Moving to Orkney – our experience

Marwick Head, Birsay. (Sigurd Towrie)

By Dr Julia Cussans
Postdoctoral Researcher for the LIFTE project

The decision to move from Norfolk to Orkney for a temporary job was a very big and daunting one and although the transition was stressful at times, we have not regretted it one little bit.

I moved up here with my husband and three young children. Luckily my husband worked from home was able to continue his job after the move. The children were sad about leaving their friends in Norfolk behind but have quickly made new friends here and love living so close to the sea that they can visit the beach on the walk home from school.

We chose to move to Rousay, one of the inner North Isles, from which I can easily commute into Kirkwall on a daily basis, if needs be, via the ferry and bus service. One of the reasons we chose to move here was that we already know some people on the island and liked the idea of rural island living. We soon got to know many of the other islanders and they have all been very warm, friendly, welcoming and helpful.

One of my main concerns about moving to Orkney was what the amenities and facilities would be like and how they would compare to what we were used to in Norfolk. Thus far we have been very impressed. Our small island has a shop and filling station, a post office, a school, a pub and restaurant, a healthy living centre with a small gym and fitness classes available, children’s play parks, community allotments, heritage centre, a GP surgery with 24hr on-call nurse practitioner and ambulance service and a fire station.

Before covid restrictions were tightened, we were able to attend community events and there is a good range of clubs and groups to get involved in – and that is just on our tiny island.

Mainland Orkney has a wide range of shopping and leisure facilities including cinema, theatre, swimming pools, climbing facilities, gym and fitness classes, skate park, play parks, museums, cafes and restaurants, beaches and, of course, lots of amazing archaeology.

The islands are well connected both within Orkney and with the wider world, with ferries connecting to mainland Scotland and flights out of Kirkwall connecting to a wide variety of destinations. When we moved here we had an Orcadian removals company come and collect the contents of our house and keep it in storage until we were able to move into our new permanent home, so we only had to worry about getting ourselves to Orkney, which greatly reduced stress levels.

We have been super impressed with the school provision since we arrived, with all three of our children settling in well and really benefitting from the small class sizes at our island school. We have also been impressed by the teaching provision, with, aside from their day-to-day teachers, additional staff coming into school to teach music, PE and art. Our oldest daughter has been given the opportunity to learn the fiddle, at no cost to us and all the children get free school lunches.  There is also a free school bus service that picks up and drops off all children living over two miles away from the school. The school also has a day nursery incorporated into it.

One of the big surprises for us when moving here was the amount of financial assistance available to us in the form of grants from the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust. We have received grants for wellbeing, which has covered family gym and leisure centre membership for a whole year with some left over for other things such as swimming lessons for the children, grants for the children’s ferry tickets allowing them 50 free journeys between Rousay and the Orkney Mainland and a grant for the installation of satellite internet installed by a local company who can offer vastly better internet speeds than BT. We currently have internet speeds of around 30-40 mbps, which is plenty for online video conferencing and watching on-demand TV services.

All in all, we feel very welcome and well looked after.