Hello, my name is Helen Woodsford-Dean and I would love to show you around Orkney, my home since 2009. I qualified as an Orkney guide in 2013 and my particular interests are the folklore and prehistoric archaeology of Orkney. I have excavated at the Ness of Brodgar and help to run the annual ‘Digging up the Past’ project; I have worked at the Orkney Museum, St Magnus Cathedral, and Orkney’s farm museums, as well as at Maeshowe. I am also a semi-professional writer and some of my articles about Orkney have been published internationally.
I am in partnership with my husband, Mark (also an Orkney guide); we are available to hire as guides either together, or separately, depending on your needs or the size of your group.
Our approach to guiding is to try to offer our guests the time and the space to really sense, feel, and connect with the sites and the land here in Orkney. Plus we always try to include a visit to at least a few of the quieter and more secret sacred sites which tend to be away from the main tourist trails. Our specialism is looking after visitors who describe themselves as ‘pilgrims’, but you certainly don’t have to think of yourself as a pilgrim to tour with us.
Generally, we think our approach to guiding in Orkney is more ‘spiritual’, hence our partnership name: ‘Spiritual Orkney’.
Our tours can include as many sites as you choose, at your choice of pace – we plan every tour in advance and on a bespoke basis, tailoring the day to your exact requirements, taking into consideration any timing restraints and offering full flexibility on the day if needed. We never forget that how you spend your time in Orkney is YOUR choice, but our philosophy is: you are on holiday, island life is relaxed, why not relax into our pace too and get a real sense of the ‘true’ Orkney.
My own guiding style is relaxed and entertaining – and I always try to include some fun and laughter – I am professional, courteous and informative. I am an accredited STGA Green Badge Guide, authorised and insured to provide tours around Orkney. I have degrees from top British universities in archaeology and my specialist area of interest is religion and ritual in the prehistoric British Isles. I have over 10 years experience of teaching archaeology in Further and Community Education and I have travelled extensively in the British Isles; this means that not only do I know what I am talking about but I can also communicate it in an accessible manner at the right level for you (including children).
‘Spiritual Orkney’ is available to guide you around Orkney whichever time of the year you are visiting. Depending on your interests, we can focus on the must-sees of Orkney, have a themed tour, or you can tell us the sorts of things you are most interested in seeing and we will make appropriate suggestions and plan a route. We cannot guarantee that you will have a site to yourself, but we can advise when the quieter times will be and we are flexible enough to be able to guide you at those times.
I look forward to meeting you and to sharing these gorgeously beautiful islands with you.
Ceremonies such as handfastings, renewal of vows, and legal weddings