There’s no better way to learn about a place than from locals, even when you can’t actually be there.
Island voices from the past and present are helping people learn more about a part of Orkney, telling stories and pointing out places of interest, without meeting them.
A new podcast series “Tales o Hoy” guides visitors through a series of journeys using stories, folklore and an interactive Google Earth map to allow them to experience the island wherever they are.
Each episode, produced by the Hoy Heritage Centre, will take in different areas of Hoy parish and feature landmarks, historic tales, archaeology, and flora and fauna.
First episode now available
More than 30 voices, including archive material and new recordings, are blended and accompanied by newly commissioned music by Orcadian musician James Watson.
The first of five half-hour episodes is now available. “Dark Enchanted Isle” starts at Moaness Pier and ends at Orgil.
Listeners can hear about Norse culture, tales of giants, island shipwrecks and rescue missions by locals, as well as the historic ox-and-cart mail service the Hoy Express.
Further episodes will take listeners along the old road through the valley; around Rackwick; to the Old Man of Hoy; and back by the new road via Trowie Glen.
Hoy Heritage officer Rebecca Marr said: ‘Podcasting is a new venture for the Hoy Heritage Centre and it has been fantastic to have so many folk involved.
“Faced with having to close we thought about how we could get the stories held in the centre out of the door and into the landscape.
“This has been done in a creative way and it feels like the series itself embodies the experience of visiting the centre where islanders’ stories unfold and take you to places you hadn’t expected.”
Led by the voices
Mark Jenkins, editor and script writer, said: ‘When we started this project it was going to be 10 minutes for each episode, but it soon became clear there were far too many good stories and we needed to let the project be led by the voices.
“The response of the Hoy community has been fantastic, and I think we have given a gentle pace to a packed programme. James’ music has added a real texture to the series; his evocative music pulls everything together.”
The experience is enhanced with an interactive map allowing virtual visitors to travel around the parish, and dedicated webpages that explore some of the stories in more detail.
Dan Lee, outreach archaeologist with the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), who developed the interactive map, said: ‘This was an opportunity to create a really full experience for virtual listeners who can now visit the places talked about in the audio from wherever they are in the world.
“Hoy is a remarkable place and it has been really special spending time developing this homage to its people and places.”
The project is funded by Museums Galleries Scotland funding and support from the Island of Hoy Development Trust support, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), University of the Highlands and Islands archaeology institute, with archive material from Orkney Library and Archive.