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What is the weather like in Orkney in May?

May can be the most glorious month in Orkney, as the daylight hours are very long (darkness only falls around 11pm), but, like anywhere else, if we are unlucky it can be horrid. We would advise coming prepared for the odd shower, but also don’t be surprised to discover a few patches of sunburn – even a slight breeze is very misleading, Orkney’s sun is strong!

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.

20130523-DSC_2382If 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 timetabled 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?

There are two Stromness-based taxi companies available around the clock during the festival. Brass’ Taxis can be phoned on (01856) 850750, and Stromness Taxis and Self Drive are at (01856) 852852. If you are staying in Kirkwall and require a taxi back from any country venue, or even Stromness as the town’s own taxis can get very busy over the festival weekend, Craigie’s Taxis are on (01856) 878787, whilst Bob’s Taxis is (01856) 876543.

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

For the most comprehensive guide to Orkney’s public transport network, visit www.orkneypublictransport.co.uk.

We do not provide transport between venues, however artistes will be transported to country venues by bus or mini bus in the afternoon of an evening’s gig, and, if there is space left, ticket holders will be permitted to travel free of charge (to and from Stromness). However, busses usually leave at around 2 or 3pm to allow for sound-checks and only return at around midnight – there is no return trip between checks and the evening’s performance. As audiences are not permitted access to venues during sound checks this will mean a long day waiting. If you would like to enquire about any such buses, please check with the Box Office at your earliest convenience.

Is there a festival campsite?

No, however there is a very well equipped one 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 so 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 accommodation-wise 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 disabled access at festival venues?

Most, if not all, of our venues are disability friendly, however not all areas of an auditorium necessarily are. If you require such access, you must let us know – when booking – to ensure that we can accommodate you.


Is there food and drink available at festival venues?

_DSC0112If the event is a ceilidh, you can expect to get a supper of tea and sandwiches, perhaps oatcakes and cheese, as well as a selection of cakes and biscuits. These events are normally also licensed.

There is a small bar in the Stromness and Royal Hotel function rooms (Festival/Lunchtime, and Song, Clubs respectively), and so drink is also in plentiful supply here. Rolls and crisps etc are usually available as well.

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, and please – please – do not bring in any rustly sweet packets.

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

Otherwise, we would advise planning when and where you might want to eat. Stromness gets very busy over lunch and dinner times, yet most eateries 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 April. We appreciate that this is quite close to the festival itself, however with around 60 acts taking part annually, and many Orcadian musicians performing in more than one, fitting everything together is quite a complex process. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll have it up!

Where is the festival based?

The Orkney Folk Festival is centered in Stromness, Orkney’s second largest town. Some events take place in Kirkwall, however if you’re looking to be in the heart of the festival over the weekend Stromness is definitely the place to be. Events also take place in some mainland parishes, as well as one or two of the smaller islands. Check out our Get Here page for further information on this year’s locations.

How big is the festival?

The festival runs for four days, Thursday to Sunday, hosting around thirty 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 lots of small gigs (many running simultaneously), rather than one large one 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 steward?

Thank you for the offer, however to keep everything above board and comply with licensing laws (and ease the late-night pressure on the festival committee!), we employ professionally certified door and security staff.


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

Other than the Song Clubs, all of the festival’s ticketed events will only feature billed artistes. 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.

We do, however, operate an Open Stage competition for musicians and singers on the Saturday afternoon. Due to a tight schedule, however, entry is not guaranteed and must be applied for before the event itself. More information on this will be posted around March/April.

We also have a number of sessions, and singarounds, where taking part is actively encouraged,

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! Artistes 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.

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 the Flattie Bar (Stromness Hotel), or Ferry Inn.


When will the programme be published?

The festival programme will be made available in April. We appreciate that this is quite close to the festival itself, however with around 60 acts taking part annually, and many Orcadian musicians performing in more than one, fitting everything together is quite a complex process. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll have it up!

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).

Unlike some festivals, patrons do not gain free entry to any events.


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 tickets are noticeably going faster for most things year on year.

In 2013 we sold around 95% of all tickets available over the weekend – including those events requiring an overnight stay – so they genuinely are few and far between, come the weekend itself.

Where can I buy tickets?

_DSC8170Tickets can be purchased online, or by telephone if you do not have internet access. Please bear in mind that the festival is manned entirely by volunteers, and that we only have one phone line – whose operator accesses the same stock as those purchasing online – so the quickest, most efficient way to ensure you see your first choice concerts is to order via this site.

Please note that we no longer accept postal bookings – all tickets must be bought online, or over the phone where necessary. We apologise for the inconvenience that this may cause, however hope you appreciate the administrative burdens that paper orders have placed on the volunteer team who run the festival – particularly in recent years, where first-day sellouts have become commonplace – and so the need to make access to tickets as fair as possible.

Once tickets are put on general sale, they can also be purchased in person, 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 £6 – £20, and will go on sale to patrons mid-April, and to the general public around three weeks prior to the festival.

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

Patrons are restricted to two adult tickets (plus unlimited children’s tickets) per event, per patronage, for the 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 ensure that you do not buy too many.

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 in length. 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.

What do I do if I lose my tickets?

We will try our best to help you our, 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. If an event has sold out, we will have advised other festival-goers as such, and so cannot fairly process returns.

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

Can I buy a day, or whole weekend ticket?

No, it is not possible for us to issue these types of tickets, as many events overlap and our halls have tight capacities. You must purchase a ticket for each gig that you want to attend.


Can I take photographs during, or film, concerts and events?

Flash photography and filming, or any other form that could be deemed distracting to those on stage (camera motors, tiny ‘on’ lights etc), is strictly prohibited. If you’re unsure, that probably means no.

Do you have a late night festival club?

_DSC8927Yes and no. Our Festival Club is essentially a smaller capacity concert, which runs between 10.30pm and 1am. Please note that it is a fully seated concert, and that there is no standing space.

We also run a 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 Academy Club is the place to be, where the seats are pushed back and the emphasis is very much on jumping around to the music. In contrast to the Festival Club, please note that there is very little, if any, seating at these events.


Ceilidhs also run to 1am, with the concert section running from 7.30pm to around 10pm, and the dance afterwards.

Due to local licensing laws all festival events finish at 1am. Anything after this is operated under a residents license for those staying in the Stromness Hotel, and so is private, and entirely at the discretion of the hotel’s management.

Where are the main festival venues?

The three venues that we make the most use of are the Stromness Town Hall, the Stromness Academy and the Stromness Hotel’s function room. These three aside, most events take place in local community centres or village halls, which audiences must make their own way to.

There is a map of Stromness in the festival programme – available widely throughout the town over the weekend – or on our Get Here page.