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59° NORTH – Winner of the inaugural Orkney Tourism Awards – Most Innovative Visitor Experience

Winners of the inaugural Orkney Tourism Awards were announced at a gala event held in Kirkwall at the weekend.

Organised by Destination Orkney, the awards included categories for visitor attraction of the year, green innovation and the best welcome to the islands.

In total, 13 accolades were up for grabs on the night, with eight of the winners selected after public voting from local people and visitors to Orkney over the past year.

The winners of the 2022 Orkney Tourism Awards

Orkney’s islands were well represented at the event with Sanday-based pizzeria 59 Degrees North named most ‘Innovative Visitor Experience’, and Westray’s Saintear bistro winning ‘Best Newcomer to Tourism’.

Other winners on the night included the Ness of Brodgar Trust, Fernvalley Wildlife Centre, and Skaill House Falconry, who each took home awards won through public votes.

Each successful business claimed a special trophy – sponsored by NorthLink Ferries – featuring an original design by local artist Ruth D Brough of Orkney Inspired Art, with each piece representing the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney’s most famous archaeological sites.

Now the winners will be put forward by Destination Orkney for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and the Thistle Awards later this year.

Destination Orkney’s destination manager, Ailsa Heal, said: “Congratulations to all of our finalists and of course to our winners on the night. We wanted our inaugural awards to be a celebration of Orkney’s tourism industry and the people that work so hard providing an incredible welcome to the visitors that come here from around the world.

“We also wanted to give our members the chance to enjoy a fun evening together before the 2023 tourism season begins in earnest. We’re hopeful that our awards will become a bi-annual event and we can continue to highlight and support the work our talented members put in throughout the year.”

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Lady Kirk and the Devil’s Clawmarks

The ruins of Lady Kirk can be found around a mile south-west of Lady Village and a mile north-east of Kettletoft.

The church, with walls still standing to their full height, dates back to 1773 but may well include walls from an earlier church. A door at the west end, obscured by a porch added in 1902, has been identified dating back to the 1600s.

The fact that until its redundancy the church’s effects included a pre-reformation communion cup suggests that there could well have been a series of churches or chapels on this site, perhaps dating back to to the Viking era or beyond.
No physical evidence of this has been found, so it has to remain as speculation.

Today the interior doubles as an informal nature reserve, but most people come to Lady Kirk to look at one feature in particular. At the top of the steps that once gave access to the north gallery, the dressed stone balustrade carries a series of deep grooves known as the Devil’s Clawmarks.

These are rather spooky, despite the fact that it would take a fairly large being with at least six fingers or claws to have made the marks in question.

The story says….

There was once upon a time a minister preaching in the Ladykirk.
Every Sunday he preached against sin, especially adultery.
And every Monday to Saturday, he himself enjoyed precisely those activities he preached against.
One night, as the minister was coming out of his mistress’s house and heading for home, the Devil himself stood there before him, and tried to grab him to take him to Hell.
But the minister was too quick for him: He ran for his life until he reached the sanctuary of the church, and shut the door on the Devil, who was left raging outside and clawing at the stonework.
And there you can see the marks of his six sharp claws to this very day.

Story retold from: Tom Muir, Orkney Folk Tales.

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Backaskaill Bay

A stunning sandy beach, almost 2km wide. Backaskaill bay is located on the southern side of Sanday and is accessed from 2 points. The first is from a track off the B9070 main road from Loth, next to the sign for Backaskaill Farmhouse and cottage. The second is from the road just before How farm of the B9068, the road into Kettletoft. Both have picnic benches and small parking areas for approximately four cars.

At low tide, the west end has some stunning rock formations, rock stacks and plenty of rock pools for hours of exploring. The east end leads you past the remains of an old church around Bea Ness, to Kettletoft and the pier. This makes a nice circular walk of around 4km, which takes around 1.5 hours at a very leisurely pace.

What’s here?

  • Stunning views
  • Sanday beach
  • Rock formations
  • Rock pools
  • Visible geology
  • Picnic benches
  • Dog friendly beach
  • Remote location