The two main cultural celebrations are the popular 4 day folk festival www.orkneyfolkfestival.com and the week long St. Magnus Festival www.stmagnusfestival.com, a superb arts based celebration based in Kirkwall. Throughout the year there are numerous events and the Kirkwall City Pipe band regularly plays along the streets in summer, and at New Year too, beneath the magnificent Cathedral - a compelling sight situated in the heart of Kirkwall. St Magnus Cathedral also plays host to some of the UK’s finest performers and orchestras and offers a mesmerising interior with acoustics to match.
The busy and eclectic mix of shops that branch out in either direction of the Cathedral blend practicality with luxury, ironmongers beside jewellery shops, shoe shops beside craft shops – all of which add a youthful vibrancy and exciting beat to the town centre. The main shopping thoroughfare twists along flag stones with alleyways that dart up narrow stone passages to add intrigue and, conveniently, lead to a large and modern Tesco store open all hours.
History has left an indelible mark on the landscape from Neolithic times to Viking settlers. One mile south of the village of St. Mary’s lies the Italian Chapel a genuinely moving wartime construction, built by prisoners of war it has become a potent symbol of human grace. The remarkable Skara Brae, a farming village inhabited around 5,000 years ago was unearthed during a great storm in 1850, and the standing stones at The Ring of Brodgar all offer intrigue and a great photo opportunity. Whether it’s the narrow cobbled streets of Stromness or the fishing village of St. Mary’s they all have stories to tell and extend an illuminating insight into past generations.