I was recently relayed a surprising story from an accommodation provider who had asked two of his guests how they had enjoyed their holiday on Orkney. He was a bit taken aback when they exclaimed that they hadn't and assumed they must have had a negative experience which spoiled their vacation. However, it turned out it was Orkney itself that they had an adverse reaction to, specifically all the 'shrines to dead people', apparently they preferred places that 'celebrate the living'.
This story surprised me for two reasons, firstly because I think the majority of people that visit Orkney are well aware that the islands are famous for their abundant historic and archaeological sites. I think it would even be fair to say that many people come here because of the preserved sacred ancient monuments that housed the dead.
I was also surprised as they must have been oblivious to the 22,000+ people that are currently in the land of the living and call Orkney home. In fact, as Scottish islands go, the community and population of Orkney is very much alive. Just a glance at the Orcadian newspaper or posters in shop windows will provide you with a wide selection of local events which also welcome visitors.
So where else can visitors go if they want to experience present day life on the Orkney Islands?
The Creative Trail is a fantastic celebration of contemporary artists who welcome visitors to their workshops and studios. Although many of them are continuing a tradition, they very much represent modern day Orkney. These are not living museums, they are places where you can experience Orcadian life in the present.
I recently spent a day driving through some beautiful island scenery and stopping by to chat with some of the many artists on the trail. Without fail, I received a warm welcome from each maker or designer who enthusiastically educated me on their craft. I even enjoyed some cups of tea and biscuits to sustain me on my journey. All in all it was a very sociable day and proof that there is more to Orkney than notable relics.
Visiting the businesses is an interesting excursion in itself, however combining a visit with a local attraction can make a unique and varied day out so I've also included some nearby suggestions. Each business provided me their recommendation and I've also added in my own favourites too.
These are the stops I made, however, there are many more makers you can visit. They are all listed on The Creative Trail website or look out for the brown tourist signs as you travel around.
Taymouth Marina offers luxury self-catering accommodation next to Loch Tay. They recently invited me along to experience their resort which is perfect for those that like to play hard during the day and fully relax in their free time.
Taymouth Marina - Luxury Accommodation on Loch Tay
The area around Loch Tay and Kenmore in particular, is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. With Munros to climb, forests to explore and just about every water-based activity you can think of available on Loch Tay itself, you are guaranteed to never be bored. The region is a big draw to those looking for an active holiday in Scotland. If you are going to be playing hard during the day, you probably want an accommodation base that also provides facilities to help you fully relax in your downtime. This is the full package that Taymouth Marina is aiming to provide.
If you follow my blog, you have probably noticed that I have been publishing quite a few 1 day themed itineraries about Orkney. They are perfect for any visitor but are particularly suited to those short on time or looking for things to do outside the busy summer season. The itineraries have been created by Destination Orkney as part of their 'See You at The Weekend' campaign.
So far I've tested out itineraries specialising in Vikings, Wartime, World Heritage and the Coast. My latest and final 1 day adventure in the series is on the theme of 'Made in Orkney' which explores some of the fantastic products and independent businesses that have put Orkney on the map.
For a relatively small place there are a growing number of items made here that are sold globally and the Orkney brand is thriving. From my own experience, there seems to be as much effort and pride put in to creating a quality visitor experience and sharing the heritage of the products as there is in making them. Giving back or supporting the local community in some way, is another common theme.
This itinerary will give you a snapshot of the many local businesses on Orkney but there are countless others to explore if you have the time.
MADE IN ORKNEY ITINERARY LOCATIONS
Highland Park Distillery
In a time when I knew very little else about Orkney, I knew that it produced the well regarded Highland Park whisky. After almost a year working in a whisky shop, I got to know this particular malt and the history behind it very well. It was one of our best sellers and many purchasers shared their travel tales of discovering Highland Park on their own visits to Orkney. Back then, these far flung islands off the north coast of Scotland sounded as far away as the moon to someone who, at that time, had never been further north than Inverness!
Fast forward many years and I can happily say I have travelled further than Inverness countless times and my knowledge of Orkney extends far beyond its famous dram. So it seemed fitting that my day discovering local businesses was a visit to the place responsible for creating the product that first piqued my curiosity in this unique archipelago off the north-east coast of Scotland.
Camping in Scotland
I go tent camping in Scotland every year as it allows me to travel on a budget when I want to save my pennies but it also allows me to stay in some of the most beautiful spots in the country for free. There are some great campsites out there and they are especially handy if you need to freshen up with a proper shower, but personally, I enjoy the freedom of wild camping and choosing the view from my 'room'.
I often get asked about places to camp and particularly the rules about wild camping in Scotland so I thought I would put together this guide based on my own experiences. It covers all the basics for beginners or those planning a holiday in Scotland with their tent for the first time.
I've just returned from my latest wild camping trip to try out my new Vango tent and this time I went to Shapinsay, which is one of the Orkney islands. After a day exploring, I found the perfect (albeit windy) spot by the beach and this was my view. I think you'll agree it's a pretty good one considering it cost me nothing. If I was staying in a hotel, I'd be charged a premium for a sea view like this. I realise how lucky I am living in Scotland and having all this outdoor freedom.
My guide to camping with a tent in Scotland
If you are travelling on a budget or just want the flexibility that travelling with a tent brings, then Scotland is one of the best countries in the world for a camping excursion. In my book, spending the night under canvas is the ultimate accommodation experience when it comes to truly immersing yourself in the spectacular Scottish landscape.
With our extensive roaming and camping rights, there are many options when it comes to enjoying a tent holiday. If you're not sure where to start or where you can go with your tent, my guide covers advice on the following topics -
Choosing a tent
The most important thing for your camping trip is choosing the right tent. Forget supermarket bargains or cheap festival pop-ups, they are a false economy. Your tent is your accommodation, and ultimately, all that is protecting you from the Scottish elements is some material so it needs to be up to the job.
If you want a comfortable night's sleep it is worth buying the best quality you can afford which is suitable for your purposes. Not only will it last a long time, keep you dry and cosy, it will also make your life far less stressful when it comes to transporting, setting up and breaking down.
Some basic things you need to think about when buying your tent -
There are all sorts of extras that might be important to you like storage, doors, separate compartments etc so think carefully about what kind of trip you are planning before buying a tent and if possible visit an outdoor shop to get professional advice.
My latest tent is a Vango F10 Erebus 3 which was gifted to me to review (you can read what I think about it at the bottom of this article). I chose this particular model as is very compact and lightweight which is ideal for future bike-packing trips that I'm planning in Scotland.
I have bought tents from Vango before and have always been impressed with the quality and this was no exception. The company was established in Scotland in 1966 and have a long history of designing and manufacturing outdoor equipment. Needless to say their tents have been thoroughly tested in the Scottish outdoors and around the world so I have confidence in their products.
They have a wide range of tents for every style of camper so I recommend checking the Vango website out to see what options are available.
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