When to come

Beach-weather.jpgIf you try and plan your visit to coincide with the best weather of the year, you would be unlikely to be allowed to leave, as such a Seer would be highly valued indeed.

Click for Kirkwall, United Kingdom Forecast

If guaranteed warmth and sun are part of your holiday requirements, then Orkney is probably not for you.

There is an Orcadian saying that the "best preparation for an Orkney Winter is an Orkney Summer." Though perhaps a pessimisitic view, this does illustrate the tight band of temperatures that we generally experience.

Most of the year, probably 10 months out of 12, the temperature is between 5°c and 15°c. A few weeks it will be colder, a few weeks hotter. A wintery day is 9°c windy and wet, a summers day is 12°c sunny and calm. Those days may be consecutive at almost any time of year. Strangely, however small, the effective difference is vast.

You can be certain of some things, however. In addition to cooler than average UK temperatures, lots of daylight is certain from May to October, with more than 20 hours around the longest day, and not much daylight from November to April. For more than 30 days a year we have gales above force 5 and it rains on average every other day.

Perhaps these official statistics will help you plan your trip.

Kirkwall Statistics 1971-2000 Met Office
Max Temp
Days of
>= 1mm
Wind at 10 m
[deg C]
6.1 28.8 109.8 20.0 16.8
6.2 58.5 85.7 15.9 15.8
7.3 94.6 92.8 17.1 15.6
9.0 128.4 59.4 12.7 13.3
11.7 181.0 49.4 10.0 12.0
13.7 150.0 53.7 10.3 11.3
15.5 129.0 55.1 11.2 10.8
15.7 133.9 65.9 12.0 10.7
13.6 102.9 99.3 16.7 12.9
11.2 73.8 113.6 18.4 14.5
8.3 38.1 129.8 20.5 15.2
6.7 20.8 115.1 19.6 15.6
10.5 1139.7 1029.4 184.4 13.6
UK Year 12.1 1339.7 1126.1 154.4 n/a

Of course these figures while a useful guide are only averages, and no year in Orkney is average. All temperature records were broken in 2003 with over 30°c recorded for 8 consecutive days. January of 2005 saw day after day of brilliant sunshine with no winds or rain.

The simple conclusion is don't expect good weather and your expectations may well be very happily exceeded.  Perhaps a better guide to your visit than the weather is what's happening here month-to-month.