What is it like?
We have often been asked ‘why Orkney’? Obviously it is a beautiful place, but so are many other places. It’s not for the warm climate, but it is much milder that you would expect this far north. When we thought long and hard about our love of the islands, we came to the conclusion that it was the people that make it so very special, the sense of community is more as it was perhaps in the 50’s in England and their friendliness and unhurried attitude is a joy. Yes it does take more time to do things as the people love to talk. If you go into a shop wanting to be served and there is someone in front chatting to the assistant, don’t expect them to stop talking to serve you. They will finish their conversation before moving on to you and perhaps have a long conversation with you next.
The shops stock a huge variety of items, some not obviously part of their trade, it is often best to ask an assistant, you will not be fobbed off with ‘is it on the selves’ as you might else ware, but they will know exactly where it is and get it for you.
You can get most of the things you need from the island shops and industrial estates, what you will notice that a store will perhaps only stock one type of a particular item, you will not be presented with 6 versions of the same thing from different suppliers, this is quite refreshing and makes shopping that much easier.
For things you cannot get on the island there is always the internet and although Royal Mail charges the same for delivery to Orkney as anywhere else in the UK, several couriers do not and either charge more for delivery to the ‘Highlands and Islands’ ( anything north of Inverness) some do not deliver at all. Royal Mail post is normally next day but couriers vary, as most deliver to Aberdeen where it is put on the a boat and then picked up by a local courier like Speedlink, this can add several days and also means that you can only track your delivery on-line to Aberdeen. There are several other methods of getting purchases ‘home’ as it is called, from the ‘man with a van’ right through to the local removal company who also will collect items for you. Our new furniture came this way from Loughborough and arrived Christmas Eve morning, how about that for service!
The Orcadians are renowned for their hospitality and friendliness, but take a dim view of incomers ( Ferryloopers ) trying to tell them how to run their island!
Orkney is very well served for most amenities and there is always lots going on, even in the winter.
Bad points? It depends on your views on windy weather. Yes it is windy here, and that does make the temperature feel a lot cooler, but experiencing a 120mph gale, snuggled up in your house ( don’t try to go out in it! ) is quite an experience, any wind below about 40mph is considered a breeze! When the wind stops, be prepared for the midges! But these don’t seem to be the vicious ones that they get on the west coast but still not nice if you are allergic to their bites.
House prices are lower than south east, a decent house can be bought for £200K and you often get a lot more land and outbuildings with it. Many buy a plot (about £30K ) and build a house on it. We wanted a traditional style building so we bought something that needed a lot of TLC and added a small extension.
There are plenty of jobs ( see the Orcadian Newspaper each week and on-line ) but the wages will be much lower than London. The cost of living is not much lower as everything apart from local produce has to be shipped in, but the need to ‘retail fest’ is not as strong here and so you find less desire to constantly buy more ‘stuff’ so this can make living cheaper, you get your enjoyment out of the environment rather than possessions and expensive holidays.
I would suggest that you do something like we did and visit the islands a couple of times a year for some time ( we did 15 years!) visiting it at all times of the year to experience the weather and the crowds in the summer, and get to know the people. It can sound very exciting, and it is, but a lot of incomers don’t stay. The locals will not consider that you are serious about living here until you have ‘survived’ at least two winters!
Orkney is not perfect, nowhere is, but it is pretty damn close in our minds!