Orkney Viking Week 2021
As part of Orkney Viking Week we invite you to visit our flock of Boreray sheep in West Mainland.
Viking Sheep Experience, Talk & Demonstration
The visits will last at least 1 hour and we can accommodate up to 12 people. The visits must be pre-booked.
If demand is greater than the number of places available between the 3 days, we may be able to add visits on other days between 9 and 19 September.
Saturday 11 September 10.30am
Tuesday 14 September 10.30am
Friday 17 September 10.30am
Full terms and conditions are below.
In our shed ('barn' for those from England) we have a display of posters showing the sheep and their history, and a display of fleece and woollen items. Your visit will include a detailed talk about Viking sheep and their place in Viking life. You'll have the opportunity to handle some double coated Boreray fleece, learn how to separate the outer and inner coats, and try for yourself (twisting by hand) how differently the outer and inner coats behave when spun. You can see a demonstration of how the wool was spun into yarn using a replica Viking spindle (copied from a Viking spindle found at Old Scatness Broch in Shetland).
A primitive breed, part of the North Atlantic Short-Tailed family of sheep, and little changed over the centuries. These little short-tailed sheep were vital for Viking life and exploration.
Boreray sheep are the UK's rarest breed, until recently critically endangered, but now there are just over 500 registered breeding ewes. The Orkney Boreray sheep are a much rarer genetically unique subgroup. Their history from Neolithic times is fascinating and includes their Viking heritage and their home on St Kilda where they were left behind on Boreray island when the population was evacuated in 1930.
For the Vikings, the Short-Tailed sheep were extremely important. Their unique double coated fleece had properties essential for the sails that powered their boats and longships, as well as providing clothing that could withstand the wet and cold. Work reproducing woollen sails has shown other qualities of the wool of these tough little sheep that made it possible to have woollen sails. Calculations of the work involved in making these sails and the number of sheep required give insights into Viking life.
This is a photograph I took of a demonstration of Viking textile work from the 2014 North Atlantic Native Sheep & Wool Conference in Iceland.
Terms and Conditions
- All visits must be pre-booked.
- If you are unable to come for the visit you have booked then please let us know as soon as possible. We have a waiting list for some visits.
- On any livestock farm unexpected things can happen and weather conditions may affect what would be safe and appropriate to do during your visit.
- Visitors must follow safety instructions on the farm, including avoiding the steep slope by the entrance to the shed that is blocked off with hurdles.
- For those taking a farm walk, it is your responsibility to ensure you have appropriate footwear, and possibly walking poles, so you can walk safely on uneven, steeply sloping ground that may be wet and slippery. Use of the disinfectant foot bath provided by anyone going onto fields is essential for biosecurity.
- Children must be fully and closely monitored by their parents at all times.
- Borerays are primitive sheep so touching the sheep is not possible.
- Hand washing facilities are provided and everyone is strongly advised to wash their hands with soap and hot water at the end of the visit for health & safety reasons.
- We don't have any public toilet facilities. The nearest public toilets are by the car park in Finstown.
- For covid safety the end of the shed (barn) will be left open for maximum ventilation and hand sanitiser is available to use.
- If the weather is fine you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and sit outside on our chairs after the talk (and farm walk) to enjoy the view while you eat. Please note we don't have public toilets through.