Freebie Weekend

Historic Scotland’s annual free weekend will take place on April 12 and 13 – allowing visitors access to some of Orkney’s best-known historic sites completely free of charge.

Over the weekend, admission charges will be dropped at the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, the Broch of Gurness, Hackness Battery, Maeshowe and Skara Brae.

Visitors will have the opportunity to sign-up for annual membership for Historic Scotland over the weekend, with a special offer of three months free.

Tesco's are coming

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco last week extended its retail dominance to every corner of Scotland.

The company now has a store in every Scottish postcode area. The firm has just snapped up properties in the last Tesco-free' areas with the purchase of six stores from rival company Somerfield.

It means Tesco will now have a presence in Paisley and Wester Ross and also Orkney, The Shetland Isles, and Lewis, despite campaigns to block the store chain moving to the islands.

The supermarket giant said 470 jobs at the six stores would be safeguarded and confirmed there would be further investment and jobs in each store. It would not reveal what it had paid for the Somerfield stores.

Beach Plumbing

March 16, South Ronaldsay -- A plumber found what appears to be a piece of a Neolithic chambered tomb on a beach on a Scottish island.

Julie Gibson, the Orkney County archaeologist, said that the carved stone must have been buried and exposed by recent storms. The carvings on soft sandstone would not have survived centuries in the water.

David Barnes said he thought when he first spotted the stone at Sandwick Bay on South Ronaldsay in the Orkneys that it had simply eroded in an interesting way. Then he realized that the circular markings were manmade.

"This piece is really a once-in-50-years discovery," Gibson said. "I was very pleased to find out David really had such a piece of Neolithic art. It's not something that happens every day."

Gibson believes that the stone, carved as long as 6,000 years ago, was part of a chambered tomb.

Highland Fling

American whisky expert Paul Pacult named Highland Park 18 year old single malt whisky the best spirit in the world, judged against spirits across the globe.

The accolade was announced in the latest edition of the US drinks publication Spirit Journal 100 listing of the world’s best 100 distilled spirits.

Birmingham families ship out to the Orkneys

Bustling Brum may be the country's Second City but it seems workers tired of the rat race are deserting the city in favour of the simple life on the weather-beaten islands off Scotland's north coast.

More than one in seven people who moved to the capital, Kirkwall, in the second half of last year were from Birmingham, according to new figures. Orkney Islands Council deputy leader James Stockan said he was not surprised families were tempted by the lifestyle on offer.

"Orkney has been assessed as probably the best place to live for well-being in Scotland and there has been quite a lot of migration here in the last five years, we have a very low crime rate and lots of people have come for a better way of life. The only problem we have is the weather!" he said.