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Guide to Winter Roads in Orkney

Winter Road Treatment in Orkney

The Council maintains roads in Orkney to allow safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians and to minimise delays due to wintery weather conditions. From October to April road and weather conditions are monitored to provide a winter service for the treatment of ice and snow.

It's not possible to treat every road at the same time so priority routes have been established:

Treatment of ice and snow on roads and footpaths is a daytime service only in Orkney, starting at 6am and ending at 16:00 for footpaths and 6pm for roads. Only emergency treatment is provided overnight and a formal standby system for staff and salting machinery is in place.

OIC has up to 12 gritters on the Orkney mainland and gritting machinery on all of the isles.

You can find details of the priority routes in the Winter Service Plan, available from the 'Related Links' section of this page.

Operational Procedure

At mid-day each day, the Councils’ Roads team analyses Met Office weather forecasts in conjunction with road surface temperature data gathered from weather stations at Kirkwall airport and Mill of Rango in Sandwick to predict likely road conditions overnight. Pre-salting is carried out as required in the late afternoon on Priority 1 routes to prevent ice formation overnight and resources are organised to start salting again at 6am.

In times of snow, especially when drifting is widespread, and in extremely icy conditions the need to revisit main and priority routes can cause delays in treating lower priority routes. Nevertheless the Council’s roads workforce will be doing their best to cover routes as quickly as conditions permit.

Motorists should be mindful of actual conditions at all times and drive accordingly.

Route Priorities

Obviously it is not possible to treat every road and footpath at the same time, so salting and snow clearing takes place according to a carefully devised priority system Maps detailing the priority of all routes can be found in the Winter Service Plan.

Each priority type is outlined in more detail below.

Priority 1 Routes:

Priority 1 routes are primary routes and important principle roads serving as main routes between communities and providing access for the emergency services. These include:

Priority 2 Routes:

Priority 3 Routes:


Like roads, footways are categorised into priority routes, with priority given to those footways which carry the greatest number of pedestrians, that is from residential areas to the central areas of town where shopping, commercial and community facilities.

The tips below relate to keeping paths outside your property clear of snow and ice. They reflect guidelines being developed nationally by Transport Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and are based on some frequently asked questions:

Can I clear my path or pavement outside my house, shop or office?

There is no law preventing you from clearing snow and ice from paths or pavement outside your house, shop or office. Doing your part may help the local community and will be very helpful to the more vulnerable members of society. In severe weather Council employees may be very busy clearing other areas and priority and lifeline routes.

Some people may be unable to clear their paths. Being a good neighbour and clearing their paths for them is the kind of practical step that most of us can take during cold weather.

Practical tips for clearing paths and pavements

Driver Safety Advice

Look Out For Black Ice!

Black roads do not mean ice free roads. In winter weather ‘black ice’ can be particularly dangerous – it is not readily visible and can persist or recur even after salting.

In extreme conditions salting and gritting will not prevent the build up of ice on roads. Drivers should take account of the prevailing weather and road conditions and drive accordingly.

In severe wintry weather:

Road Information

If you must make a journey in difficult conditions, listen to local radio stations for weather forecasts and road condition updates. 

Orkney Islands Council:

Business Hours, Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00.

Telephone: 01856873535.

Urgent Out of Hours Telephone: 01856876338.

Useful Websites:

These links are available from the 'Related Sites' section of this page.

Visit OIC’s Emergency Planning Page for Scotland-wide advice, available from the 'Related Links' section of this page.

Related Links

Related Sites

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS