2020 will be the Year of Coasts and Waters in Scotland and we will have various topics about the sea and islands.

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In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Orkney International Science Festival is being given a new format for this September.

We’re responding to the challenge by joining the growing pattern of home delivery, to bring the entire Festival to everyone who would like to access it, wherever they are.

2020 will be the 30th year of the Festival which is a special reason to try out new ideas, and reach even more people. The plans are currently being revised, with an overall vision of expressing the true Festival spirit, in fresh, lively and interactive formats that enable every home to feel a part of it.

We’re examining every aspect of the programme to see how it can best be expressed in a virtual/online/digital/home-accessed format – talks, outings, walks, workshops, and events with music, or food and drink.

It has long been a vision to expand the Festival online to enable greater participation, and we’ve made various experiments in previous years with videoing and live streaming. For the new situation this year will be able to build on these as part of the big move forward.

Once developed, the infrastructure for online delivery will be in place for future years, to accompany site delivery in Orkney when this is able to return again.

We are looking forward to being back soon with updates of progress and plans!


It’s fresh, it’s nutritious, and it’s free! The benefits of foraging are becoming realised, doing what generations of people have done, finding food in the wild …

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We’ll post up details of over 70 events, from Arctic seaweed to music for northern searoads, meanwhile the 2019 programme shows the format …

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There’s plenty of opportunities to sample local fare, in daily lunches and in special events like a talk and tea in the 17th-century Skaill House …

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“Those soft green hills, the ledged sea-cliffs, the shallow lochs, those curving sweeps of sand… and much of the story goes back around 390 million years, to a time …”

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Tickets will be on sale from mid-April, on the Tickets page and at Kirkwall Tourist Office. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to book online here …

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“From Orkney Nature to Murdoch Mackenzie’s beautifully detailed Orkney sea charts, from Scapa Flow’s history and marine life to sea forms and soundworks …”

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We’re relieved that the way ahead is becoming clear, after the weeks of uncertainty.

We are restructuring the programme for online delivery, and we are trying to build in a real festival flavour, including walks, outings and music, and food and drink events as well.

Online access will be free. For a few workshops, there may be a kit supplied, which will require purchase online.

We will have more updates very soon.

The dates for next Festival are 3-9 September 2020.

The Festival programme will again have a foraging dimension, with outings, talks and workshops.

This is through collaboration with the new Foraging Fortnight, the LEADER-funded initiative which aims to encourage people of all ages to become more aware of the benefits of wild plants around us.

Orkney is one of five Scottish regions to participate, along with Moray, Fife, Lanarkshire, and Forth Valley and Lomond.

Foraging events will provide an added dimension to the Festival’s programme from 3-9 September, and also cover the weekends before and after.

Among the visiting speakers for 2020 will be Zoe Christiansen from the island of Træna in northern Norway. The Træna group of islands lie on the Arctic Circle, around 33 miles offshore, and they have developed an edible seaweed industry, harvesting and selling hand-picked seaweeds.

Foraging Fortnight events will encourage adherence to Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code and organisers have put together foraging guidelines to ensure that those taking part are doing so in a safe and responsible way.

You can keep up to date with us on Facebook. We also post brief updates on Twitter.

This was my very first visit to Orkney and therefore, my first exposure to the vibrant and exhilarating Science Festival. It was an incredible week – the Festival pulsated! It was far larger and far better supported than I would have thought possible.

visitor from Edinburgh


We have video highlights from previous years to enjoy. There is Irish music, Highland traditional medicine, the story of ‘Big Bill and the Guns of Alamein’, and memories of the childhood of Prof. Ron Drever, who did so much to make possible the detection of gravitational waves.

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You’ll find more in our online magazine. It highlights science and people, with stories of ideas, adventures and exploring new territory, past and present…

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Music for Maxwell, in classical and style, songs from Mr Boom, postcards of John Rae and other famous Orcadians, badges to wear with a smile …

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