As the Puffins and other breeding birds leave the wild flowers come into their own. The rare and dimunitive Primula Scotica a most beautiful tiny lilac jewel can be found on the West coastal maritime clifftops. Less uncommon but of similar stature is the exquisite white flower of the Grass of Parnasuss (My boot is for scale in these pictures).
Grass of Parnassus is common on verge sides, along with over 20 other species of wildflowers. Grasslands and green pastures are filled throughout summer with buttercups far outrivaling anything occurring further south. On certain shorelines you will find the rare Oyster plant, or sea lungwort, a blue green succulent beauty that is also good eating.
Across more boggy ground you will see many drifts of what looks like sheeps wool caught on grass, the bog cotton sedge. Statuesque Meadowsweet is erupting everywhere.
Also during July the local Craftsmen's guild hold an exhibition and sale throughout the month. Usually found in the community center (Old Town Hall) opposite St.Magnus Cathedral, and next to Tankerness House. Worth browsing when you have some spare time.
Outside of my comfort zone and strictly for the fit and healthy you can take part in the 25th Hoy Half Marathon on July 12th. Certainly Scotland’s most scenic and friendly half-marathon, with various age categories, including veterans, and childrens events for those aged 5-17.
The peak of summertime in Orkney arrives toward the end of July with Stromness Shopping Week and culminates in the County Agricultural Show at Bignold Park (August 10th 2013).
It is hard to explain the Stromness Shopping Week on paper. Stromness Shopping Week 21st-27th July 2013 is the longest running festival in Orkney. The event was started in 1949 by the newly formed Stromness and West Mainland Chamber of Commerce to attract shoppers to the burgh. It is certainly a Community gala week run by local volunteers, with many varied events involving the community and visitors. The daytime emphasis is on family fun, with lots of sporting and novelty competitions, music, sideshows, children’s entertainment,and a fireworks celebration on the last night. Great fun is had by all.
A second possibly less intentional effect has been that together with the County Show, over the years it has become a beacon for Stromnessians and Orcadians in general to return home from all points around the world.
If the weather is kind some evenings become Carnival in nature. Regular non-Orcadian visitors, especially Scapa Divers, fix their holidays to coincide with the dates. The result can become a huge street party of old friends, newcomers and family. If you are here at this time and want a true taste of Orcadian life then spend an evening in Stromness during Shopping Week.
August heralds the start of the agricultural shows. These build up from the small and delightful like Sanday and Shapinsay to the large and commercial, Dounby, followed by the culmination at the Bignold Park County Show in Kirkwall, August 10th 2013.
The big shows are the major outdoor social and practical events of the year, where farmers get the chance to show off their hard work and prized beasts while the industry showcases all manner of huge machinery. Most of our local organizations take a stand, with a eclectic range of goods and services available in the tented village. The next day the Vintage Tractor and Car club hold their always interesting annual event at the Orkney Auction Mart in Hatston.
The following weekend sees the annual South Ronaldsay Boys ploughing match and festival of the horse, (17th Aug) This spectacular event re-enacts the traditions of the heavy horse ploughing matches. Children dress in beautiful, ornate costumes to replicate the horse in it's finery and the boys plough with minature ploughs in the sand.
Any excuse to spend time down on the Southernmost tip of Orkney is worth taking and combining this event with a visit to the Tomb of the Eagles and the more recently discovered Tomb of the Otters combined with the coastal walks of South Ronaldsay would make a very good day out.
From mid-July to the end of August the NOB's are back and the diggers will hopefully be uncovering more unique finds and extraordinary structures at the world famous dig at the Ness of Brodgar.
Tradtionally the Orcadian saying is that "Summer is over after the county show,". This may seem brutal but it is generally true. The days are now clearly shortening and the optimism of spring and early summer is usually replaced with the hope that next year will be better.
Autumnal plants start appearing, with Crocosmia's sword like leaves harbinger of the autumn to come. The first wild storms of autumn can appear before August is out and if they do then more exposed summer gardens can be pretty much blown apart very early indeed.