How do I get to Orkney?

_DSC8135Head to Visit Orkney for the most comprehensive guide, or Orkney’s local travel agents Scapa Travel would be happy to help.

There are three ferry companies that operate from mainland Scotland to Orkney – Northlink Ferries from Scrabster direct into Stromness (the heart of the festival), and from Aberdeen to Kirkwall; Pentland Ferries from Gill’s Bay to St. Margaret’s Hope; and the John O’Groats Ferry (no vehicles, passengers only), from John O’Groats to Burwick, in South Ronaldsay.

Loganair also operates regular (at least daily) flights to Kirkwall from Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Shetland.

If you are relying entirely on public transport to get to Orkney, the best option is either of Northlink’s services, or to fly. Citylink and Megabus connect from all major Scottish towns and cities to Inverness, from where there is a direct bus service to Scrabster, scheduled to meet the ferry connection. Rail connections go as far as Thurso (two miles from Scrabster), from where you will need to get the bus or a taxi to the ferry.

Can I book a reliable taxi?

Stromness Taxis can be phoned on (01856) 850750, though do get booked up in advance over the festival weekend – so plan ahead.

If you are staying in Kirkwall and require a taxi back from any country venue, or even to Stromness (as the town’s own taxis can get very busy over the festival weekend), Craigie’s Taxis are on (01856) 878787, whilst Orkney Cabs are on (01856) 875000.

I won’t have a car. What public transport is available?

The festival does not offer audience transport to any venues or shows, however there is a good network of public busses, operated by Stagecoach, between Stromness and Kirkwall, and to other areas. Timetables and further info can be found here.

Is there a festival campsite?

No, however there is a very well equipped campsite within walking distance of Stromness town centre, owned and operated by Orkney Islands Council. Whilst most of the occupants over festival weekend will be festival attendees, we have no authority over it whatsoever, and cannot take any bookings. For more information get in touch with VisitOrkney, or phone Orkney Islands Council to book, on (01856) 873535.

What accommodation is available?

Accommodation in Orkney over the festival is tight, particularly in Stromness, which usually sells-out months in advance. We advise booking as soon as you know that you’re coming. Orkney has a wide range of accommodation available to suit all tastes and budgets – from campsites and hostels, to four-poster castle retreats. VisitOrkney are best placed to advise you.

Disabled Access

Is there disability access at festival venues?

Yes, however we must know of any such access needs in advance, to ensure that we can make appropriate arrangements. Some of our venues are quite old (the Stromness Town Hall is a converted church), and whilst adaptations have been made, there may be alternative access or entry arrangements that we need to relay. Please let us know on booking, and we’ll make sure you have a great festival.


Is there food and drink available at festival venues?

_DSC0112The best way to answer this question is to check the key that runs through our festival programme, as food and drink can vary by both venue and event types.

The Stromness Town Hall has no catering or bar, however do feel free to bring in bottled water or soft drinks. The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the Town Hall.

There is a bar in the Stromness Community Centre, and so soft and alcoholic drinks are in plentiful supply at our Club shows. Rolls and crisps etc are usually available as well.

Late-night events in the Stromness Academy (Stomps) are also licensed, and takeaway vans usually pitch-up outside, for closing time.

Most community halls will offer a bar, however please do check the programme as we cannot guarantee that all venues will have one – and it is unlikely that most will have substantial food (more than bar snacks), so please do plan ahead.

In Stromness, restaurants etc get very busy over lunch and dinner times, yet most are open throughout the day, so it might be worth eating mid-afternoon/early evening, or allowing yourself extra time, to beat the crowds.

What food and drink is available in Stromness? After 10pm?

Stromness has three hotels, and a number of cafés, restaurants and takeaways, where food is available throughout the day. There is also a supermarket within walking distance, as well as a couple of grocery stores in the town centre.

Fast food vans usually set up camp at the pier head for those with the late-night festival munchies.


When will the programme be published?

The festival programme will be made available in March. With around 60 acts taking part annually, in 35 events over just four days, and many Orcadian musicians performing in more than one group, it’s a jigsaw that takes some time…

Where is the festival based?

The Orkney Folk Festival is based in Stromness, in the West Mainland of Orkney. One or two events each year take place in Kirkwall, and we also spread concerts and dances spread throughout the county,  however if you’re looking to be in the heart of the festival over the weekend, Stromness is definitely the place to be. You’ll need to get in quick, though – accommodation sells out many months in advance (often long before the programme, or even artists, have been announced).

How big is the festival?

The festival runs for four days, Thursday to Sunday, hosting around 35 ticketed events (and many more free) featuring something for everyone – concerts, ceilidhs, sessions, workshops and talks. Within these we aim to cater for all tastes – from the acoustic song clubs for the tradition bearers to the more energetic, contemporary dance gigs for those who like to jump around to the music, and most things in between.

Please note that our festival does not allow audiences to see every event. The festival operates multiple shows, many running simultaneously, rather than one large stage per night.


Where can I get medical help?

Stromness’ health centre is on John Street, at the north end of the town. In the case of an emergency, Balfour Hospital is in Kirkwall, situated on New Scapa Road.

I would like to be part of the festival – can I apply to be a volunteer?

Absolutely! Please send an email to volunteers@orkneyfolkfestival.com, and one of our team will be in touch.

Whilst we have a wide range of roles for festival volunteers, given we are not an outdoor festival we do not have voluntary stewards.


I am a musician and will be in Orkney for the festival, is there any way that I can perform?

A huge part of the festival’s enduring appeal is the atmosphere created in Stromness, thanks to the seemingly never-ending pub sessions that pour out of the town’s bars (literally, weather permitting) throughout the weekend. Whilst we arrange for most visiting artists to lead tunes at some point over the weekend, this is to make sure that there’s someone there to kick things off and get them going – please do join in!

Other than the Song Clubs, all of the festival’s ticketed events only feature billed artists. At the Song Club the stage is offered to floor singers, much like a folk club, however this is the only such event at our festival.

Where can I find a session?

We organise a number of in the pubs around Stromness. Details of these will be posted in the individual pubs throughout the weekend, as well as on the festival’s notice board outside the Town House. Please take part in these informal tunes – it’s what they’re for! Artists will normally have other commitments soon after their session slots, though, so although they may have to leave, feel free to carry the tunes on for as long as you wish. It should also be noted that whilst an artist may be scheduled to appear, these should not be considered performances, but informal, social tunes involving many other musicians.

Stromness has a fantastic atmosphere over the festival weekend, and Orkney’s licensing laws permit the consumption of alcohol outdoors…therefore if the weather permits, sessions often also spring up outside too.


When will the programme be published?

The festival programme will be made available in March. With around 60 acts taking part annually, in 35 events over just four days, and many Orcadian musicians performing in more than one group, it’s a jigsaw that takes some time…

What are the benefits of becoming a patron? How can I become a patron?

Festival patrons benefit from early access to booking festival tickets and 10% off festival merchandise (not including artistes’ CDs or other products). You can buy patronage exclusively through this website.


Which events are likely to sell out?

The Opening Concert, Farewell Concerts, Festival Clubs and country ceilidhs are usually amongst the first to sell-out, however we regularly sell well over 90% of the total capacity – so don’t hang about!

Where can I buy tickets?

_DSC8170The best way to buy festival tickets is via this website (please note we do not sell through any third-party outlets). Tickets can be purchased by telephone if you do not have internet access, though bear in mind that the festival is manned entirely by volunteers, who access the same stock as those purchasing online. The quickest, most efficient way to ensure you see your first choice concerts is to order via this site.

Tickets can also be purchased in person during the week of the festival, from our Box Office in the Pier Arts Centre.

How much are tickets, and when do they go on sale?

All information on tickets can be found within the tickets section of this website. Tickets generally range in price from £8 – £25, and will go on sale to patrons in April, with around a week’s advance purchasing ahead of their general release.

Is there a limit to the number of tickets I can buy?

Patrons are entitled to purchase two adult tickets (plus unlimited children’s tickets) per event, per patronage, for the advance period of exclusive booking. Once the remaining tickets are put on sale to the general public, further tickets may be bought.

There are no limits to the number that can be bought during the tickets’ main sale period.

All tickets are sold on a non-refundable basis, so please do not speculatively over-buy.

Does my child qualify for free entrance?

In most cases, no. If he or she does not occupy an extra seat, then yes, however we would not recommend this – for your own comfort, as well as those around you – as concerts can run to three hours. If your child can sit for that long without being a disturbance to others, then the chances are that they are old enough to have their own seat.

I’ve lost my tickets… can you help?

We will try our best to help you out, however will very rarely re-issue any lost tickets. Please contact the box office for further information, should you misplace your tickets.

Can I return spare tickets?

All tickets are sold on a non-refundable basis. As our venues are relatively small, we kindly ask that you do not buy more tickets than you need as this will most likely lead to others making alternative arrangements around sold out shows.

If you are looking for tickets to a sold out event, it might be worth posting on Facebook or Twitter, to appeal to other attendees, however this is not something that the festival can facilitate.

Can I buy a ticket for a single day, or the full weekend?

All of our events are ticketed individually, and given the nature of our programme it is not possible to offer day/weekend tickets. In turn, this allows you to create the festival programme to suit your budget – you could stack four gigs in each day, or just take in one over the whole weekend, it’s up to you.


Can I take photographs or film concerts and events?

Flash photography and filming, or any other form that could be distracting to those on stage – or fellow audience members around you – is strictly prohibited. If you’re unsure, that probably means no.

Do you have a late night Festival Club?

Yes, but the title means different things to different people… Our Festival Club is an intimate, cabaret concert, which runs between 10.30pm and 1am. These are fully seated events, andthere is no standing space.

We also run an afternoon Song Club, where the first half of the event is run as a concert, and then the stage is opened to floor singers after the interval – much like a folk club.

If you’re looking for something a bit livelier, then The Stomps are the place to be. In contrast to the Festival Club, these are largely standing shows, with very little, if any, seating.

In line with Orkney’s licensing laws, all festival events finish at 1am, if not before.

Where are the main festival venues?

Our three busiest venues are Stromness Town Hall, Stromness Academy and Stromness Community Centre. These three aside, most events take place in local community centres or village halls, which vary each year.

Please note that the start times noted in the programme are just that – when the first artist is on stage. When driving to a community event, we advise allowing extra time for your journey, just to be sure, as with multiple events programmed throughout the day our shows must start and end on time.