Welcome to Orkney ~ an ancient culture where mermaids sing and finmen take human brides. Giants dance here, and the terrible nucklavee haunts our lonely shores.
Come along with us and experience Orkney's legends and lore where the stories happened.
A new development:
While the original Orkney Folklore Trails app was designed to function only on location by GPS, we and our friends at Robert Gordon University wish to open it to anyone, recognizing that it may be some time before people can travel to the islands.
We hope you enjoy your Orkney Folklore Trail virtual tour of the West Mainland. Please contact us with any technical difficulties and comments. Also, it would be very helpful if you could fill in the short feedback form included in the app.
Thanks, and enjoy!
Tom, Rhonda, Rachael, Stewart and Tim
* Read the instructions then click on the link below the graphic.
Download the Orkney Folklore Trail app and let Tom Muir guide you around the West Mainland.
He'll tell you a few of the stories that belong to the places you'll see.
You'll find helpful tips at each of the 10 sites to make your day out enjoyable. We've suggested nearby Orkney attractions to see and rural shops to visit.
We even point out where the toilets are! (An important consideration when you're out wandering about all day.)
So let yourself be enchanted by stories that have been told by Orcadians for centuries ... and far longer.
The Story of the Orkney Folklore Trail
Tom and I had been contemplating how we could help people discover less-known places in Orkney, along with the rich folklore that saturates these locations. We had loads of Orkney stories, but no technical ability.
A fortuitous conversation with Robert Gordon University researchers Rachael Ironside and Stewart Massie began a dynamic partnership that would bring the vision into being.
Rachael was keen to explore ways to engage visitors with the islands’ supernatural stories. Stewart, a techy wizard of great ability, had the specialized skills we needed. Another tech wizard soon joined the adventure - Tim Melcherson of Sweden.
We all joined forces and started on our adventure to create the digital Orkney Folklore Trail.
Six months later, the team had created a driving trail of the Orkney Mainland’s west coast.
The trail begins in Stromness, with nine more stopping points to explore. GPS guides the traveler through the West Mainland. As the visitor arrives at each location, the stories from that place will ‘unlock.'
These traditional Orkney stories are narrated by Tom Muir and beautifully enhanced by fiddle tunes from Fionn McArthur and illustrations from Stromness historian and illustrator Bryce Wilson.
Folklore Trail Tips
Wizard Tim has carefully added the appropriate public toilet locations to the app. Press the red circle in the upper left to access.
Driving-only time around the trail is about 1½ hours, but there’s a lot to explore. The trail can be completed in 4 - 5 hours, but it’s better to take 1 - 2 days to complete the trail at a leisurely pace.
Each location on the Orkney Folklore Trail has specific tips.
Weather: Dress in removable layers – one of them waterproof – and wear sturdy shoes or boots. Hats and gloves are a good idea, even in summer. Some locations can be windy, wet and wild.
See our Rainy Day in Orkney page for alternate activities in case the day gets too soggy. We hope you’ll try again tomorrow.
Take your time and enjoy! You might want to explore the nearby places of interest that we suggest.
For the locations of shops and galleries, find Orkney's Creative Trail here.
Quick tips for driving in Orkney
Drive on the left.
Roundabouts: Give way to oncoming traffic on your right, then follow the arrows clockwise around the circle, signaling before you exit.
Passing places: NEVER park in a passing place. Pull over into a PP on your left to give way to oncoming traffic on narrow roads or to allow someone to pass you from behind. If there's a PP on the right side of the road, don't cross the road - pull over on the left, opposite the PP, to allow the oncoming vehicle to get around you. If the oncoming vehicle blinks their lights at you, they are offering to wait. You may proceed. A friendly wave is appreciated.
Narrow and blind roads: Drive slowly and carefully. Keep looking ahead as far down the road as you can to watch for vehicles coming. If you see someone coming, pull into the nearest PP on your left and wait for the vehicle to pass by.
Farm vehicles: Bear in mind that Orkney is a working community. Farm vehicles use public roadways, too. Don’t be in a hurry to pass slow-moving traffic. Wait until it is absolutely safe.
Farm roads and private drives: Don’t block anyone’s driveway. If you’re on a farm road and need to pull over, make sure that a vehicle the size of a tractor can easily get past your car.
Thanks for being safe and courteous. Have a good time!
We talked about the folklore app with Mark Shiner for his Radio Orkney series, "Made in Orkney." Hear the show below.
Orkney Toilet Map
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Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!
A German celebrity interviews Orkney residents about the folk customs of love, particularly the blackenings - a custom that came from Scotland not long ago and can disturb tourists to Orkney if they d…