Sky Gathering, 2024

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

MAY 7 TO MAY 14, 2024

Join us for a Sky Gathering in the wild beauty of Orkney, Scotland

In May of 2024, the Cloud Appreciation Society will be holding a week of talks, walks, workshops, and music, all themed around the sky, in the stunning archipelago of Orkney off the north east coast of mainland Scotland.

We will learn about the sky in an ancient and vibrant land

Our 2024 Sky Gathering will be centred in the picturesque harbour town of Stromness, Orkney. Cloud Appreciation Society members and their friends will be treated to an amazing range of cultural, historical, and musical experiences themed on the the sky and weather in this unique location.

With the help of expert guides, we will explore some of the stunning neolithic monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage Site – some of which are aligned to aspects of the sky. We will immerse ourselves in the culture of Orkney, hearing performances by local musicians, participating in artist workshops, enjoying delicious locally sourced food, and learning about the area’s wildlife with talks by local ornithologist and naturalist experts.

Hosted by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Member 001), this trip is being organised with Orkney resident Rebecca Marr (Member 7,548) to ensure our visit is integrated into the heart of the welcoming community on these enchanted northern isles.

Orkney is 10 miles (16 km) from mainland Scotland

Stromness will be our base for the Sky Gathering


The weather and skies of Orkney are ever-changing


We will explore some of Orkney’s many Neolithic sites

Stromness is a picturesque harbour town

“A perfectly planned and perfectly executed trip - Just spectacular in every way.”

L.H.R. (Member 3,660 and Canada Sky Holiday attendee)

We will explore world-class Neolithic sites

With its dramatic coastal cliffs, pristine beaches, and wild landscapes, Orkney offers an archaeological adventure unlike any other.

Guided by expert archaeologists based in Orkney, we will embark on a remarkable journey into the Neolithic age. We will explore the ancient site of Skara Brae, Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic settlement which dates back to 3,100 BC and was only discovered in the nineteenth-century when a storm tore the top off a sand dune. We'll visit the majestic standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar and speculate with the help of our experts on their purpose amid the panoramic drama of the surrounding landscape. We will crawl through a stone passageway into the chambered burial tomb of Maeshowe, which is carved with Viking graffiti, and was built nearly 5,000 years ago carefully aligned to face the setting Sun on the winter solstice. These remarkable sites form the heart of Neolithic Orkney. They are part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and they are why many describe Orkney as the ‘Egypt of the North.’

The Ring of Brodgar dates back to 2,500-2,000 BC


Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement from 3200 BC

The islands are abundant with standing stones

We will enter the Maeshowe passage grave

Orkney boasts a remarkable concentration of Neolithic sites some of which are older than the ancient pyramids of Egypt.

“One of the best organised trips I've ever been on - everything was meticulously planned. There was a terrific range of speakers and activities which encompassed not only cloud related themes but also a real sense of the the island we visited.”

M.B. (Member 7,742 and Lundy Sky Gathering attendee)

We will experience the local culture, food, wildlife and history

We will immerse ourselves in the vibrant cultural life of Orkney and experience the local food and natural world – all led by artists, experts and artisans from the islands. Local folk musicians will introduce us to the islands’ musical heritage. Local artists will lead us in immersive sky-themed workshops. We will find out about the bird, plant and marine life of Orkney from naturalists who live there. We will visit the 1137 Viking cathedral whose sandstone pillars have been eroded by the winter’s lashing rains, and see the 1944 Italian Chapel decorated from a wartime Nissen hut by Italian prisoner’s of war as a place of worship with baroque-style trompe l'oeil cloud decorations.

We will enjoy Orkney's finest culinary delights, from seafood caught fresh from the surrounding waters to artisanal cheeses and homemade Orcadian dishes. We will be treated to specially curated menus for our welcome and farewell dinners in Stromness, and we will be able to taste the weather of Orkney on our tour of the island’s whisky distillery, Highland Park Distillery.

We will enjoy Orkney’s fine folk musicians

Sourcing local sustainable food will be a priority

We'll visit St Magnus, the Viking cathedral (1137)


We'll enjoy a whiskey tasting with Highland Park

Stromness Museum preserves the town’s heritage

The Italian Chapel (1944)

We will savour the tastes of Orkney

Sky-themed events and talks will involve local musicians, artists, naturalists and historians.

“Couldn't have wished for anything more. Great location, really friendly people, plus a perfect mix of subjects covered by excellent presenters.”

P.B. (Member 38,123 and Lundy Sky Gathering attendee)

The Itinerary

Orkney is proud of it’s food and drink and this small archipelago produces award-winning seafoods, meats, cheeses, whisky and beer. Our meals throughout the trip will be packed with Orkney fare and we will enjoy a mix of hearty breakfasts, packed and buffet lunches and evening meals showcasing Orkney’s larder.

Please note: the actual order and timing of events might change.

Stromness Harbour

Take a stroll in Stromness before our welcome dinner.

When you arrive at Kirkwall Airport, you will be transferred to the harbour town of Stromness, our home the Sky Gathering. Your Cloud Appreciation Society Welcome Bag will be waiting for you, and will include useful information as well as CAS goodies and your exclusive Society embroidered patch to commemorate the 2024 Sky Gathering. Take some time to rest from your trip and maybe have a stroll along the water front, before you meet the others guests at our welcome dinner at the Hamnavoe Restaurant.

Meal: Orkney fine-dining welcome meal in Stromness.
The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.


The chambered tomb of Maeshowe is aligned to the mid-winter sunset.

After a leisurely breakfast, we will head into Orkney’s ancient past as we visit two of its most significant Neolithic sites, guided by an expert archaeologist and staff of Historic Scotland.

At Skara Brae, we will discover the remarkably preserved Neolithic village of stone houses that have survived since 3,100 BC. We'll learn about the interconnected dwellings with their stone furniture, fire hearths, and beds, to get an insight into the everyday lives of the people who once inhabited this ancient settlement, and we'll hear how it was revealed in the late nineteenth century by a fierce storm.

Maeshowe is an impressive chambered tomb, bearing witness to the ingenuity of our Neolithic ancestors. Likely built around 2,500-2,000 BC its passageway was intentionally aligned so that the setting Sun in mid-winter can shine down and illuminate the back wall of the chamber. 3,000 years after that, a bunch of Vikings got in and carved graffiti on the walls. We’ll be taken inside this well-preserved and evocative structure to learn about it and see what they wrote.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, a packed lunch of local foods, dinner in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.


We'll make cyanotypes exposing paper to the sunlight with found items, like this one created by Orkney artist Ingrid Budge.

It’s time to get creative as we explore the sky through art and poetry workshops. In groups of ten, we’ll participate in interactive workshops led by Orkney artists and poets. The will inspire us to draw inspiration from the shoreline around Stromness and the ever-changing skyscapes above and lead us as we create cyanotypes, make art and put pen to paper. No prior experience or artistic abilities required!

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, buffet lunch, dinner in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.

Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is the Heart of Neolithic Orkney (Image: Rebecca Marr).

Today, we'll be back out and about as we learn from an expert local archaeologist about the imposing standing stones called the Ring of Brodgar. We will learn about the possible role this hugely significant site played in the lives and rituals of the inhabitants of Orkney and its many visitors in Neolithic times.

We'll also learn about those who live among the stones today with the help of a local naturalist who will tell us about the birds and the plant life of this part of Orkney.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, a packed lunch of local foods, dinner in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.

Pier Arts Centre

We will be introduced to the sky art in the collection of the Pier Arts Centre.

Today will be a varied one. An Orkney artist and art writer will take us on a tour of the modern and contemporary elemental art in the collection of the award-winning Pier Arts Centre.

We will visit the imposing structure of the 1137 St Magnus Cathedral, built by the Vikings in Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town.

After some leisure time back in Stromness, it’ll be time for a film night. We will be treated in the Town Hall to an evening of short films themed on the sky and clouds curated especially for us by the programmer for the town’s West Side Cinema.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, buffet lunch in Kirkwall, dinner in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.

Stromness shoreline

We will take a shore walk with a marine naturalist.

Today we will learn about the natural history of the waters along the shoreline with our expert marine naturalist. It will be an opportunity to be back out in the elements that have shaped the land and the lives of these islands.

We will have an opportunity to continue with this theme as we explore the eclectic and eccentric collection of the Stromness Museum, which includes artefacts relating to the islands’ trading connections with Northern Canada.

In the evening, we will join locals in the Town Hall for a ‘Foy’ gathering. Taking its name from the Old Norse word for a ‘journey’ or ‘progress’, this is an evening celebration of mixed entertainment traditional to Orkney. This Foy will be themed to the sky and weather. It will include an illustrated talk about clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Member 001), performances by local folk musicians and more.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, a packed lunch of local foods, dinner in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.

Italian Chapel

The Italian Chapel was constructed from Nissen huts by Italian prisoners of war.

On our last full day together, we will experience an echo of wartime at the Italian Chapel, which was decorated in trompe l'oeil style in 1944 by Italian prisoners of war using a couple of Nissen huts. The ceiling imagery includes a dove of peace among the clouds.

In the afternoon, we will be taken on a whisky experience at the Highland Park Distillery where we can taste the weather of Orkney.

Our farewell dinner will be back at the Hamnavoe Restaurant, where we will partake in an Orkney Skies Quiz. Needless-to-say, there will be with prizes.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation, buffet lunch, Orkney fine-dining farewell meal in Stromness.
Overnight: The Ferry Inn or the Royal Hotel, Stromness.

Stromness at night

It is time to say goodbye to Stromness.

After breakfast, our transport will return everyone to Kirkwall airport for flights home or onward travel.

Meals: Breakfast at your accommodation.

“This was absolutely the best trip of my life. The activities were excellent and the experience is something I would never have achieved otherwise. A truly magical adventure!”

M.W. (Member 23,652 and Canada Sky Holiday attendee)

Price and Details

£2275.00 GBP / person: sharing a room

£2375.00 GBP / person: single occupancy of double/twin room

Price includes everything listed in the ‘What's Included’ section and not the ‘What’s Not Included’ section.

The possibility of changes: The itinerary is illustrative of the events we are planning. Actual dates and specific details may need to be revised. We will contact booked guests to notify them of any significant changes.

Travel Insurance: A condition of accepting your booking is that you provide proof of personal travel insurance, including cancellation insurance for medical reasons, redundancy, jury service etc. for all members of your party.

Reservation Policy: A deposit of £500 GBP is required to reserve each place. The balance will be due 90 days prior to arrival. Should the Cloud Appreciation Society need to cancel the trip for any reason, the deposit and any balance paid will be refunded in full.

Cancellation Policy: An admin fee of £25 GBP is non-refundable in all situations.
• Deposit is refundable until 90 days prior to arrival (with the exception of admin fee).
• 89-45 days prior to arrival: deposit & 50% of balance is non-refundable.
• 44-14 days prior to arrival: deposit & 57% of balance is non-refundable.
• 13-0 days prior to arrival: deposit & 100% of balance is non-refundable


We will be staying in the two local pubs in Stromness, The Ferry Inn and The Royal Hotel. There are options for double, twin, single and family rooms. Please bear in mind that these are characterful small-town pubs with rooms. Stromness is a small harbour town, home to a population of only 2,000 and offers friendly, welcoming accommodation. There are no 4 or 5 star hotels.

What’s included

  • Cloud Appreciation Society welcome bag with special commemorative embroidered patch to mark the trip.
  • Guided tours of Neolithic sites with Orkney-based archaeology experts.
  • Expert guided walks and talks about the birds, plants and marine life of Orkney.
  • A ‘Foy’ evening of sky-and-weather-themed music and talks, including an illustrated talk by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Member 001), in Stromness Town Hall with the local community.
  • A film night of shorts themed on the sky and weather hosted by Stromness’s film club, West Side Cinema.
  • Participation in workshops and activities with local artists.
  • A guided visit to Stromness’s award-winning Pier Arts Centre and entry to Stromness Museum.
  • Visits to St Magnus Cathedral, built in 1137 by the Vikings, and the Italian Chapel, created from a Nissen hut in 1944 by Italian prisoners of war.
  • A tour of the Highland Park Whisky distillery.
  • All meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – starting with our welcome dinner on Tuesday May 7th and ending with breakfast on Tuesday May 14th. On some days, we will be eating packed lunches when we are out on excursions and activities.
  • 7 nights accommodation at one of the two pubs in Stromness, The Ferry Inn or The Royal Hotel. Don’t expect boutique 5-star accommodation! These two local pubs are at the heart of this small community.
  • Transfers between Kirkwall and Stromness and transfers to and from all trips we visit outside of Stromness.

What’s not included

  • Any travel to reach our meeting point at the airport in Kirkwall, Orkney on our arrival day of May 7th 2024 or onwards from there on our departure day of May 14th 2024. We will advise on travel if you are successful in securing a place.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Travel insurance, which is a requirement for this trip.


As this Sky Gathering has now reached capacity, we are no longer taking bookings or expressions of interest for tickets. If you’ve previously requested places, we will be in touch soon to let you now if you have been successful in having places allocated.

If you have any questions about this Sky Gathering, you can get in touch at