Orca Watch on Orkney – FAQs

Visiting or staying in Orkney during Orca Watch? To help you plan for your stay on Orkney, take a look through these Frequently Asked Questions. 

Clicking on the plus sign at the right of the question reveals the answer. Please note that we will be updating this information as the event draws nearer, so if your question isn’t urgent, it is always worth checking back periodically to see if it has been answered.

Orca Watch on Orkney

  • Will there be watches taking place in Orkney?

    Our partner on Orkney, the Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative (OMMRI), will be running some land watches from Orkney during Orca Watch. These will take place in some of Orkney’s best cetacean watching spots and will include Hoxa Head, Yesnaby, Marwick Head and Birsay.

  • What else will be taking place as part of Orca Watch around Orkney?

    Saturday 28th May – Orca Watch day 1 – is Marine Mammal Day at Scapa Beach, Orkney. Click here to find out more.

    Then, that evening,  starting from 7:30pm (but with access from 7:20pm) we’ll be livestreaming, from the Pulteney Centre in Wick, our opening evening of orca-themed talks.

    From Monday 30th May – Thursday 2nd June, and on Saturday 4th June, at 7pm we will be livestreaming a short, daily roundup programme live from the Orca Watch base, discussing what has been seen at Orca Watch that day, on the mainland and around Orkney, Shetland. On Sunday 5th June this programme will be a little earlier, at 6.30pm.

    OMMRI, our regional coordinator on Orkney, will be keeping in close touch with the Orca Watch team at the base so hopefully we will all be sharing all the latest news and sightings with each other during the event.

    Details of how to access these programmes and the Evening of Talks can be found here.

  • When and where will the watches on Orkney be held?

    Group Land Watches taking place on the Orkney Mainland during Orca Watch

    Date                                       Location                              Time                            Notes

    Sunday 29th May               Yesnaby                                2pm – 5pm                 Car parking, no facilities

    Monday 30th May             Ness Battery                         2pm – 5pm                Car parking, facilities nearby

    Tuesday 31st May              Marwick Head                      12noon – 3pm          Car parking, no facilities

    Wednesday 1st June         The Gloup, Deerness          6.30pm – 8.30pm    Car parking, facilities

    Friday 3rd  June               Rerwick, Tankerness           6.30pm – 8.30pm    Car parking, no facilities

    Saturday 4th June           Hoxa Head                             12noon – 3pm           Car parking, no facilities

    Sunday 5th June              Yesnaby                                  12noon – 3pm           Car parking, no facilities


    Group Land Watches taking place at Stanger Head, Flotta, during Orca Watch

    Date                                                                                         Time                            
    Saturday 28th May                                                           12.30pm until 3:30pm
    Sunday 29th May                                                              12.30pm until 3:30pm
    Tuesday 31st May                                                             6pm until 8pm
    Thursday 2nd June                                                          6pm until 8pm
    Friday 3rd June                                                                12.30pm until 3:30pm
    Saturday 4th June                                                           12.30pm until 3:30pm
    Sunday 5th June                                                              12.30pm until 3:30pm
    Please note that there is parking at Stanger Head, but no other facilities.

    Details of land watches taking place on Papa Westray,  Sanday, and Hoy will be published shortly. 

    Please note that the weather on Orkney can change very quickly, so watches may need to be cancelled or curtailed at short notice. Following or keeping an eye on the OMMRI Facebook page is the best way to keep up to date with what is happening on Orkney.

  • Do I have to book to come to a watch on Orkney?

    Although the watches are open to all, once the planned watches have been announced (on this website and on the OMMRI Facebook page) it would help us if you would let OMMRI know which watches you are intending to join. You can do this by the Facebook page or by emailing them at: secretary@ommri.org

  • Can I undertake watches by myself?

    Yes, you can. There are many sites around Orkney that offer a fair to good chance of seeing whales, dolphins and porpoises. You can download a map of these sites here.

  • Will I receive training?

    OMMRI offers a free course (although donations are welcomed) to folk who are planning to undertake surveys in Orkney. These dates are announced on the OMMRI Facebook page  first so be sure to keep an eye on your page and book your slot.

  • How can I find out about accommodation on Orkney?

    Visit https://www.orkney.com/plan/accommodation for accommodation ideas.

  • Can I wild camp on Orkney?

    Under Scotland’s access rights, you can ‘wild’ camp, but should adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code ad seek permission from the landowner before setting up camp.  You can find the code, and what is meant by ‘wild’ camping, by following this link: http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping.

    It is worth noting that these rights do not extend to campervans. If you are travelling by motorhome or campervan, stick to designated campsites or overnight parking places and never take your vehicle off-road unless you have the landowner’s permission. If public or private landowners restrict or regulate parking on their land, you must comply with this. 

  • How do I get to Orkney?

    The following information is from www.orkney.com.

    BY FERRY: Northlink Ferries run an overnight ferry between Aberdeen and Kirkwall (Mainland) and between Scrabster and Stromness (Mainland). Click here to connect to the Northlink Ferries website.

    Pentland Ferries sail between Gills Bay and St Margaret’s Hope (South Ronaldsay). Click here to connect to the Pentland Ferries website. Foot passengers can also travel on the John O’Groats ferry between John O’Groats and Burwick (South Ronaldsay). Click here to check out their website.

    BY AIR:  Logan Air offers several flights to Kirkwall (Mainland), from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Sumburgh (Shetland). Click here to go to the Logan Air website.


  • How do I get about Orkney?

    Orkney ferries operate an inter-island ferry service. All of them are available to foot passengers, and many allow cars. There is also an inter-island flight service.

    A regular bus service operates around Orkney, and there are taxi companies. You can also hire bikes in Stromness (Mainland) and in Kirkwall (Mainland), and on some of the islands, including North Ronaldsay and Stronsay.

    Please be aware that the majority of the watch sites are remote and not well-served by public transport.

    Visit https://www.orkney.com/plan/getting-around to find out more.