recommend a trip to the Burray Fossil & Heritage Centre (www.orkneyfossilcentre.co.uk) and can offer with a lift if needed. The Centre has a cafe and fantastic geology and fossil galleries, including fossils of ancient sea creatures not unlike some of those still seen underwater today (entry to galleries £4.50, concessions and children under 16 £3.50).

 

Red-throated diver watch with RSPB Scotland

When: 2-5 pm

Where: RSPB Scotland Birsay Moors nature reserve, West Mainland

Tickets: free, no need to book

Links: rspb.org.uk/birsaymoors

The hide on top of Burgar Hill overlooks a secluded lochan where red-throated divers nest - drop in and with luck you catch these elusive birds at home. 

There are few more stirring sights in Orkney in spring than the wailing, yodelling, crashing and splashing of courting red-throated divers, with each bird flawlessly matching the other’s moves. We'll have tea and coffee on hand as well as footage from recent red-throated diver webcams, which captured some fantastic close-up views of this behaviour.

Burgar Hill offers a great view over Eynhallow Sound towards Rousay, and you'll also want to admire the hide itself, decorated with fantastic red-throated diver artwork by pupils of Evie Community School.

There is parking right outside the hide, including one accessible space, and the hide is suitable for wheelchairs.

 

Thursday 18 May

Creative workshop using found objects, pigments, textures and forms from the Warebeth shoreline with Fiona Sanderson and Katherine Diaper

When: 10 am – 2 pm

Where: Warebeth, near Stromness

Tickets: free, booking required

Links:  www.fionasanderson.com, www.katherinediaper.com

Join artists Fiona and Katherine for a morning's exploration of the creative possibilities to be found along the shore, involving making and mark-making of all kinds.

You don't have to be an artist to come along. A liking for beachcombing will be useful. Please bring a camera, pens if you have them, boots if you want to rockpool, a flask, food and plenty of warm clothing. You may also like to bring tools or beach finds you want to use, and a bag or box for taking things home. (Please note the updated location for this event.)

 

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group

When: 11.30 am - 1 pm (return time approximate)

Where: Skaill, Deerness

Tickets: £10, booking required

This small boat trip to see Black Holm and Corn Holm, tiny islets off Copinsay, offers brilliant wildlife-watching from the water.

Spot seals and seabirds all around, keep an eye out for puffins on the water and enjoy the bracing sea air!

Seating on board is uncovered, and boarding involves a slight step up/down between the boat and the pier with the boatman on hand to assist. Open to those aged 7 and over. Please note this event is particularly dependent on suitable weather conditions.

 

Get your skates on! with Orkney Field Club and Orkney Skate Trust

When: 2-4.30 pm (flexible finish time)

Where: Quoyloo and Skaill, West Mainland 

Tickets: free, donations to cover hall hire welcome, booking required

Links: www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/fieldclub, www.orkneyskatetrust.org.uk

A chance to learn more about skate egg cases - those odd-looking, tendrilled pods that wash up on the beach, sometimes known as ‘mermaids’ purses’. These intriguing cases can come from a range of species, with Orkney waters even home to the largest known skate in the world.

We’ll start with an introduction and identification session at Quoyloo Old School Hall, then head out to Skaill beach for an open-ended field session.

All ages welcome. Skaill is a sloping beach, with boulders on the upper part of the shore giving way to sand. We won’t be covering a set distance - participants can choose how far to roam as we hunt for cases.

 

Family nature activities with Wild about Scotland

When: 3-6 pm

Where: Kirkwall, exact location to be confirmed

Tickets: free, no need to book

Links: www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland

Come along to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s mobile classroom – a double-decker bus! – to take part in some fun activities on board, suitable for all ages. You can guess which skull belongs to which animal, look at mini-beasts under microscopes and even build a beaver dam, while learning about native conservation projects and how to protect wildlife.

The Wild about Scotland team are also visiting Orkney schools all week. They run a unique outreach programme, travelling the length and breadth of Scotland to connect people with the country’s biodiversity. Since the programme launched in August 2014 the team has visited over 400 primary schools and, including members of the public, over 40,000 people have been on board the bus to find out about Scottish nature.

 

Friday 19 May

Shapinsay by bike with RSPB Scotland

When: 10.10 am-3.15 pm (excluding travel to Shapinsay)

Where: Shapinsay

Tickets: free, booking required

Links: rspb.org.uk/milldam

Shapinsay has many brilliant spots to visit and explore, and doing so by bike will give you an appetite for lunch and perhaps coffee and cake afterwards in the Smithy cafe.

We’ll adapt our route to make the most of the weather (including wind direction!) and wildlife on the day. Possible stops include Mill Dam nature reserve, a wetland home to many breeding ducks and waders, as well as Vasa Loch, the Ouse and Lairo Water and Mor Stane. There may be a good opportunity to leave the bikes and stretch our legs along the coast as well.

We’ll return in time for the 3.15 pm ferry, but for those who’d like to stay a little longer there is another sailing at 4.45 pm, leaving you time to explore Balfour village further and perhaps visit the Heritage Centre with its displays of photographs, documents and artefacts relating to the island’s history.

Over the course of the day we will cover up to about 16 km by bike at a gentle pace, with many stops to enjoy wildlife spots and the possibility of a walk of up to about 2 km. All ages welcome as long as participants are comfortable cycling on roads.

You’ll find details of ferries at www.orkneyferries.co.uk. For those travelling to Shapinsay, we have timed the event to fit with the 9.45-10.10 am Kirkwall-Shapinsay sailing, returning Shapinsay-Kirkwall 3.15-4.40 pm or 4.45-5.10 pm (please book your own ticket).

 

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group

When: 12.30-2 pm (return time approximate)

Where: Skaill, Deerness

Tickets: £10, booking required

This small boat trip to see Black Holm and Corn Holm, tiny islets off Copinsay, offers brilliant wildlife-watching from the water.

Spot seals and seabirds all around, keep an eye out for puffins on the water and enjoy the bracing sea air!

Seating on board is uncovered, and boarding involves a slight step up/down between the boat and the pier with the boatman on hand to assist. Open to those aged 7 and over. Please note this event is particularly dependent on suitable weather conditions.

 

Health walk as part of the Orkney Health Walks programme coordinated by NHS Orkney

When: 1 pm, lasting no more than an hour

Where: Kirkwall

Tickets: free, no need to book

Links: www.pathsforall.org.uk/find-a-health-walk/orkney-islands/orkney-walking-groups-nhs-orkney.html

Orkney has a thriving programme of health walks, and today the regular Friday lunchtime walk leaving from the Balfour Hospital will have a special nature focus, with a guest wildlife guide from RSPB Scotland.

Tuning into the natural world all around – its sights, sounds and day-to-day changes as spring arrives – can calm and focus the mind and add another pleasure to any walk.

We will meet at the Garden Memorial Building of the Balfour Hospital, at the entrance from the Health Centre car park.

Orkney Health Walks are short, safe, social, local, low level, regular walks led by trained walk leaders and are aimed at people who need or want to improve their health and wellbeing by becoming more active. You can find out more at the link above.

Just turn up on the day wearing loose comfortable weather appropriate clothing and flat supportive footwear. The walk will last no longer than an hour at a gentle pace. As usual, we will choose the route to suit the weather on the day.

 

Family John Rae explorer trail with the John Rae Society

When: 2-3.30 pm

Where: Stromness, meeting at the Library

Tickets: free, booking required

Links:  www.johnraesociety.com

Join us for an exciting trail around Stromness inspired by the boyhood of Dr John Rae, surgeon for the Hudson’s Bay Company and Arctic explorer.

John Rae was born in Orphir in 1813. After training as a doctor he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company at the age of nineteen, sailing on a ship to Rupert’s Land, now part of modern Canada.

When he was older, John Rae wrote about his experience of growing up in Orkney and about how the landscape, wildlife and weather helped him to cope with Arctic conditions. He also kept a journal as he was travelling, recording the birds and animals he saw.

John Rae was not alone in being interested in the world around him. Many people from Orkney travelled to other lands, bringing back stories about how people live in very different parts of the world, and examples of the birds, animals and other creatures they found. If you visit Stromness Museum you will see many of the extraordinary objects and specimens brought back by Orkney’s explorers.

So why not be like John Rae and become an explorer for the day? Together we will follow a trail to find out about the history of Stromness and to look for birds, animals, shells and rocks.

Recommended for primary ages (children must be accompanied). The trail will lead us through Stromness covering up to about 1.5 km, including some of the narrow, steeper side streets.

 

Saturday 20 May

Sanday wildlife day - life at the edge of the sea! with the Sanday Ranger 

When: 9.15 am – 6.15 pm (excluding travel to Sanday)

Where: Sanday

Tickets: £35 (Sanday residents not requiring transport £25), booking required

Website: www.sanday.co.uk

Sanday is known for its beautiful bays and beaches. Join Sanday Ranger Emma Neave-Webb to explore and learn more about life at the edge of the sea through lots of hand-on activities. All ages welcome!

For those travelling to Sanday, the ferry leaves Kirkwall at 7.40 am – an early start but a great chance to spot seabirds and perhaps marine mammals from the boat.  Emma will meet you at the Loth ferry terminal in Sanday where we will use the community minibus to travel round for the day.

Once on Sanday, we’ll head towards the north end of the island starting with at Otterswick Bay to view the common seal colony.  We’ll then head up to Scuthvie Bay and take a walk over to Start Island (tidal conditions permitting) to view the unique Start Point lighthouse and search for groatie buckies.

We’ll then head back the west coast for a cliff walk for seabirds, wildflowers and a spot of seawatching (orca have been spotted from here in the past!). There will be ample opportunity to make use of the nearby Ayre’s Rock fish and chip shop just before leaving Sanday.

For those returning to Mainland, the ferry leaves Sanday at 6.15 pm and gets into Kirkwall at 7.40 pm. Emma will be on board for guided sea-watching and there will be a chance to look for otters prior to embarkation at Loth.

Please bring a picnic lunch. There’ll be some walking over varied terrain and wellies or stout walking boots are recommended for the crossing to Start Point (it can be slippery and is uneven underfoot). Toilet stops available at Heilsa Fjold and Ayre’s Rock. You’ll find details of ferry times at www.orkneyferries.co.uk.

 

Birdsong of Onziebust with RSPB Scotland

When: 9.25 am – 1.35 pm (excluding travel to Egilsay)

Where: Egilsay

Tickets: small charge for catering to be confirmed, booking required

Links: www.rspb.org.uk/egilsay

Birdsong surrounds you on Egilsay - lapwings, curlews, redshanks, snipe, oystercatchers, skylarks, meadow pipits and more. Join RSPB Scotland wardens for a relaxed walk through the Onziebust nature reserve, finishing up with coffee and hot rolls provided by the Egilsay Community Association back at the Community Centre.

For those travelling from Mainland, the ferry leaves Tingwall at 8.40 am, with guides on board to help point out seabirds and seals on the way. Upon arrival we’ll make the most of this early part of the day with a gentle stroll through Onziebust’s meadows and wetlands, full of birds displaying as they prepare to nest. 

The idyllic beach on the east shore is wonderful place to sit a while and drink it all in, before we head back to the Community Centre for late morning coffee and hot rolls, in case breakfast seems a long time ago by this point!

There will then be a time before the boat back to visit St Magnus Chapel, take a walk with a warden up to the highest point on the island (only 35m above sea level), or simply relax.

All ages welcome. Altogether, from pier to beach and back, we will cover about 4 km at a gentle pace on tracks that are surfaced apart from the ~500 m path down to the sandy beach. Walking up to the trig point adds another 3 km on surfaced road.

You’ll find details of ferries at www.orkneyferries.co.uk. We have timed the event to fit with the 8.40-9.25 am Tingwall-Egilsay sailing, returning Egilsay-Tingwall 1.35-2.40 pm.

 

Holms of Copinsay organised by the RSPB Local Group

When: 1.30-3 pm (return time approximate)

Where: Skaill, Deerness

Tickets: £10, booking required

This small boat trip to see Black Holm and Corn Holm, tiny islets off Copinsay, offers brilliant wildlife-watching from the water.

Spot seals and seabirds all around, keep an eye out for puffins on the water and enjoy the bracing sea air!

Seating on board is uncovered, and boarding involves a slight step up/down between the boat and the pier with the boatman on hand to assist. Open to those aged 7 and over. Please note this event is particularly dependent on suitable weather conditions.

 

Children’s creative writing workshop with the Wirdsmit Young Writers Group

When: 2-4 pm

Where: RSPB Scotland Cottascarth nature reserve, West Mainland

Tickets: free, booking required

Join us in this lovely hide nestled in the hillside to learn of the wildlife around it, and more of how Bessie Skea (an Orcadian writer) loved to explore and captured her love of nature in her writings.

Add to that Anne Bignall's beautiful mural featuring the nature and seasonal changes of this hidden gem, and you are sure to find much inspiration.

All will be guided at their own pace in a gentle journey that celebrates each individual’s creative responses. If you came to the workshop in 2016 please feel welcome to come again - it'll be different and an opportunity to build on last year.

Suitable for ages 10-14. Children may be left unaccompanied during the workshop once registered (for those not already part of the Wirdsmit group). Accompanying adults are welcome to stay and enjoy the nature reserve and hide too. 

For directions to Cottascarth visit rspb.org.uk/cottascarth. The hide is about 600 m from the car park, which includes one accessible parking space. Two thirds of the track is gravel with the final section grass, which is less even and can be muddy following wet weather. The interior of the hide is wheelchair accessible.

 

Into the Gloup organised by the RSPB Local Group

When: 7-9 pm (return time approximate)

Where: Skaill, Deerness

Tickets: £15, booking required

Venture into the Deerness Gloup by small boat, the best way to experience this magnificent sea cave with an opening in the roof.

The trip promises a range of wildlife to spot - nesting seabirds clamour from the cliffs all along this stretch of coast and on way back we’ll pass a common seal colony. 

Suitable for those aged 7 and over. Seating on board is uncovered, and boarding involves a slight step up/down between the boat and the pier with the boatman on hand to assist. Please note this event is particularly weather dependent.

 

Sunday 21 May

Nature Festival service at St Magnus Cathedral

When: 11.15 am

Where: Kirkwall

Tickets: free, no need to book

Links: www.stmagnus.org

Join Mark Causer to celebrate and reflect on the natural world through this morning’s Sunday service. (You may also enjoy spotting the Arctic terns and Scottish primroses in the magnificent stained glass window above the cathedral entrance!)

A hearing loop and large-print hymn books are available. Please contact the custodian on 01856 874894 with any other questions about the cathedral.

 

Per Mare Nature Festival cruise with NorthLink Ferries

When: 1-4 pm (check in from 12.15 pm, last boarding 12.45 pm)

Where: NorthLink terminal, Stromness

Tickets: adults £15, u16s £10, u5s free, booking required

Links: www.northlinkferries.co.uk, www.stromnessorkney.com

Step aboard for a double celebration of Orkney’s marine heritage as we cruise the spectacular West Mainland coast, with commentary, live folk music and a complementary buffet of local sustainable produce.

The route will take in some of the best wildlife and coastal scenery Orkney has to offer, from stacks and sea caves along the rugged Yesnaby cliffs to Marwick Head’s raucous seabird colony. RSPB wildlife guides on every deck will help you spot puffins, razorbills, guillemots, gannets and more. Will this be the year we see orcas? Let’s hope so!

It’s a particularly special occasion for us as Stromness celebrates its 200th anniversary as a Burgh of Barony. In 1817 the new status allowed the town to take control of its own affairs, establish a town council and adopt its motto ‘Per Mare’, meaning ‘by the sea’ - a nod to not only its geographical location but to the life blood that has sustained the town for generations. Historical commentary will explore the past, present and future of Stromness as we pass key sites such as the WWI&II Ness Battery and today’s test site for the European Marine Energy Centre.

All ages welcome, with a special children’s spot-it challenge available on board. The Hamnavoe is wheelchair-accessible (more information available at www.northlinkferries.co.uk/on-board/accessibility-options). We may adapt the route if needed to suit sea and weather conditions.

 

Open day at Stromness Museum

When: 10 am - 5 pm

Where: Stromness

Tickets: free entry all day, no need to book

Links: www.stromnessmuseum.co.uk

The whole first floor of Stromness Museum is dedicated to the natural history of Orkney. Originating from the collection of the Orkney Natural History Society established in 1837, the museum retains its Victorian charm. Learn more about Orkney's wealth of wildlife, with free entry all day and a fascinating series of talks happening in the afternoon (see below).

Don't miss this year's summer exhibition either, ‘Per Mare’, about the historic happenings in Stromness 200 years ago.

The ground floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible, and the first floor can be accessed via a chair lift. No need to book.

 

A man of science with his head in the clouds at Stromness Museum

When: 2-5 pm (welcome at 2 pm with talks starting every half hour from 2.10 pm)

Where: Stromness

Tickets: free, no need to book

Links: www.stromnessmuseum.co.uk

Stromness Museum celebrates one of the founding members of the Orkney Natural History Society with an afternoon of free talks inspired by the interests of the Rev Charles Clouston (1800-1884).

From geology to botany, archaeology to meteorology, Clouston's interests provide a varied afternoon programme of lively short presentations from academics, archaeologists, artists, marine botanists and writers. And a cloud photography competition thrown in!

 

Orkney Cloud Photography Competition launch at Stromness Museum

When: launch at 4.40 pm, competition runs from May 2017 - May 2018

Where: Stromness (and above Orkney!)

Tickets: free, no need to book, and free to enter competition

Links: www.stromnessmuseum.co.uk

Take up the challenge of the Orkney Cloud Photography Competition and become a cloudspotter. The competition will run from May 2017 until May 2018 giving you a whole year to explore the skies.  

There are two categories: 16 years & under, and over 16s. The competition will be launched and judged by Gavin Pretor-Pinney of the Cloud Appreciation Society.  Visit www.stromnessmuseum.co.uk for details of competition entry. 

 

Family West Shore walk with the Pier Arts Centre and Anne Bevan

When: 2.30-3.30 pm

Where: Stromness

Tickets: free, booking required

Links: www.pierartscentre.com

Accompany artist Anne Bevan in a cross-disciplinary walk along Stromness’s West Shore – the subject of Walking the Sound, part of the Pier Arts Centre’s collaboration with AHRC-funded project Beside the Ocean of Time. How old are the rocks? Why has the area inspired artists? What plants and wildlife live there? A few of the questions you might find answers to through our fun family activities.

Recommended for families with children aged 5+ (all children must be accompanied). Walking will be over mostly gentle to moderate, occasionally rough terrain so suitable footwear and outdoor clothes essential.