Things to do on a rainy day in Orkney

Bryce Wilson's mermaid bride illustration from Orkney storyteller Tom Muir's The Mermaid Bride

The chances are pretty high that you'll need suggestions about things to do on a rainy day in Orkney at some point in your visit.

We get our share of dreich (cold and wet) days here, even in summer. But that's just part of Orkney's winning charm.

Sea grass on a sand dune, Rackwick Beach, Orkney Islands

Happily, a spoiled day out is easy to avoid.

You only have to do two things: dress appropriately and make an alternate plan, just in case.

1) Dress appropriately

Two Nordic storytellers from the 2017 Orkney Storytelling Festival, Orkney Islands, UK(Photo credit Andy Hollinrake)

Well ... maybe not exactly like this.

The point is, if you're prepared, you can laugh at the weather. 

Temperatures can vary a lot from place to place. The best way to dress for Orkney weather is with several layers that you can put on and take off as needed. A waterproof jacket is a good idea, and water-resistant shoes.

And that’s it! You’re all set to navigate the dreich-est day.

2) Make an alternate plan 

Gorgeous winding staircase in the Orkney Museum, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, UK

There are almost 90 listings in our Rainy Day in Orkney guide, which you'll find at the bottom of the page. But these represent only a portion of all the beautiful shops, galleries, museums, tombs and heritage centres scattered across Orkney's islands - each appropriate for rainy day exploration.

You’ll find many more. In my experience, they’re all worth visiting. 

“Wait - did she say 'tombs?'”

Yep, she did. Snugging up in a tomb is an unusual - yet strangely pleasing - way to spend a thoughtful afternoon ... if you’re of a certain temperament and not too claustrophobic.

Unstan Chambered Cairn, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

Tombs do tend to be chilly and a bit damp, so don’t forget those extra layers.

For rainy day purposes, I’ve picked just a few of Orkney's plethora of tombs - those that require the shortest trek along a mucky path before you’re safe and sound inside.

It’s probably best to save the others for nicer weather.

You'll have lots of choices, both in villages and in the countryside

Fran Flett Hollinrake, custodian of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney stands beside the statue of a sleeping John Rae, arctic explorer, housed in the cathedral.

I’ve included some of our favorite indoor places in Stromness, Kirkwall and other Orkney villages. Many are tended by friends of ours. Take the time to have a chat - you might make a friend, too.

Along with some of our favorite places in the towns, I've highlighted some harder-to-find attractions where you can take highly enjoyable shelter on a rainy day in Orkney.

Double rainbow on the island of Westray, Orkney Islands. A rainy day in Orkney can be beautiful.

You might even be glad it rained.

Andrew Hollinrake, Orkney tour guide giving a WW II battery tour on Flotta, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

Certain things  involve a combination of sheltered and not sheltered as you walk from building to building, such as the Ness Battery tour in Stromness. But cheer up! Your tour guide, Andy, doesn't like getting wet, either. And he promises a cozy, heated room at the end of the tour.

My best advice?

Dress in layers, let your plans be flexible and look forward to that nice cup of tea (or something stronger) later on.

A final note  ...

Heritage centres are often run by a band of hardy volunteers, who occasionally find that they can't be there when they meant to be. We just have to be understanding.

Also, you'll find that many wee country galleries and shops have varying seasonal hours, or don’t have regular hours at all. Some websites suggest that visitors might call before they come by. A few don't even have a website.

Ostara Crystals shop, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland, UKSpot the shop ... it's the wee grey shed on the right, and one of our favorites! (Ostara Crystals in Birsay)

It’s a good idea to check the specific information that I've linked to each map marker before going too far out of your way.

But if the worst thing that happens is a drive around Orkney's beautiful hidden places, that's not so bad.

Things to do on a Rainy Day in Orkney - a guide

If you’re out and about and run into a sudden downpour, pull up our Orkney rainy day attractions map and see what’s near you … and indoors.

View through a window in one of the rustic Rackwick museums, Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

Rainy day activity categories:

Shops, workshops and galleries

Libraries, museums and heritage/visitors' centres

Breweries, distilleries and food

Activity centres

Churches (kirks), archaeological sites and tombs

Shops, workshops and galleries

Skip down to the rainy day in Orkney map

  • Barony Mills 
  • Yellowbird Gallery
  • The Woolshed
  • Hundland Gallery
  • Ostara Crystals
  • Orkney Antique Centre, Birsay
  • Orkneyinga Silversmiths
  • Wheeling Steen Gallery
  • The Harray Potter - Fursbreck Pottery
  • Michael Sinclair Woodturner
  • Alison Moore Designs
  • Castaway Crafts
  • Zoe Davidson Jewellery
  • Stromness Books & Prints
  • Pier Arts Centre
  • Artworks Of The Earth
  • Waterfront Gallery
  • Stewart Moar Jewellery
  • Ortak Ltd
  • For Arts Sake
  • Sheila Fleet - Orkney Designer Jewellery
  • Ola Gorie Jewellery/Tait & Style (The Longship)
  • Scapa Crafts
  • Orkney Hand Crafted Furniture by Fraser Anderson
  • Aurora Jewellery
  • Toumal Art Studio
  • The Little Orkney Dye Shed
  • Sheila Fleet Jewellery Workshop, Kirk Gallery & Café
  • Celina Rupp Jewellery
  • Vindlyse Gallery
  • Fluke Jewellery
  • Workshop and Loft Gallery
  • Hoxa Tapestry Art Gallery
  • The Gallery in the Nortwa'
  • The Crafthub
  • Hume Sweet Hume
  • The Smithy Heritage Centre, Cafe and Gift Shop  

Libraries, museums and heritage/visitors' centres

Skip down to the rainy day in Orkney map

  • Kirbuster Museum
  • Skaill House
  • Betty's Reading Room
  • Skara Brae Visitors' Centre and Cafe
  • Corrigall Farm Museum
  • Stromness Museum
  • The Stromness Library
  • Ness Battery
  • Maeshowe Visitor Centre
  • Orkney Wireless Museum
  • Orkney Library & Archive
  • St Magnus Centre
  • Kirkwall & St Ola Community Centre (Town Hall) and St Magnus Cafe 
  • The Orkney Museum
  • Orkneyinga Saga Center/Round Church/Earl's Bu ruins
  • Orkney Fossil and Heritage Centre
  • Hoy Kirk - heritage centre
  • Rackwick heritage museums
  • Longhope Lifeboat Museum
  • Hackness Martello Tower & Battery
  • Flotta Heritage Centre/Peerie Museum
  • Stronsay Fish Mart Café, hostel and heritage display
  • Sanday Heritage Centre
  • The Croft
  • Wyre Heritage Centre
  • Westray Heritage Centre
  • Eday Heritage and Vistors' Centre
  • Carrick House
  • The Smithy Heritage Centre, Cafe and Gift Shop 

Breweries, distilleries and food

Skip down to the rainy day in Orkney map

  • Birsay Bay Tearoom
  • Orkney Brewery
  • Skara Brae Visitors' Centre and cafe
  • (Kirkjuvagr) Orkney Distilling & Visitor Centre - OPENING JUNE 2018
  • Kirkness & Gorie - specialist food and drink shop
  • Kirkwall & St Ola Community Centre (Town Hall) and St Magnus Cafe
  • William Shearer
  • Scapa Distillery Visitor Centre
  • Highland Park Whisky Distillery
  • Deerness Distillery
  • Sheila Fleet Jewellery Workshop, Kirk Gallery & Café
  • Orkney Wine Company
  • Emily's Tea Room & Ice Cream Parlor/Craft Shop
  • Stronsay Fish Mart Café, hostel and heritage display
  • The Smithy Heritage Centre, Cafe and Gift Shop 

Activity centres

  • Stromness Swimming pool/health and fitness suite
  • The Pickaquoy Centre

Churches (kirks), archaeological sites and tombs

Skip down to the rainy day in Orkney map

  • St. Magnus Church, Birsay
  • St Boniface Kirk
  • Maeshowe Visitor Centre
  • Unstan Chambered Cairn
  • Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn
  • St Magnus Cathedral
  • St Olaf Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Orkneyinga Saga Center/Round Church/Earl's Bu ruins
  • Italian Chapel
  • Tomb of the Eagles
  • Flotta Kirk and War Memorial
  • Taversoe Tuick Chambered Tomb

The Orkney rainy day map

(Click on the symbols on the top left or top right of the map to find the list of places to visit.)

More Orkney travel tips here:

  • Find public toilets in Orkney

    Gotta go? It happens to all of us. Now, you might have noticed that Orkney is particularly short on trees to duck behind. We don't want it to spoil your day. Here's our Orkney loo map so you can find toilets in Orkney. You're welcome.

  • Avoid Midges in Orkney

    Being unprepared for crazy-making midges can spoil a beautiful day of exploration in the wilds of Orkney. Here are our best tips for avoiding midgies in Orkney ... or at least rendering them slightly less maddening.

Things to do on a rainy day in Scotland's Orkney Islands at

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!

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