Orkney Art & photography retreat

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2021: 20 Nov

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Being in nature, really seeing it and appreciating its huge benefits - not just to our physical and mental health, but also for creative inspiration is at the heart of this creative retreat. The remoteness and the unspoiled landscapes are what makes Orkney so special.

In recent years Orkney has become the centre of a revolution in the way electricity is generated. Orkney was once utterly dependent on power that was produced by burning coal and gas on the Scottish mainland and then transmitted through an undersea cable. Today the islands are so festooned with wind turbines, they cannot find enough uses for the emission-free power they create on their own.

Community-owned wind turbines generate power for local villages; islanders drive nonpolluting cars that run on electricity; devices that can turn the energy of the waves and the tides into electricity are being tested in the islands’ waters and seabed; and – in the near future – car and passenger ferries here will be fuelled not by diesel but by hydrogen, created from water that has been electrolysed using power from Orkney’s wind, wave and tide generators.

Our itinerary will include visits to places of special environmental interest, such as Marwick Head RSPB reserve.

When visiting the islands we take our Leave No Trace approach very seriously - this includes minimising waste, avoiding use of single use plastic, recycling as much as possible. We do not provide bottled drinking water, but hand out reusable water bottles for guest who didn't bring their own, for filling up using tap water, which is of very good quality everywhere in Scotland. The group size is small with up to 12 guests.

We will do a fair bit of exploring by foot, and where minibus transport is needed we use a local transport provider that is a social enterprise.

The Impacts of this Trip

Orkney is a location high on many travellers' to see list. But most people visit during the traditional tourist season from late Spring to late Summer and locals who depend on tourism struggle during the winter months. The islands are beautiful all year round and through winter trips and retreats like this one we extend the travel season and bring local shops, galleries, accommodation providers and other local services some much needed business.

All our creative experiences support local artists and craft makers, as well as local galleries and venues. This also means we don't drive a hard bargain but pay fair prices (at least the rates recommended by the Scottish Artists Union). Being creative teaches you to really see a place and connect with it at a deeper level. This fosters respect for local environments and communities.

During the retreat we will use Pier Arts Centre, the local community arts centre, for our indoor studio some of the time. The space rental and use of catering supports the local community. We will also build in visits to local art and craft studios, such as a traditional paper-making workshop in Stromness.

Our inhouse cook at the cottages will use local produce as much as possible for preparing delicious, healthy meals. The diversity of food and drink on offer in Orkney is truly remarkable. In addition to their top quality local beef, lamb, salmon and shellfish, they also have delicacies such as the prized meat that comes from the legendary seaweed fed sheep of North Ronaldsay, Orkney’s most northerly island.

And there is, or course, the Orkney cheese, oatcakes, fudge, beer – the islands boast two acclaimed breweries - whisky, gin, ice cream, wine and rum, along with a multitude of other locally produced delights, offered by producers who are passionate about their craft.

A lot of the local food and drink travels well, so you will be able to buy some culinary souvenirs to take back home.


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