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The North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival


Important note: If you plan to stay at the The Bird Observatory Guest House, Hostel or Camping, they are reserving accommodation for volunteer bookings so please make sure to mention that you are coming for the festival

Bookings can only be made by  

email: or phone (+44 01857 633 200)

conservation through restoration

The North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival is a volunteer-led event that takes place on the Island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney, Scotland, with the aim of re-building the island's historic drystone Sheep Dyke, protecting its flock of native seaweed-eating sheep, and celebrating the island's distinct culture and tradition through music, art and education.

The festival consists of one week of drystone dyke building, workshops and activities.

The dates for SheepFest’24 will be published shortly.

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About Us


The Summer's week-long programme includes:

  • Two daily 3-hour sessions (with instruction and supervision) of Grade A-listed drystone SheepDyke repair

  • Tour of the Island's Wool Mill and Lighthouse

  • Workshops including felting and weaving using native wool spun on the island

  • An Island Dance with traditional live music from celebrated local musicians

  • Visitors vs Islanders football match


- and much more!

(*all activities are subject to change and weather dependent)

We bring together Teamwork / Nature / Community / Fun in one of the most remote and beautiful places in Scotland

For more photos from our 2023 Festival, click here

Taking part

It doesn’t cost anything to volunteer at SheepFest.

In fact, as a thank you for taking part, our umbrella charity The Orkney Sheep Foundation, along with the North Ronaldsay Trust and our funders, including The Lennox Hannay Charitable Fund, cover the cost of all activities, scheduled tours and workshops.*

AND if you take part in four sessions or more, you get your own free Get In The Stone Zone t-shirt! (t-shirts can also be purchased for £15 each).

If you're going to be joining us, pop us an email at so that we reserve one for you:)

We also provide volunteer transport from the Bird Observatory to the rebuilding sites.**

Please note that you are in charge of organising your own transport and travel to the island, as well as the cost of accommodation and meals. 

*Not included: £5 entry for the Dance + cash bar (funds raised go to the island’s Community Association), North Ronaldsay Trust-hosted BBQ (following the football match), any additional tours or outside-programme events. Cash essential.

**Transport is provided from/to the Bird Observatory to rebuilding sites only. If you are staying at other accommodation on the island we recommend bike hire or taxi (details of which can be found on our FAQ page).


Who can take part?

Everyone is welcome at SheepFest and you do not need building experience, however you must watch our Health & Safety Video and confirm your viewing before you are allowed to start building. Let us know you're coming by emailing


The stones are heavy and dyke-building is not recommended for children under the age of 12 years old. Any children present at the site are the responsibility of their guardians and not the Crew or Sheep Dyke Wardens.

If you are coming alone and are under the age of 18, please bring written permission from your parents with you allowing you to take part.

SheepFest holds full Public Liability insurance.We recommend organising you own travel and medical insurance.

Meals, Cafe and Shops

Breakfast, lunches (inc. packed) and evening meals can be booked through the Bird observatory, and the island has several well-stocked shops, as well as a Cafe at the Lighthouse serving Lunches and Afternoon Tea. There is even a pizza delivery service! For more info see our FAQs



Sessions run every day (except Saturday) and consist of 3hrs each:

9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm

(An after-building swim in the North Sea at Nouster beach - welcome to all - has become a bit of a tradition for those brave enough, so bring a towel and swimmers!)

Where to stay...

There are several options for accommodation in North Ronaldsay, from camping to self-catering, a list of which can be found here: accommodation.
Most of our volunteers stay at the
Bird Observatory (South End), and our evenings activities usually take place there, or at the Community Centre. 

For those choosing to stay at the Bird Observatory (Guest House, Hostel and Camping) they have kindly blocked out the festival week for volunteer use.
Important note: The Bird Obs is reserving accommodation for our volunteers so please 
make sure to mention that you are coming for the festival when you email or phone (+44 01857 633 200) to book.

Volunteer transport

The 'SheepFest Wheels' will depart from the Bird Observatory each morning and afternoon to take volunteers to building sites and back.

Please note if you are not staying at the Bird Observatory and your accommodation is not en-route to the re-building site, you will need to make your own travel arrangements (bike hire, walk or taxi).


The Team

The North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival began in 2016 after the sheepdyke was featured on the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ television show. An influx of viewers contacted The Orkney Sheep Foundation (OSF) who decided, along with island residents and the Bird Observatory, to create a yearly event where people could visit the island, help restore the sheepdyke, and enjoy a slice of island life, hospitality, nature and culture.

The same team have been involved in the organisation and running of the festival from the beginning, and since 2022 the island’s Sheep Dyke Wardens have provided hands-on instruction and supervision. In 2023 the island’s charitable trust, The North Ronaldsay Trust (NRT), took on a larger role in managing the event, alongside the OSF.


Our funders over the years include The Lennox Hannay Charitable Fund, Awards For All Scotland, The Wyfold Charitable Fund, Volunteer Action Orkney and the National Lottery Fund.

Donations in kind, effort, time and items for auction are too numerous to list, but most recently include Wooly-Wally, The Lighthouse Cafe, Lighthouse and Mill Tours, and island residents who provided home-baked refreshments, transport, help and encouragement.

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