Orkney folklore trail to explore hidden corners of islands and ease tourism pressure

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A new folklore trail on Orkney will take visitors off the beaten tourist track and into the lesser-known corners of the islands in a bid to ease pressure on the key attractions.

The islands' rich tradition of stories, tales and myths will be brought to life in an innovative new collaboration which aims to scatter tourists around Orkney and away from the key visitor attractions to discover the magic of its folklore in the landscape from where it came.

Yesnaby, on the west coast of Orkney mainland, is one of the stops featured on the folklore trail. PIC: Creative Commons.

Yesnaby, on the west coast of Orkney mainland, is one of the stops featured on the folklore trail. PIC: Creative Commons.

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The Orkney Folklore Trail is a digital Android mobile app that includes ten ‘stops’. It is GPS based so the stories are 'unlocked' as each location is reached.

Included on the trail is Yesnaby, on the west of the mainland, which is linked to stories of a tsunami, a mermaid and an Armada shipwreck.

The stories are narrated by Orcadian story teller Tom Muir and accompanied with music by Fionn McArthur, and illustrations by artist Bryce Wilson.

Mr Muir and his wife Rhonda have been working with Dr Rachael Ironside from the School of Creative and Cultural Business at Robert Gordon University' and Dr Stewart Massie from the School of Computing Science and Digital Media on the project.

Tim Melcherson, a 3rd year computing student from Sweden, has also worked on the new app.

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Dr Rachael Ironside, senior Lecturer and course leader on the Events Management course and has been co-ordinating the project, said the purpose of the app is to engage and educate people – visitors or locals – about Orkney folklore and the landscape it exists within.

“Many of the stories are linked to the landscape but it is also looking to see whether this kind of technology can help disperse tourists from some of the hotspots on Orkney and visit lesser known, but equally wonderful, parts of the island,” she said.

“When seasonal cruise ships reach dock at Orkney, tourists flock to well-marketed world heritage sites like the prehistoric village of Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar. This can result in congestion of rural transport routes and sporadically crowd local communities.

“While residents may welcome the potential benefits of tourism, ideally the impact of this influx could be better managed by dispersing the tourists across the islands and attracting them to other equally interesting heritage and natural sites.”

Rhonda Muir, who runs Orkneyology.com with her husband, added: “Orkney has so much to offer and we are always trying to encourage people to explore lesser known places on the islands. By encouraging people to visit places, learn about Orkney’s folklore and also providing information about local services through the app, we hope to spread some of the economic benefits of mass tourism.”

The Orkney Folklore Trail project received support from RGU’s research pump priming fund and involved knowledge exchange and collaboration between the schools within the university.

The Orkney Folklore Trail app will soon be released to the public for free. It is just one of several pieces of undertaken as part of The Orkney Project, which brings RGU academics and students together from all disciplines to share knowledge and promote fresh innovation on the islands.