Orkney Islands
Overview
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands (sometimes "The Orkneys", a name which locals disparage), is an archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 in northern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, situated 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the coast of Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

. Orkney comprises approximately 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited.
The largest island, known as the "Mainland" has an area of 523.25 square kilometres (202 sq mi) making it the sixth largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

.
Encyclopedia
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands (sometimes "The Orkneys", a name which locals disparage), is an archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 in northern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, situated 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the coast of Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

. Orkney comprises approximately 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited.
The largest island, known as the "Mainland" has an area of 523.25 square kilometres (202 sq mi) making it the sixth largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

. The largest settlement and administrative centre is Kirkwall
Kirkwall
Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of Orkney, off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. The town is first mentioned in Orkneyinga saga in the year 1046 when it is recorded as the residence of Rögnvald Brusason the Earl of Orkney, who was killed by his uncle Thorfinn the Mighty...

.

The name "Orkney" dates back to the 1st century BC or earlier, and the islands have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. Originally occupied by Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 and Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 tribes and then by the Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

, Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 in 875 and settled by the Norse. It was subsequently annexed to the Scottish Crown
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

 in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 for James III
James III of Scotland
James III was King of Scots from 1460 to 1488. James was an unpopular and ineffective monarch owing to an unwillingness to administer justice fairly, a policy of pursuing alliance with the Kingdom of England, and a disastrous relationship with nearly all his extended family.His reputation as the...

's bride, Margaret of Denmark. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney refers to a group of Neolithic monuments found on the Mainland, one of the islands of Orkney, Scotland. The name was adopted by UNESCO when it proclaimed these sites as a World Heritage Site in 1999....

" is a designated UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

.

Orkney is one of the 32 council areas
Subdivisions of Scotland
For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas" which are all governed by unitary authorities designated as "councils"...

 of Scotland, a constituency
Orkney (Scottish Parliament constituency)
Orkney is a constituency of the Scottish Parliament . It elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament by the first past the post method of election...

 of the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

, a lieutenancy area
Lieutenancy areas of Scotland
The lieutenancy areas of Scotland are the areas used for the ceremonial lord-lieutenants, the monarch's representatives, in Scotland. They are different from the local government council areas, the committee areas, the sheriffdoms, the registration counties, the former regions and districts, the...

, and a former county
Counties of Scotland
The counties of Scotland were the principal local government divisions of Scotland until 1975. Scotland's current lieutenancy areas and registration counties are largely based on them. They are often referred to as historic counties....

. The local council is Orkney Islands Council, one of only three Councils in Scotland with a majority of elected members who are independents
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

.

In addition to the Mainland, most of the islands are in two groups, the North and South Isles, all of which have an underlying geological base of Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone
The Old Red Sandstone is a British rock formation of considerable importance to early paleontology. For convenience the short version of the term, 'ORS' is often used in literature on the subject.-Sedimentology:...

. The climate is mild and the soils are extremely fertile, most of the land being farmed. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy and the significant wind and marine energy resources are of growing importance. The local people are known as Orcadians and have a distinctive dialect and a rich inheritance of folklore. There is an abundance of marine and avian wildlife.

Origin of the name

Pytheas
Pytheas
Pytheas of Massalia or Massilia , was a Greek geographer and explorer from the Greek colony, Massalia . He made a voyage of exploration to northwestern Europe at about 325 BC. He travelled around and visited a considerable part of Great Britain...

 of Massilia visited Britain probably sometime between 322 and 285 BC and described it as being triangular in shape, with a northern tip called Orcas. This may have referred to Dunnet Head
Dunnet Head
Dunnet Head is a peninsula in Caithness, on the north coast of Scotland, that includes the most northerly point of the mainland of Great Britain. The point, known as Easter Head, is at , about westnorthwest of John o' Groats and about from Duncansby Head...

, from which Orkney is visible. Writing in the 1st century AD, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Tingentera and died c. AD 45.His short work occupies less than one hundred pages of ordinary print. It is laconic in style and deficient in method, but of pure Latinity, and occasionally relieved by pleasing...

 called the islands Orcades, as did Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 in AD 98, claiming that his father-in-law Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. His biography, the De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, was the first published work of his son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, and is the source for most of what is known about him.Born to a noted...

 had "discovered and subjugated the Orcades hitherto unknown" although both Mela and Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 had previously referred to the islands.
The element Orc- is usually interpreted as a Pict
PICT
PICT is a graphics file format introduced on the original Apple Macintosh computer as its standard metafile format. It allows the interchange of graphics , and some limited text support, between Mac applications, and was the native graphics format of QuickDraw.The original version, PICT 1, was...

ish tribal name meaning "young pig" or "young boar
Boar
Wild boar, also wild pig, is a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae. The species includes many subspecies. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises...

". The Old Irish name for the islands was Insi Orc ("island of the pigs").
The archipelago is known as Arcaibh in modern Scottish Gaelic, the -aibh representing a fossilized
Fossilization (linguistics)
In linguistic morphology, fossilization refers to two close notions. One is preserving of ancient linguistic features which have lost their grammatical functions in language. Another is loss of productivity of a grammatical paradigm , which still remains in use in some words. Examples of...

 prepositional case
Prepositional case
Prepositional case is a grammatical case that marks the object of a preposition. This term can be used in languages where nouns have a declensional form that appears exclusively in combination with certain prepositions...

 ending.

With the arrival of Norwegian
Norsemen
Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

 settlers from the late 9th century, orc was re-interpreted as Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 as orkn "seal
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

", with the added suffix ey "island". Thus the name became Orkneyjar (meaning "seal islands"), which was later shortened to Orkney in English.

Prehistory

A charred hazelnut
Hazelnut
A hazelnut is the nut of the hazel and is also known as a cob nut or filbert nut according to species. A cob is roughly spherical to oval, about 15–25 mm long and 10–15 mm in diameter, with an outer fibrous husk surrounding a smooth shell. A filbert is more elongated, being about twice...

 shell, recovered in 2007 during excavations in Tankerness on the Mainland has been dated to 6820-6660 BC indicating the presence of Mesolithic nomadic tribes. The earliest known permanent settlement is at Knap of Howar
Knap of Howar
At Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney, Scotland, a Neolithic farmstead may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe...

, a Neolithic farmstead on the island of Papa Westray
Papa Westray
Papa Westray, also known as Papay, is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of 65 at the time of the 2001 Census, now increased to 70 people...

, which dates from 3500 BC. The village of Skara Brae
Skara Brae
Skara Brae is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. It consists of ten clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3180 BCE–2500 BCE...

, Europe's best-preserved Neolithic settlement, is believed to have been inhabited from around 3100 BC. Other remains from that era include the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Maeshowe
Maeshowe
Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave situated on Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. The monuments around Maeshowe, including Skara Brae, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It gives its name to the Maeshowe type of chambered cairn, which is limited to Orkney...

 passage grave
Passage grave
thumb|250px|right|A simple passage tomb in [[Carrowmore]] near [[Sligo]] in IrelandA passage grave or passage tomb consists of a narrow passage made of large stones and one or multiple burial chambers covered in earth or stone. Megaliths are usually used in the construction of passage tombs, which...

, the Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar
The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle on the Mainland, the largest island in Orkney, Scotland...

 and other standing stones. Many of the Neolithic settlements were abandoned around 2500 BC, possibly due to changes in the climate.

During the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 fewer large stone structures were built although the great ceremonial circles continued in use as metalworking was slowly introduced to Scotland from Europe over a lengthy period. There are relatively few Orcadian sites dating from this era although there is the impressive Plumcake Mound near the Ring of Brodgar and various islands sites such as Tofts Ness on Sanday
Sanday, Orkney
Sanday is one of the inhabited islands in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. With an area of , it is the third largest of the Orkney Islands. The main centres of population are Lady Village and Kettletoft. Sanday can be reached by Orkney Ferries or plane from Kirkwall on the...

 and the remains of two houses on Holm of Faray
Holm of Faray
The Holm of Faray is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, near Faray and Westray, which it lies between. Together with its neighbour Faray, it is designated a SSSI due to its importance as a haul-out site and breeding area for grey seals....

.

Iron Age

Excavations at Quanterness on the Mainland have revealed an Atlantic roundhouse
Atlantic roundhouse
In archaeology, an Atlantic roundhouse is an Iron Age stone building found in the northern and western parts of mainland Scotland, the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.-Types of structure:...

 built about 700 BC and similar finds have been made at Bu on the Mainland and Pierowall Quarry on Westray. The most impressive Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 structures of Orkney are the ruins of later round towers called "broch
Broch
A broch is an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure of a type found only in Scotland. Brochs include some of the most sophisticated examples of drystone architecture ever created, and belong to the classification "complex Atlantic Roundhouse" devised by Scottish archaeologists in the 1980s....

s" and their associated settlements such as the Broch of Burroughston and Broch of Gurness
Broch of Gurness
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village on the northwest coast of Mainland Orkney in Scotland overlooking Eynhallow Sound. The remains of the central tower are up to high, and the stone walls are up to thick...

. The nature and origin of these buildings is a subject of ongoing debate. Other structures from this period include underground storehouses
Souterrain
Souterrain is a name given by archaeologists to a type of underground structure associated mainly with the Atlantic Iron Age. These structures appear to have been brought northwards from Gaul during the late Iron Age. Regional names include earth houses, fogous and Pictish houses...

, and aisled roundhouses
Wheelhouse (archaeology)
In archaeology, a wheelhouse is a prehistoric structure from the Iron Age found in Scotland. The term was first coined after the discovery of a ruined mound in 1855. The distinctive architectural form related to the complex roundhouses, constitute the main settlement type in the Western Isles, in...

, the latter usually in association with earlier broch sites.

During the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 invasion of Britain the "King of Orkney" was one of 11 British leaders who is said to have submitted to the Emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 in AD 43 at Colchester
Camulodunum
Camulodunum is the Roman name for the ancient settlement which is today's Colchester, a town in Essex, England. Camulodunum is claimed to be the oldest town in Britain as recorded by the Romans, existing as a Celtic settlement before the Roman conquest, when it became the first Roman town, and...

. After the Agricolan fleet had come and gone, possibly anchoring at Shapinsay
Shapinsay
Shapinsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. There is one village on the island, Balfour, from which roll-on/roll-off car ferries sail to Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland...

, direct Roman influence seems to have been limited to trade rather than conquest.

By the late Iron Age, Orkney was part of the Brythonic-speaking
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

 Pictish
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 kingdom, and although the archaeological remains from this period are less impressive there is every reason to suppose the fertile soils and rich seas of Orkney provided the Picts with a comfortable living. The Dalriadic
Dál Riata
Dál Riata was a Gaelic overkingdom on the western coast of Scotland with some territory on the northeast coast of Ireland...

 Gaels
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 began to influence the islands towards the close of the Pictish era, perhaps principally through the role of Celtic
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

 mission
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

aries, as evidenced by several islands bearing the epithet "Papa" in commemoration of these preachers. However, before the Gaelic presence could establish itself the Picts were gradually dispossessed by the Norsemen
Norsemen
Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

 from the late 8th century onwards. The nature of this transition is controversial, and theories range from peaceful integration to enslavement and genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

.

Norwegian rule

Both Orkney and Shetland saw a significant influx of Norwegian settlers during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s made the islands the headquarters of their pirate expeditions carried out against Norway and the coasts of mainland Scotland. In response, Norwegian king Harald Hårfagre
Harald I of Norway
Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair , , son of Halfdan the Black, was the first king of Norway.-Background:Little is known of the historical Harald...

 ("Harald Fair Hair") annexed the Northern Isles
Northern Isles
The Northern Isles is a chain of islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The climate is cool and temperate and much influenced by the surrounding seas. There are two main island groups: Shetland and Orkney...

 (comprising Orkney and Shetland) in 875. Rognvald Eysteinsson received Orkney and Shetland from Harald as an earldom as reparation for the death of his son in battle in Scotland, and then passed the earldom on to his brother Sigurd the Mighty
Sigurd Eysteinsson
Sigurd Eysteinsson was the second Viking Earl of Orkney, who succeeded his brother Rognvald Eysteinsson. He was a leader in the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland. Bizarrely, he was killed by the severed head of one his enemies, Máel Brigte, who may have been mórmaer of Moray...

.

However, Sigurd's line barely survived him and it was Torf-Einarr
Torf-Einarr
Einarr Rögnvaldarson, Torf-Einarr or Turf-Einar was one of the Norse Earls of Orkney. His rise to power is related in sagas which apparently draw on verses of Einarr's own composition for inspiration...

, Rognvald's son by a slave, who founded a dynasty that controlled the islands for centuries after his death. He was succeeded by his son Thorfinn Skull-splitter
Thorfinn Turf-Einarsson, Earl of Orkney
Thorfinn 'Skullsplitter' Hausakljufr was earl of Orkney. He was the youngest son of Torf-Einarr. Thorfinn married Grelod, daughter of the Mormaer of Caithness and granddaughter of Thorstein the Red. Thorfinn and Grelod had five sons and two daughters...

 and during this time the deposed Norwegian King Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Haraldsson , nicknamed ‘Bloodaxe’ , was a 10th-century Scandinavian ruler. He is thought to have had short-lived terms as the second king of Norway and possibly as the last independent ruler of the kingdom of Northumbria Eric Haraldsson (Eric, anglicised form of ; died 954), nicknamed...

 often used Orkney as a raiding base before being killed in 954. Thorfinn's death and presumed burial at the broch of Hoxa, on South Ronaldsay
South Ronaldsay
South Ronaldsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is linked to the Orkney Mainland by the Churchill Barriers, running via Burray, Glimps Holm and Lamb Holm.-Geography and geology:...

, led to a long period of dynastic strife.
The islands were Christianised by Olav Tryggvasson
Olaf I of Norway
Olaf Tryggvason was King of Norway from 995 to 1000. He was the son of Tryggvi Olafsson, king of Viken , and, according to later sagas, the great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, first King of Norway.Olaf played an important part in the often forcible, on pain of torture or death, conversion of the...

 in 995 when he stopped at South Walls
South Walls
South Walls is an inhabited island adjacent to Hoy in Orkney, Scotland. The name is a corruption of "Sooth Was", which means the "southern voes" - as with Kirkwall, it was assumed that it was a mispronunciation of "walls"....

 on his way from Ireland to Norway. The King summoned the jarl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

Sigurd the Stout and said "I order you and all your subjects to be baptised. If you refuse, I'll have you killed on the spot and I swear I will ravage every island with fire and steel." Unsurprisingly, Sigurd agreed and the islands became Christian at a stroke, receiving their own bishop
Bishop of Orkney
The Bishop of Orkney was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Orkney, one of thirteen medieval bishoprics within the territory of modern Scotland. It included both Orkney and Shetland. It was based for almost all of its history at St...

 in the early 11th century.

Thorfinn the Mighty was a son of Sigurd and a grandson of King Máel Coluim mac Cináeda
Malcolm II of Scotland
Máel Coluim mac Cináeda , was King of the Scots from 1005 until his death...

 (Malcolm II of Scotland). Along with Sigurd's other sons he ruled Orkney during the first half of the 11th century and extended his authority over a small maritime empire stretching from Dublin to Shetland. Thorfinn died around 1065 and his sons Paul and Erlend succeeded him, fighting at the Battle of Stamford Bridge
Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire in England on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada of Norway and the English king's brother Tostig...

 in 1066. Paul and Erlend quarreled as adults and this dispute carried on to the next generation. The martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

dom of Magnus Erlendsson
Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney
Saint Magnus, Earl Magnus Erlendsson of Orkney, sometimes known as Magnus the Martyr, was the first Earl of Orkney to bear that name, and ruled from 1108 to about 1115...

, who was killed in April 1116 by his cousin Haakon Paulsson
Haakon Paulsson
Haakon Paulsson was a Norwegian Jarl and jointly ruled the Earldom of Orkney together with his cousin Magnus Erlendsson....

, resulted in the building of St. Magnus Cathedral, still today a dominating feature of Kirkwall.

Unusually, from c. 1100 onwards the Norse jarls owed allegiance both to Norway for Orkney and to the Scottish crown through their holdings as Earls of Caithness. In 1231 the line of Norse earls, unbroken since Rognvald, ended with Jon Haraldsson
Jon Haraldsson
Jon Haraldsson was Earl of Orkney between 1206 and 1231.Jon Haraldsson and his brother David were the sons of Harald Maddadsson with his second wife Hvarflod, daughter of Earl Máel Coluim of Moray. Jon and David were joint Earls of Orkney after the death of their father...

's murder in Thurso
Thurso
-Facilities:Offices of the Highland Council are located in the town, as is the main campus of North Highland College, formerly Thurso College. This is one of several partner colleges which constitute the UHI Millennium Institute, and offers several certificate, diploma and degree courses from...

. The Earldom of Caithness was granted to Magnus
Magnus II, Earl of Orkney
Magnus II was Earl of Orkney.The son of Gille Críst, Mormaer of Angus by his wife Ingibiorg, sister of Harald III, Earl of Orkney and daughter of Eric Stalbregr by his wife Ingrid , he was granted the Earldom of Orkney by King Haakon IV of Norway in 1236...

, second son of the Earl of Angus
Earl of Angus
The Mormaer or Earl of Angus was the ruler of the medieval Scottish province of Angus. The title, in the Peerage of Scotland, is currently held by the Duke of Hamilton.-Mormaers:...

, whom Haakon IV of Norway
Haakon IV of Norway
Haakon Haakonarson , also called Haakon the Old, was king of Norway from 1217 to 1263. Under his rule, medieval Norway reached its peak....

 confirmed as Earl of Orkney in 1236. In 1290, the death of the child princess Margaret, Maid of Norway
Margaret, Maid of Norway
Margaret , usually known as the Maid of Norway , sometimes known as Margaret of Scotland , was a Norwegian princess who was Queen of Scots from 1286 until her death...

 in Orkney, en route to mainland Scotland, created a disputed succession that led to the Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence
The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between the independent Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries....

. In 1379 the earldom passed to the Sinclair
Clan Sinclair
Clan Sinclair is a Highland Scottish clan of Norman origin who held lands in the north of Scotland, the Orkney Islands, and the Lothians which they received from the Kings of Scots...

 family, who were also barons of Roslin
Roslin Castle
Roslin Castle is a partially ruined castle near the village of Roslin in Midlothian, Scotland. It is located around 9 miles south of Edinburgh, on the north bank of the North Esk, only a few hundred metres from the famous Rosslyn Chapel.There has been a castle on the site since the early 14th...

 near Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

.

Evidence of the Viking presence is widespread, and includes the settlement at the Brough of Birsay
Brough of Birsay
- Lighthouse :An unmanned lighthouse on the Brough was built in 1925 by David A Stevenson.-References:...

, the vast majority of place name
Toponymy
Toponymy is the scientific study of place names , their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word "toponymy" is derived from the Greek words tópos and ónoma . Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds...

s, and the runic
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

 inscriptions at Maeshowe.

Scottish rule

In 1468 Orkney was pledged
Pledge (law)
A pledge is a bailment or deposit of personal property to a creditor to secure repayment for some debt or engagement, The term is also used to denote the property which constitutes the security....

 by Christian I
Christian I of Denmark
Christian I was a Danish monarch, king of Denmark , Norway and Sweden , under the Kalmar Union. In Sweden his short tenure as monarch was preceded by regents, Jöns Bengtsson Oxenstierna and Erik Axelsson Tott and succeeded by regent Kettil Karlsson Vasa...

, in his capacity as king of Norway, as security against the payment of the dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland
James III of Scotland
James III was King of Scots from 1460 to 1488. James was an unpopular and ineffective monarch owing to an unwillingness to administer justice fairly, a policy of pursuing alliance with the Kingdom of England, and a disastrous relationship with nearly all his extended family.His reputation as the...

. As the money was never paid, the connection with the crown of Scotland has become perpetual.

The history of Orkney prior to this time is largely the history of the ruling aristocracy. From now on the ordinary people emerge with greater clarity. An influx of Scottish entrepreneurs helped to create a diverse and independent community that included farmers, fishermen and merchants that called themselves comunitatis Orcadie and who proved themselves increasingly able to defend their rights against their feudal overlords.

From at least the 16th century, boats from mainland Scotland and the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 dominated the local herring
Herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

 fishery. There is little evidence of an Orcadian fleet until the 19th century but it grew rapidly and 700 boats were involved by the 1840s with Stronsay and then later Stromness becoming leading centres of development. White fish
Whitefish (fisheries term)
Whitefish or white fish is a fisheries term referring to several species of demersal fish with fins, particularly cod , whiting , and haddock , but also hake , pollock , or others...

 never became as dominant as in other Scottish ports.

In the 17th century, Orcadians formed the overwhelming majority of employees of the Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

 in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The harsh climate of Orkney and the Orcadian reputation for sobriety and their boat handling skills made them ideal candidates for the rigours of the Canadian north. During this period, burning kelp
Kelp
Kelps are large seaweeds belonging to the brown algae in the order Laminariales. There are about 30 different genera....

 briefly became a mainstay of the islands' economy. For example on Shapinsay over 3048 tonnes (3,000 LT) of burned seaweed were produced per annum to make soda ash, bringing in £20,000 to the local economy.

Agricultural improvements beginning in the 17th century resulted in the enclosure of the commons and ultimately in the Victoria era the emergence of large and well-managed farms using a five-shift rotation system and producing high quality beef cattle.

20th century

Orkney was the site of a Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 base at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

, which played a major role in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 in 1918, the German High Seas Fleet was transferred in its entirety to Scapa Flow to await a decision on its future. However, the German sailors opened the sea-cocks and scuttled all the ships. Most ships were salvaged, but the remaining wrecks are now a favoured haunt of recreational divers. One month into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a German U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 sank the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. As a result, barriers
Churchill Barriers
The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, with a total length of 1.5 miles . They link the Orkney Mainland in the north to the island of South Ronaldsay via Burray and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.The barriers were built in the...

 were built to close most of the access channels; these had the additional advantage of creating causeways enabling travellers to go from island to island by road instead of being obliged to rely on ferries. The causeways were constructed by Italian prisoners of war, who also constructed the ornate Italian Chapel
Italian Chapel
The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate Catholic chapel on Lamb Holm in Orkney, Scotland. It was built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. Only the concrete...

.

The navy base became run down after the war, eventually closing in 1957. The problem of a declining population was significant in the post-war years, though in the last decades of the 20th century there was a recovery and life in Orkney focused on growing prosperity and the emergence of a relatively classless society.

Overview of population trends

In the modern era, population peaked in the mid 19th century at just over 26,000 and declined for a century thereafter to a low of less than 17,000 in the 1970s. Declines were particularly significant in the outlying islands, some of which remain vulnerable to ongoing losses. Although Orkney is in many ways very distinct from the other islands and archipelagos of Scotland this trend is very similar to those experienced elsewhere.

Geography

The Pentland Firth
Pentland Firth
The Pentland Firth , which is actually more of a strait than a firth, separates the Orkney Islands from Caithness in the north of Scotland.-Etymology:...

 is a seaway between Orkney and the mainland of Scotland. It is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) wide between Brough Ness on the island of South Ronaldsay
South Ronaldsay
South Ronaldsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is linked to the Orkney Mainland by the Churchill Barriers, running via Burray, Glimps Holm and Lamb Holm.-Geography and geology:...

 and Duncansby Head
Duncansby Head
Duncansby Head is the most north-easterly part of the Scottish mainland, including even the famous John o' Groats, Caithness, Highland...

 in Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

. Orkney lies between 58°41′and 59°24′North, and 2°22′and 3°26′West, measuring 80 kilometres (50 mi) from northeast to southwest and 47 kilometres (29 mi) from east to west, and covers 975 square kilometres (376 sq mi).

The islands are mainly low-lying except for some sharply rising sandstone hills on Hoy, Mainland and Rousay and rugged cliffs on some western coasts. Nearly all of the islands have loch
Loch
Loch is the Irish and Scottish Gaelic word for a lake or a sea inlet. It has been anglicised as lough, although this is pronounced the same way as loch. Some lochs could also be called a firth, fjord, estuary, strait or bay...

s, but the watercourses are merely streams draining the high land. The coastlines are indented, and the islands themselves are divided from each other by straits generally called "sounds" or "firths".

The tidal currents
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

, or "roosts" as some of them are called locally, off many of the isles are swift, with frequent whirlpools. The islands are notable for the absence of trees, which is partly accounted for by the amount of wind.

The Mainland

The Mainland is the largest island of Orkney. Both of Orkney's burgh
Burgh
A burgh was an autonomous corporate entity in Scotland and Northern England, usually a town. This type of administrative division existed from the 12th century, when King David I created the first royal burghs. Burgh status was broadly analogous to borough status, found in the rest of the United...

s, Kirkwall
Kirkwall
Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of Orkney, off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. The town is first mentioned in Orkneyinga saga in the year 1046 when it is recorded as the residence of Rögnvald Brusason the Earl of Orkney, who was killed by his uncle Thorfinn the Mighty...

 and Stromness
Stromness
Stromness is the second-biggest town in Orkney, Scotland. It is in the south-west of Mainland Orkney. It is also a parish, with the town of Stromness as its capital.-Etymology:...

, are on this island, which is also the heart of Orkney's transportation system, with ferry
Ferry
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 and air connections to the other islands and to the outside world. The island is more densely populated (75% of Orkney's population) than the other islands and has much fertile farmland.

The island is mostly low-lying (especially East Mainland) but with coastal cliff
Cliff
In geography and geology, a cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms due to the processes of erosion and weathering that produce them. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually...

s to the north and west and two sizeable lochs: the Loch of Harray and the Loch of Stenness
Loch of Stenness
The Loch of Stenness together with the Loch of Harray are the two largest freshwater lochs of Mainland, Orkney. In Old Norse their names are Steinnesvatn and Heraðvatn...

. The Mainland contains the remnants of numerous Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

, Pictish
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 and Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 constructions. Four of the main Neolithic sites are included in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney refers to a group of Neolithic monuments found on the Mainland, one of the islands of Orkney, Scotland. The name was adopted by UNESCO when it proclaimed these sites as a World Heritage Site in 1999....

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

, inscribed in 1999.

The other islands in the group are classified as north or south of the Mainland. Exceptions are the remote islets of Sule Skerry
Sule Skerry
Sule Skerry is a remote skerry in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland.-Geography:Sule Skerry lies 60 kilometres west of the Orkney Mainland at . Sule Skerry's sole neighbour, Sule Stack, lies 10km to the southwest. The remote islands of Rona and Sula Sgeir lie approximately 80km...

 and Sule Stack
Sule Stack
Sule Stack or Stack Skerry is an extremely remote island or stack in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland. It is formed of Lewisian gneiss.Sule Stack lies 66 kilometres west of the Orkney mainland at...

, which lie 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of the archipelago, but form part of Orkney for local government purposes. In island names, the suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

 "a" or "ay" represents the Norse ey, meaning "island". Those described as "holms
Holm (island)
This page is a set index; for other uses of the term, see Holm There are numerous islands containing the word Holm, especially in Scotland. In many cases the name is derived from the Old Norse holmr, meaning "a small and rounded islet"...

" are very small.

The North Isles

The northern group of islands is the most extensive and consists of a large number of moderately sized islands, linked to the Mainland by ferries and by air services. Farming, fishing and tourism are the main sources of income for most of the islands.

The most northerly is North Ronaldsay
North Ronaldsay
North Ronaldsay is the northernmost of the Orkney Islands, Scotland and with an area of is the fourteenth largest.-Geography:North Ronaldsay lies around north of its nearest neighbour, Sanday at . The island is around long along its length and is defined by two large sandy bays; Linklet Bay on...

, which lies 4 kilometres (2 mi) beyond its nearest neighbour, Sanday. To the west is Westray
Westray
Westray is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of around 550 people. Its main village is Pierowall, with a heritage centre, the ruined Lady Kirk and ferries to Papa Westray.-Geography and geology:...

 has a population of 550. It is connected by ferry and air to Papa Westray
Papa Westray
Papa Westray, also known as Papay, is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of 65 at the time of the 2001 Census, now increased to 70 people...

, also known as "Papay". Eday
Eday
Eday is one of the Orkney Islands, which are located to the north of the Scottish mainland in the United Kingdom. Eday is located in the North Isles of Orkney, and is about north of the main island of Orkney Mainland...

 is at the centre of the North Isles
North Isles
The North Isles are the northern islands of the Shetland Islands, Scotland. The main islands in the group are Yell, Unst and Fetlar. Sometimes the islands in Yell Sound are included in this group.- Importance :...

. The centre of the island is moorland
Moorland
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

 and the island's main industries have been peat extraction and limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 quarry
Quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

ing.

Rousay
Rousay
Rousay is a small, hilly island about north of Orkney's Mainland, off the north coast of Scotland, and has been nicknamed "the Egypt of the north", due to its tremendous archaeological diversity and importance....

, Egilsay
Egilsay
Egilsay is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, lying east of Rousay. The island is largely farmland and is known for its corncrakes.-St. Magnus Church:...

 and Gairsay
Gairsay
Gairsay is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, located in the parish of Rendall, off the coast, astride one of the approaches to the bays of Firth and Kirkwall...

 lie north of the west Mainland across the Eynhallow Sound
Eynhallow Sound
Eynhallow Sound is a seaway lying between Mainland Orkney and the island of Rousay in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. The tidal indraught is "scarcely felt beyond a line joining Costa Head and the Reef of Quendale". An Iron Age broch, Gurness, has a strategic outlook over the Eynhallow Sound....

. Rousay is well-known for its ancient monuments, including the Quoyness chambered cairn
Chambered cairn
A chambered cairn is a burial monument, usually constructed during the Neolithic, consisting of a cairn of stones inside which a sizeable chamber was constructed. Some chambered cairns are also passage-graves....

 and Egilsay has the ruins of the only round-towered church in Orkney. Wyre
Wyre, Orkney
Wyre, also formerly spelt Weir, is one of the Orkney Islands, lying south-east of Rousay. It is and at its highest point. It is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the archipelago....

 to the south east contains the site of Cubbie Roo's castle. Stronsay
Stronsay
Stronsay is an island in Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland. The main village is Whitehall, home to a heritage centre. It is in size, and at its highest point....

 and Papa Stronsay
Papa Stronsay
Papa Stronsay is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying north east of Stronsay. It is in size, and at its highest point.According to folklore, some of the natives were descended from a female selkie. This was because they had horny skin on their feet and hands, and permanently smelt of...

 lie much further to the east across the Stronsay Firth. Auskerry
Auskerry
Auskerry is a small island in eastern Orkney, Scotland. It lies in the North Sea south of Stronsay and has a lighthouse, completed in 1866.-Description:...

 is south of Stronsay and has a population of only five. Shapinsay
Shapinsay
Shapinsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. There is one village on the island, Balfour, from which roll-on/roll-off car ferries sail to Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland...

 and its Balfour Castle
Balfour Castle
Balfour Castle is a historic building on the southwest of Shapinsay, Orkney Islands. Though built around an older structure that dates at least from the 18th century, the present castle was built in 1847, commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and designed by Edinburgh architect David...

 are a short distance north of Kirkwall.

Other small uninhabited islands in the North Isles group include: Calf of Eday
Calf of Eday
The Calf of Eday is an island in Orkney, Scotland, lying north east of Eday."Calf" is a name usually given to a small island alongside a larger one, e.g...

, Damsay
Damsay
Damsay is an island in the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. It is approximately 18 hectares in extent and rises to only 11 metres above sea level. It is situated in the Bay of Firth north of the Orkney Mainland near Finstown...

, Eynhallow
Eynhallow
Eynhallow is a small, presently uninhabited island, part of the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland.-Geography:Eynhallow lies in Eynhallow Sound between Mainland, Orkney and Rousay. It is in area....

, Faray
Faray
Faray is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying between Eday and Westray. Previously inhabited, the low-lying island is now a successful Grey Seal breeding colony.-Geography:...

, Helliar Holm
Helliar Holm
Helliar Holm is an uninhabited island off the coast of Shapinsay in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is home to a lighthouse, which was built in 1893 and automated in 1967...

, Holm of Faray
Holm of Faray
The Holm of Faray is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, near Faray and Westray, which it lies between. Together with its neighbour Faray, it is designated a SSSI due to its importance as a haul-out site and breeding area for grey seals....

, Holm of Huip
Holm of Huip
The Holm of Huip is a small island in the Orkney Islands, in Spurness Sound to the north west of Stronsay.The Holm has a cairn on it, and a number of grey seals.-Geography and geology:Like most of Orkney, the Holm is formed from Old Red Sandstone....

, Holm of Papa
Holm of Papa
The Holm of Papa is a very small uninhabited island in the Orkney islands. It is around 15 ha in size...

, Holm of Scockness
Holm of Scockness
The Holm of Scockness is a small island in the Orkney Islands, between Rousay and Egilsay.It is currently used for grazing.Its name is Norse in origin and means "little island of the crooked headland".-Geography and geology:...

, Kili Holm
Kili Holm
Kili Holm is a tidal island in the Orkney Islands, linked to Egilsay. Unusually, like its neighbour Egilsay, it may have a partly Gaelic etymology, in this case from cille meaning a monk’s cell...

, Linga Holm, Muckle Green Holm
Muckle Green Holm
Muckle Green Holm is an uninhabited island in the North Isles of the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. It is roughly in extent and rises to 28 metres above sea level, the summit having a trig point. The literal meaning of the name is somewhat contradictory. 'Holm' is from the Old Norse holmr,...

, Rusk Holm
Rusk Holm
-History:There is a prehistoric cairn on it.Rusk Holm is also home to "Holmie Sheep", which are similar to the North Ronaldsay sheep.-References:...

 and Sweyn Holm
Sweyn Holm
Note: There is also a "Sweyn Holm" off St Ninian's Isle, ShetlandSweyn Holm is a small island in the Orkney Islands, next to Gairsay.It is thought to be named for Sweyn Asleifsson , who was connected with Gairsay or possibly a corruption of "servant's island" in Norse.-References:...

.

The South Isles

The southern group of islands surrounds Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

. Hoy is the second largest of the Orkney Isles and Ward Hill
Ward Hill, Hoy
Ward Hill, on the island of Hoy, is the highest hill in Orkney, Scotland. It lies at the north of the island, between Moaness and Rackwick.The hill forms a curved ridge, reminiscent of a 'J' in shape. The lower slopes are covered in heather and grass, though the top of the ridge is covered in small...

 at its northern end is the highest elevation in the archipelago. The Old Man of Hoy
Old Man of Hoy
The Old Man of Hoy is a sea stack of red sandstone perched on a plinth of igneous basalt rock, close to Rackwick Bay on the west coast of the island of Hoy, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is a distinctive landmark seen from the Thurso to Stromness ferry, MV Hamnavoe, and is a famous rock climb...

 is a well-known seastack
Stack (geology)
A stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion. Stacks are formed through processes of coastal geomorphology, which are entirely natural. Time, wind and water are the only factors involved in the...

. Burray
Burray
Burray is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It lies to the east of Scapa Flow and is one of a chain of islands linked by the Churchill Barriers.-Geography and geology:...

 lies to the east of Scapa Flow and is linked by causeway to South Ronaldsay, which hosts the cultural events, the Festival of the Horse and the Boys' Ploughing Match on the third Saturday in August. It is also the location of the Neolithic Tomb of the Eagles
Tomb of the Eagles
Located on at cliff edge at Isbister on South Ronaldsay in Orkney, Scotland, the Tomb of the Eagles is a Neolithic chambered tomb. First explored by Ronald Simison in 1958, he conducted his own excavations at the site in 1976...

. Graemsay
Graemsay
Graemsay is an island in the western approaches to Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The island has two lighthouses.-Geography and geology:...

 and Flotta
Flotta
Flotta is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying in Scapa Flow. The island is known for its large oil terminal and is linked by Orkney Ferries to Houton on the Orkney Mainland and Lyness and Longhope on Hoy....

 are both linked by ferry to the Mainland and Hoy, and the latter is known for its large oil terminal. South Walls
South Walls
South Walls is an inhabited island adjacent to Hoy in Orkney, Scotland. The name is a corruption of "Sooth Was", which means the "southern voes" - as with Kirkwall, it was assumed that it was a mispronunciation of "walls"....

 has a 19th century Martello tower
Martello tower
Martello towers are small defensive forts built in several countries of the British Empire during the 19th century, from the time of the Napoleonic Wars onwards....

 and is connected to Hoy by the Ayre. South Ronaldsay, Burray, Glims Holm
Glims Holm
Glims Holm is a small uninhabited islet in Orkney, Scotland.-Geography:Glims Holm lies in Holm Sound, one of the eastern entrances to Scapa Flow, between Mainland, Orkney and the island of Burray, The Churchill Barriers link South Ronaldsay to the Orkney Mainland...

, and Lamb Holm
Lamb Holm
Lamb Holm is a small uninhabited island in Orkney, Scotland. The remarkable Italian Chapel, constructed during the Second World War, is the island's main attraction.-Geography:...

 are connected by road to the Mainland by the Churchill Barriers
Churchill Barriers
The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, with a total length of 1.5 miles . They link the Orkney Mainland in the north to the island of South Ronaldsay via Burray and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.The barriers were built in the...

.

Uninhabited South Islands include: Calf of Flotta
Calf of Flotta
The Calf of Flotta is a small island in Scapa Flow, Orkney. The Calf is next to Flotta, with "Calf" deriving from Old Norse/Norn and meaning a smaller island by a larger one.-Geography and geology:The Calf is made of red sandstone....

, Cava, Copinsay
Copinsay
'Copinsay is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, lying off the east coast of the Orkney Mainland. The smaller companion island to Copinsay is called the Horse of Copinsay and lies to the north east to the main island. The island is now uninhabited and managed as a bird reserve...

, Corn Holm
Corn Holm
Corn Holm is a small tidal island in Orkney, near Copinsay to the west. There was once a small chapel here , and it is covered in birdlife.- Geography and geology :Corn Holm is made up of red sandstone....

, Fara
Fara, Orkney
Fara is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying in Scapa Flow between the islands of Flotta and Hoy. It has been uninhabited since the 1960s.-Footnotes:...

, Glims Holm
Glims Holm
Glims Holm is a small uninhabited islet in Orkney, Scotland.-Geography:Glims Holm lies in Holm Sound, one of the eastern entrances to Scapa Flow, between Mainland, Orkney and the island of Burray, The Churchill Barriers link South Ronaldsay to the Orkney Mainland...

, Hunda
Hunda
Hunda is an uninhabited island in the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. It is in extent and rises to above sea level. It is situated in the Scapa Flow and connected to the nearby island of Burray by a causeway built in 1941 to stop passage of small surface craft as part of the boom defences, and...

, Lamb Holm
Lamb Holm
Lamb Holm is a small uninhabited island in Orkney, Scotland. The remarkable Italian Chapel, constructed during the Second World War, is the island's main attraction.-Geography:...

, Rysa Little
Rysa Little
Rysa Little is an uninhabited island in the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. It is approximately 32 hectares in extent and rises to 20 metres above sea level....

, Switha
Switha
Switha is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, south of Flotta, used for grazing sheep. There is no written record of the island ever being inhabited, but Neolithic standing stones and a cairn show that it was at least visited in prehistoric times....

 and Swona
Swona
Swona is an uninhabited island in the Pentland Firth off the north coast of Scotland.-Geography and geology:Swona is the more northerly of two islands in the Pentland Firth between the Orkney Islands and Caithness on the Scottish mainland...

. The Pentland Skerries
Pentland Skerries
The Pentland Skerries are a group of four uninhabited islands lying in the Pentland Firth, northeast of Duncansby Head and south of South Ronaldsay in Scotland....

 lie further south, closer to the Scottish mainland.

Geology

The superficial rock of Orkney is almost entirely Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone
The Old Red Sandstone is a British rock formation of considerable importance to early paleontology. For convenience the short version of the term, 'ORS' is often used in literature on the subject.-Sedimentology:...

, mostly of Middle Devonian
Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

 age. As in the neighbouring mainland county of Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

, this sandstone rests upon the metamorphic
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 rocks of the Moine
Moine Supergroup
The Moine Supergroup is a sequence of Neoproterozoic metamorphic rocks that form the dominant outcrop of the Scottish Highlands between the Moine Thrust Belt to the northwest and the Great Glen Fault to the southeast. The sequence is metasedimentary in nature and was metamorphosed and deformed in a...

 series, as may be seen on the Mainland, where a narrow strip is exposed between Stromness and Inganess, and again in the small island of Graemsay
Graemsay
Graemsay is an island in the western approaches to Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The island has two lighthouses.-Geography and geology:...

; they are represented by grey gneiss
Gneiss
Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of rock formed by high-grade regional metamorphic processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous or sedimentary rocks.-Etymology:...

 and granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

.

The Middle Devonian is divided into three main groups. The lower part of the sequence, mostly Eifelian in age, is dominated by lacustrine beds of the lower and upper Stromness Flagstones that were deposited in Lake Orcadie
Orcadian Lakes
The Orcadian Lakes are a series of lakes which existed during the Devonian period in the region which is now northern Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. The sedimentary rocks they left behind have been studied since the 1830's...

. The later Rousay flagstone formation is found throughout much of the North and South Isles and East Mainland.

The Old Man of Hoy is formed from sandstone of the uppermost Eday group that is up to 800 metres (874.9 yd) thick in places. It lies unconformably upon steeply inclined flagstones, the interpretation of which is a matter of continuing debate.

The Devonian and older rocks of Orkney are cut by a series of WSW-ENE to N-S trending faults, many of which were active during deposition of the Devonian sequences. A strong synclinal
Syncline
In structural geology, a syncline is a fold, with younger layers closer to the center of the structure. A synclinorium is a large syncline with superimposed smaller folds. Synclines are typically a downward fold, termed a synformal syncline In structural geology, a syncline is a fold, with younger...

 fold traverses Eday and Shapinsay, the axis trending north-south.

Middle Devonian basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

ic volcanic rock
Volcanic rock
Volcanic rock is a rock formed from magma erupted from a volcano. In other words, it is an igneous rock of volcanic origin...

s are found on western Hoy, on Deerness in eastern Mainland and on Shapinsay. Correlation between the Hoy volcanics and the other two exposures has been proposed, but differences in chemistry means this remains uncertain. Lamprophyre
Lamprophyre
Lamprophyres are uncommon, small volume ultrapotassic igneous rocks primarily occurring as dikes, lopoliths, laccoliths, stocks and small intrusions...

 dykes
Dike (geology)
A dike or dyke in geology is a type of sheet intrusion referring to any geologic body that cuts discordantly across* planar wall rock structures, such as bedding or foliation...

 of Late Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 age are found throughout Orkney.

Glacial striation and the presence of chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 and flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 erratics
Glacial erratic
A glacial erratic is a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres...

 that originated from the bed of the North Sea demonstrate the influence of ice action on the geomorphology
Geomorphology
Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them...

 of the islands. Boulder clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 is also abundant and moraine
Moraine
A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris which can occur in currently glaciated and formerly glaciated regions, such as those areas acted upon by a past glacial maximum. This debris may have been plucked off a valley floor as a glacier advanced or it may have...

s cover substantial areas.

Climate

Orkney has a cool temperate climate that is remarkably mild and steady for such a northerly latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

. The average temperature for the year is 8°C (46°F); for winter 4°C (39°F) and for summer 12°C (54°F).

The average annual rainfall varies from 850 millimetres (33.5 in) to 940 millimetres (37 in). Winds are a key feature of the climate and even in summer there are almost constant breezes. In winter, there are frequent strong winds, with an average of 52 hours of gales being recorded annually.

To tourists, one of the fascinations of the islands is their "nightless" summers. On the longest day
Longest Day
Longest Day is an original novel written by Michael Collier and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who...

, the sun rises at 03:00 and sets at 21:29 GMT  and complete darkness is unknown. This long twilight is known in the Northern Isles as the "simmer dim". Winter nights are long. On the shortest day the sun rises at 09:05 and sets at 15:16. At this time of year the aurora borealis can occasionally be seen on the northern horizon during moderate auroral activity.

Politics

Orkney is represented in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 as part of the Orkney and Shetland
Orkney and Shetland (UK Parliament constituency)
Orkney and Shetland is a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election...

 constituency
United Kingdom constituencies
In the United Kingdom , each of the electoral areas or divisions called constituencies elects one or more members to a parliament or assembly.Within the United Kingdom there are now five bodies with members elected by constituencies:...

, which elects one Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 (MP), the current incumbent being Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael
Alexander Morrison "Alistair" Carmichael is a Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Scottish seat of Orkney and Shetland since the 2001 general election.-Early life:...

. This seat has been held by the Liberal Democrats or their predecessors the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 since 1950, longer than any other they represent in the UK.

In the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 the Orkney
Orkney (Scottish Parliament constituency)
Orkney is a constituency of the Scottish Parliament . It elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament by the first past the post method of election...

 constituency elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament
Member of the Scottish Parliament
Member of the Scottish Parliament is the title given to any one of the 129 individuals elected to serve in the Scottish Parliament.-Methods of Election:MSPs are elected in one of two ways:...

 (MSP) by the first past the post
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

 system. The current MSP is Liam McArthur
Liam McArthur
Liam McArthur MSP is a Scottish Liberal Democrat politician and Member of the Scottish Parliament for Orkney.-Background:He was brought up on the Orkney Island of Sanday...

 of the Liberal Democrats. Before McArthur the MSP was Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace
The Rt. Hon. James Robert Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, PC, QC , is a British politician, currently a life peer in the House of Lords and the Advocate General for Scotland...

, who was previously Deputy First Minister
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
The Deputy First Minister of Scotland is the deputy to the First Minister of Scotland.The post is not recognised in statute , and its holder is simply an ordinary member of the Scottish Government...

. Orkney is within the Highlands and Islands electoral region
Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions
Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions were first used in 1999, in the first general election of the Scottish Parliament , created by the Scotland Act 1998....

.

Orkney Islands Council consists of 21 members, all of whom are independent
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

, that is they are not members of a political party.

The Orkney Movement, a political party that supported devolution for Orkney from the rest of Scotland, contested the 1987 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

 as the Orkney and Shetland Movement
Orkney and Shetland Movement
The Orkney and Shetland Movement was an electoral coalition formed for the 1987 general election. The pro-devolution Orkney Movement and Shetland Movement agreed on selecting John Goodlad, the secretary of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, as a joint candidate for the Orkney and Shetland...

 (a coalition of the Orkney movement and its equivalent for Shetland). The Scottish National Party
Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party is a social-democratic political party in Scotland which campaigns for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom....

 chose not to contest the seat to give the movement a "free run". Their candidate, John Goodlad, came 4th with 3,095 votes, 14.5% of those cast, but the experiment has not been repeated.

Economy

The soil of Orkney is generally very fertile and most of the land is taken up by farms, agriculture being by far the most important sector of the economy and providing employment for a quarter of the workforce. More than 90% of agricultural land is used for grazing for sheep and cattle, with cereal production utilising about 4% (4200 hectares (10,378.4 acre)) and woodland occupying only 134 hectares (331.1 acre).

Fishing has declined in importance, but still employed 345 individuals in 2001, about 3.5% of the islands' economically active population, the modern industry concentrating on herring, white fish, lobsters, crab
Crab
True crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting "tail" , or where the reduced abdomen is entirely hidden under the thorax...

s and other shellfish, and salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 fish farming.

Today, the traditional sectors of the economy export beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, cheese
Cheese
Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....

, whisky
Whisky
Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn...

, beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

, fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 and other seafood
Seafood
Seafood is any form of marine life regarded as food by humans. Seafoods include fish, molluscs , crustaceans , echinoderms . Edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and microalgae, are also seafood, and are widely eaten around the world, especially in Asia...

. In recent years there has been growth in other areas including tourism, food and beverage manufacture, jewellery, knitwear, and other crafts production, construction and oil transportation through the Flotta
Flotta
Flotta is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying in Scapa Flow. The island is known for its large oil terminal and is linked by Orkney Ferries to Houton on the Orkney Mainland and Lyness and Longhope on Hoy....

 oil terminal. Retailing accounts for 17.5% of total employment, and public services also play a significant role, employing a third of the islands' workforce.

In 2007, of the 1,420 VAT
Vat
Vat or VAT may refer to:* A type of container such as a barrel, storage tank, or tub, often constructed of welded sheet stainless steel, and used for holding, storing, and processing liquids such as milk, wine, and beer...

 registered enterprises 55% were in agriculture, forestry and fishing, 12% in manufacturing and construction, 12% in wholesale, retail and repairs, and 5% in hotels and restaurants. A further 5% were public service related. 55% of these businesses employ between 5 and 49 people.

Orkney has significant wind and marine energy resources, and renewable energy
Renewable energy in Scotland
The production of renewable energy in Scotland is an issue that has come to the fore in technical, economic, and political terms during the opening years of the 21st century. The natural resource base for renewables is extraordinary by European, and even global standards...

 has recently come into prominence. The European Marine Energy Centre
European Marine Energy Centre
The European Marine Energy Centre is a research centre focusing on wave and tidal power development based in the Orkney Islands, UK. It claims to provide developers with the opportunity to test full-scale grid-connected prototype devices in unrivalled wave and tidal conditions...

 (EMEC) is a Scottish Government-backed research facility that has installed a wave testing system at Billia Croo on the Orkney Mainland and a tidal power testing station on the island of Eday. At the official opening of the Eday project the site was described as "the first of its kind in the world set up to provide developers of wave and tidal energy devices with a purpose-built performance testing facility." Funding for the UK's first wave farm
Wave farm
A wave farm or wave power farm is a collection of machines in the same location and used for the generation of wave power electricity.-Portugal:...

 was announced by the Scottish Government in 2007. It will be the world's largest, with a capacity of 3 MW generated by four Pelamis
Pelamis wave energy converter
The Pelamis Wave Energy Converter is a technology that uses the motion of ocean surface waves to create electricity. The machine is made up of connected sections which flex and bend as waves pass; it is this motion which is used to generate electricity....

 machines at a cost of over £4 million. During 2007 Scottish and Southern Energy plc in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde
University of Strathclyde
The University of Strathclyde , Glasgow, Scotland, is Glasgow's second university by age, founded in 1796, and receiving its Royal Charter in 1964 as the UK's first technological university...

 began the implementation of a Regional Power Zone in the Orkney archipelago. This scheme (that may be the first of its kind in the world) involves "active network management" that will make better use of the existing infrastructure and allow a further 15MW of new "non-firm generation" output from renewables onto the network.

Air

Highland and Islands Airports
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited is the company that owns and operates 10 airports in the Scottish Highlands, the Northern Isles and the Western Isles...

 operates the main airport in Orkney, Kirkwall Airport
Kirkwall Airport
Kirkwall Airport is the main airport serving the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It is located southeast of Kirkwall and is owned by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited...

. Loganair
Loganair
Loganair is a Scottish airline with its registered office on the grounds of Glasgow International Airport and in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. Loganair operates scheduled services under a Flybe franchise in mainland Scotland and to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. In addition it operates...

, a franchise of Flybe
Flybe
Flybe Group PLC is a British low-cost regional airline headquartered at the Jack Walker House at Exeter International Airport in Devon, England...

, provides services to the Scottish mainland (Aberdeen
Aberdeen Airport
Aberdeen Airport is an international airport, located at Dyce, a suburb of Aberdeen, Scotland, approximately northwest of Aberdeen city centre. 2.76 million passengers used Aberdeen Airport in 2010, a reduction of 7.4% compared with 2009, making it the 15th busiest airport in the UK...

, Edinburgh
Edinburgh Airport
Edinburgh Airport is located at Turnhouse in the City of Edinburgh, Scotland, and was the busiest airport in Scotland in 2010, handling just under 8.6 million passengers in that year. It was also the sixth busiest airport in the UK by passengers and the fifth busiest by aircraft movements...

, Glasgow-International
Glasgow International Airport
Glasgow International Airport is an international airport in Scotland, located west of Glasgow city centre, near the towns of Paisley and Renfrew in Renfrewshire...

 and Inverness
Inverness Airport
Inverness Airport is an international airport situated at Dalcross, north east of the city of Inverness in Highland, Scotland. The airport is the main gateway for travellers to the north of Scotland with a wide range of scheduled services throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, and limited...

), as well as to Sumburgh Airport
Sumburgh Airport
-Other tenants:*Maritime and Coastguard Agency *Bristow Helicopters*Bond Helicopters -Incidents and accidents:...

 in Shetland.

Within Orkney, the council operates airfields on most of the larger islands including Stronsay
Stronsay Airport
Stronsay Airport is located northeast by north of Kirkwall Airport on Stronsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland.Stronsay Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee . The aerodrome is not...

, Eday
Eday Airport
Eday Airport is located on Eday in Orkney, Scotland. Due to its location close to the Bay of London it is known locally as London Airport....

, North Ronaldsay
North Ronaldsay Airport
-External links:*...

, Westray
Westray Airport
Westray Airport is an airport located at Aikerness, on Westray in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is best known for being one of the two airports joined by the shortest scheduled flight in the world, a leg of Loganair's inter-island service, to Papa Westray Airport...

, Papa Westray
Papa Westray Airport
-External links:*...

, and Sanday
Sanday Airport
Sanday Airport is located north northeast of Kirkwall Airport on Sanday, Orkney Islands, Scotland.Sanday Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee . The aerodrome is not licensed for...

. Reputedly the shortest scheduled air service in the world, between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, is scheduled at two minutes duration but can take less than one minute if the wind is in the right direction.

Ferry

Ferries serve both to link Orkney to the rest of Scotland, and also to link together the various islands of the Orkney archipelago. Ferry services operate between Orkney and the Scottish mainland and Shetland on the following routes:
  • Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope
    St Margaret's Hope
    St Margaret's Hope, known locally as The Hope , is a village in the Orkney Islands, situated off the north-east coast of Scotland. It has a population of about 550, making it Orkney's third largest settlement after Kirkwall and Stromness....

     (operated by Pentland Ferries
    Pentland Ferries
    Pentland Ferries is a privately owned, family company which has operated a ferry service between Gills Bay in Caithness, Scotland and St Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay in Orkney since May 2001.-History:...

    )
  • John o' Groats to Burwick on South Ronaldsay (seasonal passenger only service, operated by John o' Groats Ferries)
  • Lerwick to Kirkwall (operated by Northlink Ferries
    Northlink Ferries
    NorthLink Ferries operates daily ferry services between mainland Scotland and the northern archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland. NorthLink Ferries is a wholly owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, whose sole shareholder is the Scottish Government.-History:...

    )
  • Aberdeen to Kirkwall (operated by Northlink Ferries)
  • Scrabster Harbour
    Scrabster Harbour
    Scrabster is a small settlement on Thurso Bay in Caithness on the north coast of Scotland. It is some 1½ miles from Thurso, 22½ miles from Wick and 112 miles from Inverness....

    , Thurso
    Thurso
    -Facilities:Offices of the Highland Council are located in the town, as is the main campus of North Highland College, formerly Thurso College. This is one of several partner colleges which constitute the UHI Millennium Institute, and offers several certificate, diploma and degree courses from...

     to Stromness
    Stromness
    Stromness is the second-biggest town in Orkney, Scotland. It is in the south-west of Mainland Orkney. It is also a parish, with the town of Stromness as its capital.-Etymology:...

     (operated by Northlink Ferries)


Inter-island ferry services connect all the inhabited islands to Orkney Mainland, and are operated by Orkney Ferries
Orkney Ferries
Orkney Ferries is a company operating inter-island ferry services in Orkney, to the north of mainland Scotland.-History:The company is owned by the Orkney Islands Council and was established in 1960 as the Orkney Islands Shipping Company....

, a company owned by Orkney Islands Council.

Media

Orkney is served by a weekly local newspaper, The Orcadian
The Orcadian
The Orcadian is the oldest newspaper in Orkney, Scotland, first published in 1854. At first a monthly paper, it soon became a weekly. It is produced in Kirkwall and comes out each Thursday....

.

A local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Orkney
BBC Radio Orkney
BBC Radio Orkney is a local opt-out of BBC Radio Scotland for the Orkney Islands, which is based in Castle Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, in Scotland....

, the local opt-out of BBC Radio Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland is BBC Scotland's national English-language radio network. It broadcasts a wide variety of programming, including news, sport, light entertainment, music, the arts, comedy, drama, history and lifestyle...

, broadcasts twice daily, with local news and entertainment. Orkney also has a commercial radio station, The Superstation Orkney
The Superstation Orkney
The Superstation Orkney, also known as just The Superstation, is a local commercial radio station which broadcasts to some parts of mainland Orkney and Caithness. The station is Orkney's only commercial radio station, and broadcasts 'a broad range of popular and contemporarymusic'...

, which broadcasts to Kirkwall and parts of the mainland and also broadcasts to most of Caithness
Caithness
Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

. Moray Firth Radio broadcasts throughout Orkney on AM and from an FM transmitter just outside Thurso. The community radio
Community radio
Community radio is a type of radio service, that offers a third model of radio broadcasting beyond commercial broadcasting and public broadcasting. Community stations can serve geographic communities and communities of interest...

 station Caithness FM also broadcasts to Orkney.

Language, literature and folklore

At the beginning of recorded history the islands were inhabited by the Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

, whose language was Brythonic. The Ogham
Ogham
Ogham is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the Old Irish language, and occasionally the Brythonic language. Ogham is sometimes called the "Celtic Tree Alphabet", based on a High Medieval Bríatharogam tradition ascribing names of trees to the individual letters.There are roughly...

 script on the Buckquoy spindle-whorl
Buckquoy spindle-whorl
The Buckquoy spindle-whorl is a famous spindle-whorl dating from the Early Middle Ages, probably the 8th century, excavated in 1970 in Buckquoy, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland. Made of sandy limestone, it is about 36 mm in diameter and 10 mm thick...

 is cited as evidence for the pre-Norse existence of Old Irish in Orkney.

After the Norse occupation the toponymy
Toponymy
Toponymy is the scientific study of place names , their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word "toponymy" is derived from the Greek words tópos and ónoma . Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds...

 of Orkney became almost wholly West Norse. The Norse language evolved into the local Norn
Norn language
Norn is an extinct North Germanic language that was spoken in Shetland and Orkney, off the north coast of mainland Scotland, and in Caithness. After the islands were pledged to Scotland by Norway in the 15th century, it was gradually replaced by Scots and on the mainland by Scottish...

, which lingered until the end of the 18th century, when it finally died out. Norn was replaced by the Orcadian dialect
Orcadian dialect
Orcadian dialect is a dialect of Insular Scots, itself a dialect of the Scots language. It is derived from Lowland Scots with a degree of influence from the Norn language, which is an extinct North Germanic language. Orcadian is spoken in Orkney, north of mainland Scotland.The other Insular Scots...

 of Insular Scots
Insular Scots
Insular Scots comprises varieties of Lowland Scots generally subdivided into:*Shetlandic*OrcadianBoth dialects share much Norn vocabulary, Shetlandic more so, than does any other Scots dialect, perhaps because they both were under strong Scandinavian influence in their recent past.It should not be...

. This dialect is at a low ebb due to the pervasive influences of television, education and the large number of incomers. However attempts are being made by some writers and radio presenters to revitalise its use and the distinctive sing-song accent
Accent (linguistics)
In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside , the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language In...

 and many dialect words of Norse origin remain in use. The Orcadian word most frequently encountered by visitors is "peedie", meaning "small", which may be derived from the French petit.

Orkney has a rich folklore and many of the former tales concern trows, an Orcadian form of troll
Troll
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, the term troll was a generally negative synonym for a jötunn , a being in Norse mythology...

 that draws on the islands' Scandinavian connections. Local customs in the past included marriage ceremonies at the Odin Stone that formed part of the Stones of Stenness.

The best known literary figures from modern Orkney are the poet Edwin Muir
Edwin Muir
Edwin Muir was an Orcadian poet, novelist and translator born on a farm in Deerness on the Orkney Islands. He was remembered for his deeply felt and vivid poetry in plain language with few stylistic preoccupations....

, the poet and novelist George Mackay Brown
George Mackay Brown
George Mackay Brown , was a Scottish poet, author and dramatist, whose work has a distinctly Orcadian character...

 and the novelist Eric Linklater
Eric Linklater
Eric Robert Russell Linklater was a British writer, known for more than 20 novels, as well as short stories, travel writing and autobiography, and military history.-Life:...

.

Orcadians

An Orcadian is a native of Orkney, a term that reflects a strongly held identity with a tradition of understatement. Although the annexation of the earldom by Scotland took place over five centuries ago in 1472, most Orcadians regard themselves as Orcadians first and Scots
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 second.

When an Orcadian speaks of "Scotland", they are talking about the land to the immediate south of the Pentland Firth
Pentland Firth
The Pentland Firth , which is actually more of a strait than a firth, separates the Orkney Islands from Caithness in the north of Scotland.-Etymology:...

. When an Orcadian speaks of "the mainland", they mean Mainland, Orkney. Tartan
Tartan
Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns...

, clans, bagpipes
Bagpipes
Bagpipes are a class of musical instrument, aerophones, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. Though the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe and Irish uilleann pipes have the greatest international visibility, bagpipes of many different types come from...

 and the like are traditions of the Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

 and are not a part of the islands' indigenous culture. However, at least two tartans with Orkney connections have been registered and a tartan has been designed for Sanday by one of the island's residents, and there are pipe bands in Orkney.

Native Orcadians refer to the non-native residents of the islands as "ferry loupers", a term that has been in use for nearly two centuries at least. This designation is celebrated in the Orkney Trout Fishing Association's "Ferryloupers Trophy", suggesting that although it can be used in a derogatory manner, it is more often a light-hearted expression.

Natural history

Orkney has an abundance of wildlife especially of Grey
Grey Seal
The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus...

 and Common Seals
Harbor Seal
The harbor seal , also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere...

 and seabirds such as Puffins
Atlantic Puffin
The Atlantic Puffin is a seabird species in the auk family. It is a pelagic bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, but also eats other sea creatures, such as squid and crustaceans. Its most obvious characteristic during the breeding season is its brightly coloured bill...

, Kittiwake
Kittiwake
The kittiwakes are two closely related seabird species in the gull family Laridae, the Black-legged Kittiwake and the Red-legged Kittiwake . The epithets "Black-legged" and "Red-legged" are used to distinguish the two species in North America, but in Europe, where R...

s, Tysties
Black Guillemot
The Black Guillemot or Tystie is a medium-sized alcid.Adult birds have black bodies with a white wing patch, a thin dark bill, and red legs and feet. They show white wing linings in flight. In winter, the upperparts are pale grey and the underparts are white. The wings remain black with the large...

, Raven
Raven
Raven is the common name given to several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Common Raven is normally implied...

s, and Bonxies
Great Skua
The Great Skua, Stercorarius skua, is a large seabird in the skua family Stercorariidae. In Britain, it is sometimes known by the name Bonxie, a Shetland name of unknown origin.-Description:...

. Whales, dolphins, Otters
European Otter
The European Otter , also known as the Eurasian otter, Eurasian river otter, common otter and Old World otter, is a European and Asian member of the Lutrinae or otter subfamily, and is typical of freshwater otters....

 are also seen around the coasts. Inland the Orkney Vole
Orkney vole
The Orkney vole is a population of the common vole found in the Orkney Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland, United Kingdom. Orkney voles are larger than voles from other populations of the common vole...

, a distinct subspecies of the Common Vole
Common Vole
The Common Vole, Microtus arvalis, is a European mammal.- Distribution and habitat :The common vole is hardly restricted in means of distribution and habitat and inhabits large areas of Eurasia. As Microtus arvalis followed human civilisation, primary and secondary habitats can be distinguished...

 is an endemic. There are five distinct varieties, found on the islands of Sanday, Westray, Rousay, South Ronaldsay, and the Mainland, all the more remarkable as the species is absent on mainland Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

.

The coastline is well-known for its colourful flowers including Sea Aster
Aster tripolium
Aster tripolium is a plant of northern Europe that is confined in its distribution to salt marshes, estuaries and occasionally to inland salt works....

, Sea Squill
Scilla verna
Scilla verna, commonly known as spring squill, is a flowering plant native to Western Europe. It belongs to the squill genus Scilla. Its star-like blue flowers are produced during the spring....

, Sea Thrift
Armeria maritima
Armeria maritima is the botanical name for a species of flowering plant.It is a popular garden flower, known by several common names, including thrift, sea thrift, and sea pink. The plant has been distributed worldwide as a garden and cut flower...

, Common Sea-lavendar, Bell
Erica cinerea
Erica cinerea is a species of heather, native to western and central Europe. It is a low shrub growing to tall, with fine needle-like leaves long arranged in whorls of three...

 and Common Heather
Calluna
Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the family Ericaceae. It is a low-growing perennial shrub growing to tall, or rarely to and taller, and is found widely in Europe and Asia Minor on acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade...

. The Scottish Primrose
Primula scotica
Primula scotica, commonly known as Scottish primrose, is a species of primrose that is endemic to the north coast of Scotland, including Caithness and Orkney. It is closely related to the Arctic species Primula stricta and Primula scandinavica.Primula scotica is easily distinguished from other...

 is found only on the coasts of Orkney and nearby Caithness and Sutherland
Sutherland
Sutherland is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic administrative county of Scotland. It is now within the Highland local government area. In Gaelic the area is referred to according to its traditional areas: Dùthaich 'IcAoidh , Asainte , and Cataibh...

. Although stands of trees are generally rare, a small forest named Happy Valley
Happy Valley (garden)
Happy Valley is a garden created by Edwin Harrold in Stenness, Orkney, Scotland.-History:The area was originally known as "Bankburn". The garden was created from a bare hillside by Edwin Harrold, between the October 1948 and the 1990s. Mr Harrold had to give up the garden, as he was too old to...

 with 700 trees and lush gardens was created from a boggy hillside near Stenness during the second half of the 20th century.

The North Ronaldsay Sheep
North Ronaldsay sheep
The North Ronaldsay is a breed of sheep living on North Ronaldsay, the northernmost of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. They are one survivor of a type of sheep formerly found across the islands of Orkney and Shetland , belonging to the Northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds.They are...

 is an unusual breed of domesticated animal, subsisting largely on a diet of seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

, since they are confined to the foreshore for most of the year to conserve the limited grazing inland.

Further reading

  • Fresson, Captain E. E. Air Road to the Isles. (2008) Kea Publishing. ISBN 9780951895894
  • Lo Bao, Phil and Hutchison, Iain (2002) BEAline to the Islands. Kea Publishing. ISBN 9780951895849
  • Warner, Guy (2005) Orkney by Air. Kea Publishing. ISBN 9780951895870
  • Batey, C.E. et al (eds.) (1995) The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney and the North Atlantic. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748606320

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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