Orkney Science Festival and Wireless Museum

Orkney Science Festival and Wireless Museum

This September I was lucky enough to participate in (and visit) the Orkney International Science Festival.

Orkney is a place I have always wanted to visit, and if you don’t know where it is, it’s located off the North East tip of Scotland. It’s home to ancient stone circles, viking settlements and lots of excellent seafood and beer.

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The science festival was great. There were public talks every day in venues around Kirkwall (the main city in Orkney). I met a few people that travel to Orkney each year especially for the science festival which usually runs in September.

I attended some great talks on diverse topics from brewing viking beer, the life of James Hutton  and how a project about knitting can help us understand mathematics better (more about that here in Frontiers Magazine).  My favourite talk though was given by Tom Stevenson from the Museum of Communication in Fife about the developments in communication during wartime  and the role Orkney played in the world wars.

Which leads me swiftly on to some of the awesome science-y things you can visit in Orkney even if the science festival isn’t in town.

Orkney is home to the Orkney Wireless Museum this is a volunteer staffed treasure trove of anything related to wireless communication and sound. I didn’t get to spend enough time as I would have liked in here and I definitely want to return for a closer look and browse.

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The museum is basically one room  crammed from floor to ceiling with collections of radios, gramophones and transmitters. It’s free to visit but does take donations to help support the upkeep of the museum. They have a website with some further information about the museum and its history. Due to its reliance on volunteers you may find that the museum isn’t open when you expect it to be.. . (just a warning there). The museum is only open between April and September (like many attractions in Orkney). It is also open on a Saturday.

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This is a wireless receiver from 1912. That’s over 100 years old (stating the obvious there).

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As we were travelling to schools with our science show we got to visit some interesting places around the island. It’s a beautiful place and we were blessed with incredible weather. What I didn’t realise about  Orkney is that it is actually a collection of islands (I thought it was just one island). Some of which are connected by bridges. These were originally constructed y by Italian prisoners of war who were held on Orkney during WW1. They were built not as bridges but by barriers to German U-boats.

The Italian prisoners of war also built this incredible Italian chapel which is well worth a drive to see. It’s really easy to get around Orkney by car. It can be really windy though!

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These ‘bricks’ are all painted on.

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In the area you can also see the remains of the scuttled German fleet from 1919 in Scapa Flow. These are all based around 30-40 minute drive from Kirkwall.

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You can see more of my photos from  Orkney by clicking on the photo below

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There’s also some very interesting geology in Orkney but I think I will leave that for another trip.

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The Eden Project

The Eden Project

Experience a tropical rainforest in the UK. 

The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

This summer I spent a week in Cornwall and as always before we go on a trip I did some searching to see if there are any science-y things we could visit or see. The Eden Project is an obvious choice. It isn’t  hidden, secret, or off the beaten track but for a day trip but it’s well worth a visit. You can take your dog too.

The Eden Project 2014

The Eden Project experience starts before you even walk through the doors of the entrance and everything (including the car parking arrangements) is carefully thought out and planned. The whole site is built on an old quarry. It’s more than just a visitor attraction too as it is a research site and social enterprise. They also host music and foody events.

Walking  through the entrance you get an incredible view of the Eden Project biomes – two huge constructions  that are home to the Mediterranean and Tropical zones (but more about them later).

The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

If, over the summer holidays, you visited a service station on a motorway within driving distance to the Eden Project you will know that between July and September that it is home to DINOSAURS.  There’s a dig pit, activities and talks. I wanted to see what the exhibition was all about so we joined the queue to see it.  As, like everything at the Eden Project, the system is well thought out there are exhibition stands and information as you queue to see the crater of the Tyrant King. I learnt some things that I didn’t realise about dinosaurs in the queue.

  • T. rex had teeth the size of bananas
  • A Diplodocus with wind could fill a hot air balloon with one fart
  • Not all of our ‘favourite’ dinosaurs were roaming the earth at the same. There’s a bigger gap in time between the Stegosaurus and T. Rex than us and T. Rex

I liked the approach of putting the information and exhibition boards where people were waiting to see the main event, rather than afterwards when people want to rush off – rather than standing and waiting. *spoiler alert* if you don’t want to see what is in the lair, skip the next photo!

The lair of the tyrant king at the Eden Project

Next we visited the Mediterranean Biome which contains plants from Mediterranean climates. This section also has a herb garden, restaurant and plants that you can grow at home.

The Eden Project 2014

My favourite part of the Eden Project is in the Rainforest Biome though. It is HOT and HUMID. It’s also contains the largest rainforest in captivity, contains over 16,000 individual plants and a waterfall.

The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

There’s a  new canopy walkway where you can walk around the top of the biome. You can even visit the platform at the top of the canopy which is suspended from the roof. It’s an incredible experience but not one for those that don’t like heights. You might need to queue for this bit, but it is worth waiting in the heat to get a view of the canopy from above.

The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

Don’t look down!

The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

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The Eden Project Cornwall 2014

The trail to the suspended ceiling contains these information stands. I really liked this one about Mary Henrietta Kingsley.

The Eden Project 2014

Outside there are gardens, ferns and tips for growing your own food and veg. The shop is fantastic with lots of unusual gifts and products. I picked up a couple of books on growing your own veg. There’s also a plant shop where you can buy some of the plants in the Eden Project.

The Eden Project 2014

As with lots of big visitor attractions the Eden Project can get very, very busy. It was a raining when we visited. I expect on warmer days throughout the summer it might be a little quieter as everyone is at the beach! Plan to arrive early to beat the crowds and make the most of your time there. It’s massive. I’ve been twice and still not seen everything. The queues are made bearable by the use of interesting things to read and good planning!

I took many more photos and you can see them all here on my Flickr page.

Eden Project Visitor Info

The Eden Project 2014

The Eden project isn’t cheap at £23.50 for an adult ticket but you can get a £10 discount if you travel by public transport (more info on how to get there by bus, train and bike here) and 15% off if you buy your ticket online. You only need one ticket for a whole year too as it is valid for 12 months. This means you can experience the changes in the plants throughout the year! Check the website for other special discounts and voucher codes too.

Opening times can vary depending on the time of year check here for information but the Eden Project is usually open on every day of the year. There are special events that run throughout the year – see the website for more details.

A new hostel is opening at the Eden Project in October 2014. It looks great and is cheap at £12 for a bed!