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Logo Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Area Ranked 16th
 - Total 990 km² (382 sq mi)
Admin HQ Kirkwall
ISO 3166-2 GB-ORK
ONS code 00RA
Population Ranked 32nd
 - Total (2008) 19,900
 - Density 20 /km2 (52 /sq mi)
Orkney Islands Council
Control Independent

Orkney (Scottish Gaelic: Arcaibh[1][2]) also known as the Orkney Islands, (and sometimes incorrectly as "The Orkneys"[Notes 1]), is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the coast of Caithness. Orkney comprises approximately 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited.[5][6] The largest island, known as the "Mainland" has an area of 523.25 square kilometres (202.03 sq mi) making it the sixth largest Scottish island[7] and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles. The largest settlement and administrative centre is Kirkwall.[8]

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 and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts, Orkney was invaded and then annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. It was subsequently annexed to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III's bride, Margaret of Denmark.[9] Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Orkney is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, a constituency of the Scottish Parliament, a lieutenancy area, and a former county. The local council is Orkney Islands Council, one of only two Councils in Scotland with a majority of elected members who are independents.[Notes 2]

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. The climate is mild and the soils are extremely fertile, most of the land being farmed. Agriculture is 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

An old map of two island groups with the "Orcades" at left and "Schetlandia" at right. A coat of arms at top left shows a red lion rampant on a yellow shield flanked by two white unicorns. A second heraldic device is shown at bottom right below the "Oceanus Germanicus". This has two mermaids surrounding a tabula containing very small writing, topped by a yellow and blue shield.
Blaeu's 1654 map of Orkney and Shetland. The original Latin name "Orcades" was still in use by map makers at this time.

Pytheas of Massilia visited Britain sometime between 322 and 285 BC and described it as being triangular in shape, with a northern tip called Orcas.[11] This may have referred to Dunnet Head, from which Orkney is visible.[12] Writing in the 1st century AD, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela called the islands Orcades, as did Tacitus in AD 98, claiming that his father-in-law Agricola had "discovered and subjugated the Orcades hitherto unknown"[12][13] although both Mela and Pliny had previously referred to the islands.[11] "Orc" is usually interpreted as a Pictish tribal name meaning "young pig" or "young boar".[14] The old Irish Gaelic name for the islands was Insi Orc ("island of the pigs").[15][16][Notes 3] The archipelago is known as Arcaibh in modern Scottish Gaelic, the -aibh representing a fossilized prepositional case ending. When Norwegian Vikings arrived on the islands they interpreted "orc" as orkn which is Old Norse for seal and added the suffix ey meaning "island".[18] Thus the name became Orkneyjar (meaning "seal islands") which was later shortened to Orkney in English.[16]




Four large standing stones sit in a field of grass and heather. They are illuminated by reddish sunlight and they cast long shadows to the left. A lake and low hills lie beyond.

A charred hazelnut 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.[19] The earliest known permanent settlement is at Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farmstead on the island of Papa Westray, which dates from 3500 BC. The village of Skara Brae, Europe's best-preserved Neolithic settlement, is believed to have been inhabited from around 3100 BC.[20] Other remains from that era include the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Maeshowe passage grave, the Ring of Brodgar and other standing stones. Many of the Neolithic settlements were abandoned around 2500 BC, possibly due to changes in the climate.[21][22][23]

During the Bronze Age fewer large stone structures were built although the great ceremonial circles continued in use[24] as metalworking was slowly introduced to Scotland from Europe over a lengthy period.[25][26] 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 and the remains of two houses on Holm of Faray.[27][28]

Iron Age

A semi-circular stone wall at left hints at the existence of a large and ancient building and to the right are the ruins of various other stone structures. In the background a low cliff divides a body of water from grassy fields.
Midhowe Broch on the west coast of Rousay

Excavations at Quanterness on the Mainland have revealed an Atlantic roundhouse built about 700 BC and similar finds have been made at Bu on the Mainland and Pierowall Quarry on Westray.[29] The most impressive Iron Age structures of Orkney are the ruins of later round towers called "brochs" and their associated settlements such as the Broch of Burroughston[30] and Broch of Gurness. The nature and origin of these buildings is a subject of ongoing debate. Other structures from this period include underground storehouses, and aisled roundhouses, the latter usually in association with earlier broch sites.[31][32]

During the Roman invasion of Britain the "King of Orkney" was one of 11 British leaders who is said to have submitted to the Emperor Claudius in AD 43 at Colchester.[33][Notes 4] After the Agricolan fleet had come and gone, possibly anchoring at Shapinsay, direct Roman influence seems to have been limited to trade rather than conquest.[36]

By the late Iron Age, Orkney was part of the Brythonic-speaking Pictish 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.[36][Notes 5] The Dalriadic Gaels began to influence the islands towards the close of the Pictish era, perhaps principally through the role of Celtic missionaries, as evidenced by several islands bearing the epithet "Papa" in commemoration of these preachers.[38] However, before the Gaelic presence could establish itself the Picts were gradually dispossessed by the Norsemen from the late 8th century onwards. The nature of this transition is controversial, and theories range from peaceful integration to enslavement and genocide.[39]

Norwegian rule

A page from an illuminated manuscript shows two male figures. On the left a seated man wears a red crown and on a the right a standing man has long fair hair. Their right hands are clasped together.
According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Harald Hårfagre (on the left) took control of Orkney in 875.

Both Orkney and Shetland saw a significant influx of Norwegian settlers during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. Vikings made the islands the headquarters of their buccaneering expeditions carried out against Norway and the coasts of mainland Scotland. In response, Norwegian king Harald Hårfagre ("Harald Fair Hair") annexed the Northern Isles (comprising Orkney and Shetland) in 875.[Notes 6] 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.[41]

However, Sigurd's line barely survived him and it was Torf-Einarr, Rognvald's son by a slave, who founded a dynasty which retained control of the islands for centuries after his death.[42][Notes 7] He was succeeded by his son Thorfinn Skull-splitter and during this time the deposed Norwegian King Eric Bloodaxe 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, led to a long period of dynastic strife.[44][45]

A group of warriors in medieval garb surround two men whose postures suggest they are about to embrace. The man on the right is taller, has long fair hair and wears a bright red tunic. The man on the left his balding with short grey hair and a white beard. He wears a long brown cloak.
King Olav Tryggvason of Norway, who forcibly Christianised Orkney. Painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

The islands were Christianised by Olav Tryggvasson in 995 when he stopped at South Walls on his way from Ireland to Norway. The King summoned the jarl Sigurd the Stout[Notes 8] 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,[46] receiving their own bishop in the early 1000s.[Notes 9]

Thorfinn the Mighty was a son of Sigurd and a grandson of King Máel Coluim mac Cináeda (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 in 1066.[49] Paul and Erlend quarreled as adults and this dispute carried on to the next generation. The "martyrdom" of Magnus Erlendsson, who was killed in April 1116 by his cousin Haakon Paulsson, resulted in the building of St. Magnus Cathedral, still today a dominating feature of Kirkwall.[Notes 10][Notes 11]

A large church made from red and yellow stone with a square tower and a spire on the tower.
St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall

Unusually, from Thorfinn's time onwards the Norse jarls owed allegiance both to Norway for Orkney and to the Scottish crown through their holdings as Earls of Caithness.[52] At various times during the 11th to 13th centuries, Orkney was also part of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles whose Kings were in turn vassals of the Kings of Norway. In 1231 the line of Norse earls, unbroken since Rognvald, ended with Jon Haraldsson's murder in Thurso.[53] The Earldom of Caithness was granted to Magnus, second son of the Earl of Angus, whom Haakon IV of Norway confirmed as Earl of Orkney in 1236.[54] In 1290 the death of the child princess Margaret, Maid of Norway in Orkney en route to mainland Scotland created a disputed succession which led to the Wars of Scottish Independence.[55][Notes 12] In 1379 the earldom passed to the the Sinclair family, who were also barons of Roslin near Edinburgh.[56][Notes 13]

Evidence of the Viking presence is widespread, and includes the settlement at the Brough of Birsay,[60] the vast majority of place names,[61] and the runic inscriptions at Maeshowe.[Notes 14]

Scottish rule

A picture on a page in an old book. A man at left wears tights and a tunic with a lion rampant design and holds a sword and scepter. A woman at right wears a dress with an heraldic design bordered with ermine and carries a thistle in one hand and a scepter in the other. They stand on a green surface over a legend in Scots that begins "James the Thrid of Nobil Memorie..." (sic) and notes that he "marrit the King of Denmark's dochter."
James III and Margaret, whose betrothal led to Orkney passing from Norway to Scotland.

In 1468 Orkney was pledged by Christian I, in his capacity as king of Norway, as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland. As the money was never paid, the connection with the crown of Scotland has become perpetual.[Notes 15]

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 increasing able to defend their rights against their feudal overlords.[65][66]

From at least the 16th century, boats from mainland Scotland and the Netherlands dominated the local herring 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 never became as dominant as in other Scottish ports.[67]

In the 17th century, Orcadians formed the overwhelming majority of employees of the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. 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.[68] During this period, burning kelp briefly became a mainstay of the islands' economy. For example on Shapinsay over 3,048 tonnes (3,000 long tons) of burned seaweed were produced per annum to make soda ash, bringing in £20,000 to the local economy.[69]

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.[70]

20th century

Orkney was the site of a Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, which played a major role in both World War I and II. After the Armistice in 1918, the German High Seas Fleet was transferred in its entirety to Scapa Flow while a decision was to be made on its future; however, the German sailors opened their 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, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk by a German U-boat in Scapa Flow. As a result barriers 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.[71]

The navy base was run down after the war, eventually closing in 1957. The problem of a declining population was significant in the post-war years, although 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.[72]

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.[73][74]

Year Population[74]
1801 22,280
1811 18,531
1821 23,207
1831 24,411
1841 25,526
1851 26,409
Year Population[74]
1921 24,144
1931 22,102
1941 21,688
1951 21,275
1961 19,125
1971 16,976
1981 18,418
1991 19,570
2001 19,245


 A map of the Orkney archipelago showing topography and main transport routes. A small island with a high elevation is at south west. At centre is the largest island, which also has low hills. Ferry routes spread out from there to the smaller islands in the north.
Map of Orkney showing topography and main transport routes

The Pentland Firth is a seaway which separates Orkney from the mainland of Scotland; it is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) wide between Brough Ness on the island of South Ronaldsay and Duncansby Head in Caithness. 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).[75][76]

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 lochs, 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".[75][77]

The tidal currents, or "roosts" as some of them are called locally,[78] off many of the isles are swift, with frequent whirlpools.[Notes 16] The islands are notable for the absence of trees, which is partly accounted for by the amount of wind.[80]


The Mainland

Stone houses crowd around a shore, the gable ends facing the water, with green hills beyond.
Stromness on the Mainland is the second largest settlement on Orkney.

The Mainland is the largest island of Orkney. Both of Orkney's burghs, Kirkwall and Stromness, are on this island, which is also the heart of Orkney's transportation system, with ferry 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 cliffs to the north and west and two sizeable lochs: the Loch of Harray and the Loch of Stenness. The Mainland contains the remnants of numerous Neolithic, Pictish and Viking constructions. Four of the main Neolithic sites are included in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, 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 and Sule Stack, which lie 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of the archipelago, but form part of Orkney for local government purposes. In island names, the suffix "a" or "ay" represents the Norse ey, meaning "island". Those described as "holms" 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, which lies 4 kilometres (2 mi) beyond its nearest neighbour, Sanday. To the west is Westray has a population of 550. It is connected by ferry and air to Papa Westray, also known as "Papay". Eday is at the centre of the North Isles. The centre of the island is moorland and the island's main industries have been peat extraction and limestone quarrying.

Rousay, Egilsay and Gairsay lie north of the west Mainland across the Eynhallow Sound. Rousay is well-known for its ancient monuments, including the Quoyness chambered cairn and Egilsay has the ruins of the only round-towered church in Orkney. Wyre to the south east contains the site of Cubbie Roo's castle. Stronsay and Papa Stronsay lie much further to the east across the Stronsay Firth. Auskerry is south of Stronsay and has a population of only five. Shapinsay and its Balfour Castle are a short distance north of Kirkwall.

Other small uninhabited islands in the North Isles group include: Calf of Eday, Damsay, Eynhallow, Faray, Helliar Holm, Holm of Faray, Holm of Huip, Holm of Papa, Holm of Scockness, Kili Holm, Linga Holm, Muckle Green Holm, Rusk Holm and Sweyn Holm.

The South Isles

The southern group of islands surrounds Scapa Flow. Hoy is the second largest of the Orkney Isles and Ward Hill at its northern end is the highest elevation in the archipelago. The Old Man of Hoy is a well-known seastack. Burray 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.[81] It is also the location of the Neolithic Tomb of the Eagles. Graemsay and Flotta are both linked by ferry to the Mainland and Hoy, and the latter is known for its large oil terminal. South Walls has a 19th century Martello tower and is connected to Hoy by the Ayre. South Ronaldsay, Burray and Lamb Holm are connected by road to the Mainland by the Churchill Barriers.

Uninhabited South Islands include: Calf of Flotta, Cava, Copinsay, Corn Holm, Fara, Glims Holm, Hunda, Lamb Holm, Rysa Little, Switha and Swona. The Pentland Skerries lie further south, closer to the Scottish mainland.


A tall perpendicular stack of brown rock stands in the sunlight in front of a shore with high cliffs that lie in the shadows.
The Old Man of Hoy

The superficial rock of Orkney is almost entirely Old Red Sandstone, mostly of Middle Devonian age.[82] As in the neighbouring mainland county of Caithness, this sandstone rests upon the metamorphic rocks of the Moine 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; they are represented by grey gneiss and granite.[83]

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.[84] The later Rousay flagstone formation is found throughout much of the North and South Isles and East Mainland.[85]

A map of the geology of Orkney. Hoy to the south west is predominantly formed from Hoy/Eday Sandstones. The Mainland at centre is largely Stromness flagstones with Rousay flagstones to the east. The North and South Isles are a mixture of Eday and Rousay sandstones.
Geology of Orkney

The Old Man of Hoy is formed from sandstone of the uppermost Eday group that is up to 800 metres (870 yd) thick in places. It lies unconformably upon steeply inclined flagstones, the interpretation of which is a matter of continuing debate.[86][85]

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.[87] A strong synclinal fold traverses Eday and Shapinsay, the axis trending north-south.

Middle Devonian basaltic volcanic rocks 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.[88] Lamprophyre dykes of Late Permian age are found throughout Orkney.[89]

Glacial striation and the presence of chalk and flint erratics that originated from the bed of the North Sea demonstrate the influence of ice action on the geomorphology of the islands. Boulder clay is also abundant and moraines cover substantial areas.[90]


Orkney has a cool temperate climate that is remarkably mild and steady for such a northerly latitude, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.[91] The average temperature for the year is 8°C (46°F); for winter 4°C (39°F) and for summer 12°C (54°F).[92]

The average annual rainfall varies from 850 millimetres (33 in) to 940 millimetres (37 in).[92] 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.[93]

To tourists, one of the fascinations of the islands is their "nightless" summers. On the longest day, 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".[94] Winter nights, however, are long. On the shortest day the sun rises at 09:05 and sets at 15:16.[95] At this time of year the aurora borealis can occasionally be seen on the northern horizon during moderate auroral activity.[96]


Orkney is represented in the House of Commons as part of the Orkney and Shetland constituency, which elects one Member of Parliament (MP), the current incumbent being Alistair Carmichael. This seat has been held by the Liberal Democrats or their predecessors the Liberal Party since 1950, longer than any other they represent in the UK.[97][98][99]

In the Scottish Parliament the Orkney constituency elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first past the post system. The current MSP is Liam McArthur of the Liberal Democrats.[100] Before McArthur the MSP was Jim Wallace, who was previously Deputy First Minister.[101] Orkney is within the Highlands and Islands electoral region.

Orkney Islands Council consists of 21 members, all of whom are independent, that is they are not members of a political party.[102]

The Orkney Movement, a political party that supported devolution for Orkney from the rest of Scotland, contested the 1987 UK general election as the Orkney and Shetland Movement (a coalition of the Orkney movement and its equivalent for Shetland). The Scottish National Party 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.[103][104]


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.[105] More than 90% of agricultural land is used for grazing for sheep and cattle, with cereal production utilising about 4% (4,200 hectares (10,000 acres)) and woodland occupying only 134 hectares (330 acres).[106]

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, crabs and other shellfish, and salmon fish farming.[Notes 17]

Today, the traditional sectors of the economy export beef, cheese, whisky, beer, fish and other seafood. 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 oil terminal.[107] Retailing accounts for 17.5% of total employment,[106] and public services also play a significant role, employing a third of the islands' workforce.[108]

In 2007, of the 1,420 VAT 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.[106] 55% of these businesses employ between 5 and 49 people.[108]

A long red tube lies in the water under dark, cloud-covered skies with black hills in the distance.
Pelamis on site at EMEC's wave testing site off Billia Croo

Orkney has significant wind and marine energy resources, and renewable energy has recently come into prominence. The European Marine Energy Centre (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.[109] 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."[Notes 18] Funding for the UK's first wave farm 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 machines at a cost of over £4 million.[111] During 2007 Scottish and Southern Energy plc in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde 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.[112][113]



The main airport in Orkney is Kirkwall Airport, operated by Highland and Islands Airports. Loganair, a franchise of Flybe, provides services to the Scottish mainland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness), as well as to Sumburgh Airport in Shetland.[114]

Within Orkney, the council operates airfields on most of the larger islands including Stronsay, Eday, North Ronaldsay, Westray, Papa Westray, and Sanday.[115] Reputedly the shortest scheduled air service in the world, between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, is scheduled at two minutes duration[116] but can take less than one minute if the wind is in the right direction.


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:

Inter-island ferry services connect all the inhabited islands to Orkney Mainland, and are operated by Orkney Ferries, a company owned by Orkney Islands Council.[114]


Orkney is served by two weekly local newspapers, The Orcadian and Orkney Today.[117]

A local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Orkney, the local opt-out of BBC Radio Scotland, broadcasts twice daily, with local news and entertainment.[118] Orkney also has a commercial radio station, The Superstation Orkney, which broadcasts to Kirkwall and parts of the mainland.[119] Moray Firth Radio broadcasts throughout Orkney on AM and from an FM transmitter just outside Thurso. The community radio station Caithness FM also broadcasts to most parts of Orkney.[120]

Language, literature and folklore

 A black and white line drawing of a tall standing stone that is wider at the top than the base. It has a long vertical crack on the right hand side and there is a small hole that goes right through it near the ground. A lake and hill are in the background.
The Odin Stone

At the beginning of recorded history the islands were inhabited by the Picts, whose language was Brythonic.[Notes 19] The Ogham script on the Buckquoy spindle-whorl is cited as evidence for the pre-Norse existence of Old Irish in Orkney.[123][Notes 20]

After the Norse occupation the toponymy of Orkney became almost wholly West Norse.[125] The Norse language evolved into the local Norn, which lingered until the end of the 18th century, when it finally died out.[126] Norn was replaced by the Orcadian dialect of Insular Scots. 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[127] and the distinctive sing-song accent and many dialect words of Norse origin continue to be used.[Notes 21] The Orcadian word most frequently encountered by visitors is "peedie", meaning "small", which may be derived from the French petit.[129][Notes 22]

Orkney has a rich folklore and many of the former tales concern trows, an Orcadian form of troll that draws on the islands' Scandinavian connections.[131] Local customs in the past included marriage ceremonies at the Odin Stone that forms part of the Stones of Stenness.[132]

The best known literary figures from modern Orkney are the poet Edwin Muir, the poet and novelist George Mackay Brown and the novelist Eric Linklater.[133]


A group of men and women wearing traditional highland dress are playing the bagpipes as they walk down a road. A member of the group is playing a large red drum. A white, two storey building is in the background.
An Orcadian pipe band at Finstown Gala

An Orcadian is a native of Orkney, a term that reflects a strongly held identity with a tradition of understatement.[134] 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 second.[135]

When an Orcadian speaks of "Scotland", they are talking about the land to the immediate south of the Pentland Firth. When an Orcadian speaks of "the mainland", they mean Mainland, Orkney.[136] Tartan, clans, bagpipes and the like are traditions of the Scottish Highlands and are not a part of the islands' indigenous culture.[137] 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,[138][139][140] and there are pipe bands in Orkney.[141][142]

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.[143][Notes 23] 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.[144]

Natural history

Orkney has an abundance of wildlife especially of Gray and Common Seals and seabirds such as Puffins, Kittiwakes, Tysties and Bonxies. Whales, dolphins, Otters are also seen around the coasts. Inland the Orkney Vole, a distinct subspecies of the Common Vole is an endemic.[145][146] 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.[147]

The coastline is well-known for its colourful flowers including Sea Aster, Sea Squill, Sea Thrift, Common Sea-lavendar, Bell and Common Heather. The Scottish Primrose is found only on the coasts of Orkney and nearby Caithness and Sutherland.[145][148]

The North Ronaldsay Sheep is an unusual breed of domesticated animal, subsisting largely on a diet of seaweed, since they are confined to the foreshore for most of the year to conserve the limited grazing inland.[149]

See also


  1. ^ Although "The Orkneys" is used by non-Orcadians and does have historical precedent, it is clear that this is frowned upon by the residents.[3] Furthermore, technically "Orkney" is already plural.[4]
  2. ^ The second independent run Council is Shetland. Moray is run by a Conservative/Independent coalition.[10]
  3. ^ The proto-Celtic root *φorko-, can mean either pig or salmon, thus giving an alternative of "island(s) of (the) salmon".[17]
  4. ^ Thomson (2008) suggests that there may have been an element of Roman "boasting" involved, given that it was known to them that the Orcades lay at the northern extremity of the British Isles.[34] Similarly, Ritchie describes Tacitus' claims that Rome "conquered" Orkney as "a political puff, for there is no evidence of Roman military presence".[35]
  5. ^ They were certainly politically organised. Ritchie notes the presence of an Orcadian ruler at the court of a Pictish high king at Inverness in 565 AD.[37]
  6. ^ Some scholars believe that this story, which appears in the Orkneyinga Saga is apocryphal and based on the later voyages of Magnus Barelegs.[40]
  7. ^ Sigurd The Mighty's son Gurthorm ruled for a single winter after Sigurd's death and died childless. Rognvald's son Hallad inherited the title but, unable to constrain Danish raids on Orkney, he gave up the earldom and returned to Norway, which according to the Orkneyinga Saga "everyone thought was a huge joke."[43]
  8. ^ Sigurd the Stout was Thorfinn Skull-splitter's grandson.
  9. ^ The first recorded bishop was Henry of Lund (also known as "the Fat") who was appointed sometime prior to 1035.[47] The bishopric appears to have been under the authority of the Archbishops of York and of Hamburg-Bremen at different times during the early period and from the mid twelfth century to 1472 was subordinate to the Archbishop of Nidaros (today's Trondheim).[48]
  10. ^ The Scandinavian peoples, relatively recent converts to Christianity, had a tendency to confer martyrdom and sainthood on leading figures of the day who met violent deaths. Magnus and Haakon Paulsson had been co-rulers of Orkney, and although he had a reputation for piety, there is no suggestion that Magnus died for his Christian faith.[50]
  11. ^ "St Magnus Cathedral still dominates the Kirkwall skyline - a familiar, and comforting sight, to Kirkwallians around the world."[51]
  12. ^ It is often believed that the princess's death is associated with the village of St Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay but there is no evidence for this other than the co-incidence of the name.[55]
  13. ^ The notion that Henry the first Sinclair Earl, voyaged to North America many years before Christopher Columbus has gained some currency of late.[57] The idea is however dismissed out of hand by many scholars. For example, Thomson (2008) states "Henry's fictitious trip to America continues to received a good deal of unfortunate publicity, but it belongs to fantasy rather than real history".[58][59]
  14. ^ The Maeshowe inscriptions date from the 12th century.[62]
  15. ^ Apparently without the knowledge of the Norwegian Rigsraadet (Council of the Realm), Christian pawned Orkney for 50,000 Rhenish guilders. On 28 May the next year he also pawned Shetland for 8,000 Rhenish guilders.[63] He had secured a clause in the contract which gave future kings of Norway the right to redeem the islands for a fixed sum of 210 kg of gold or 2,310 kg of silver. Several attempts were made during the 17th and 18th centuries to redeem the islands, without success.[64]
  16. ^ For example at the Fall of Warness the tide can run at 4m/sec (7.8 knots).[79]
  17. ^ Coull (2003) quotes the old saying that an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat, in contrast to a Shetlander, who is a fisherman with a croft.[67]
  18. ^ "The centre offers developers the opportunity to test prototype devices in unrivalled wave and tidal conditions. Wave and tidal energy converters are connected to the National Grid via seabed cables running from open-water test berths. Testing takes place in a wide range of sea and weather conditions, with comprehensive round-the-clock monitoring."[110]
  19. ^ There is convincing place-name evidence for the Picts use of Brythonic or P-Celtic, although no written records survive. No certain knowledge of any pre-Pictish language exists anywhere in Scotland, but there may well have been times of significant overlap.[121] For example, the early Scottish Earls spoke Gaelic when the majority of their subjects spoke Norn and both of these languages were then replaced by Insular Scots. It is therefore possible that the Pictish aristocracy spoke one language and the common folk an unknown precursor such as Proto-Celtic.[122]
  20. ^ Only two Q-Celtic words exist in the language of modern Orcadians - "iper" from eabhar, meaning a midden slurry, and "keero" from caora - used to describe a small sheep in the North Isles.[124]
  21. ^ Lamb (2003) counted 60 words "with correlates in Old Norse only" and 500 Scots expressions in common use in the 1950s.[128]
  22. ^ The word is of uncertain origin and has also been attested in the Lothians and Fife in the 19th century.[130]
  23. ^ The expression "ferry louper" has a literal meaning of "ferry jumper" i.e. one who has jumped off a ferry as distinct from a native.
  1. ^ Dieckhoff, H. (1932) A Pronouncing Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic; reprinted in 1988 by Gairm ISBN 1871901189
  2. ^ Mark, C. ( 2004) The Gaelic-English Dictionary Routledge ISBN 0415297613
  3. ^ Anderson, Peter "Is 'The Orkneys' ever right? And other musings on 'Orkney' usage." Orkneyyar. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  4. ^ "About the Orkney Islands: Frequently Asked Questions" Orkneyyar. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  5. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 336-403.
  6. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 1 states there are 67 islands.
  7. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 334, 502.
  8. ^ Lamb, Raymond "Kirkwall" in Omand 2003) p. 184.
  9. ^ Thompson (2008) p. 220.
  10. ^ MacMahon, Peter and Walker, Helen (18 May 2007) "Winds of change sweep Scots town halls". Edinburgh. The Scotsman.
  11. ^ a b Breeze, David J. "The ancient geography of Scotland" in Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 11-13.
  12. ^ a b "Early Historical References to Orkney" Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  13. ^ Tacitus (c. 98) Agricola. Chapter 10. "ac simul incognitas ad id tempus insulas, quas Orcadas vocant, invenit domuitque".
  14. ^ Waugh, Doreen J. "Orkney Place-names" in Omand (2003) p. 116.
  15. ^ Pokorny, Julius (1959) Indo-European Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  16. ^ a b "The Origin of Orkney" Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  17. ^ "Proto-Celtic - English Word List" (pdf) (12 June 2002) University of Wales. p. 101.
  18. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 42.
  19. ^ "Hazelnut shell pushes back date of Orcadian site" (3 November 2007) Stone Pages Archaeo News. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  20. ^ "Skara Brae Prehistoric Village" Historic Scotland. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  21. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 154.
  22. ^ Scotland: 2200-800 BC Bronze Age" Retrieved 23 August 2008.
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  25. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 154, 158, 161.
  26. ^ Whittington, Graeme and Edwards, Kevin J. (1994) "Palynology as a predictive tool in archeaology" (pdf) Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 124 pp. 55–65.
  27. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 74–76.
  28. ^ Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) p. 33.
  29. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 81-84.
  30. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2007) Burroughston Broch. The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
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  32. ^ Crawford, Iain "The wheelhouse" in Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 118-22.
  33. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 173-5.
  34. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 4-5
  35. ^ Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) p. 36
  36. ^ a b Thomson (2008) pp. 4-6.
  37. ^ Ritchie, Anna "The Picts" in Omand (2003) p. 39
  38. ^ Ritchie, Anna "The Picts" in Omand (2003) pp. 42-46.
  39. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 43-50.
  40. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 24-27.
  41. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 24.
  42. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 29.
  43. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 30 quoting chapter 5.
  44. ^ Wenham, Sheena "The South Isles" in Omand (2003) p. 211.
  45. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 56-58.
  46. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 69. quoting the Orkneyinga Saga chapter 12.
  47. ^ Watt, D.E.R., (ed.) (1969) Fasti Ecclesia Scoticanae Medii Aevii ad annum 1638. Scottish Records Society. p. 247.
  48. ^ "The Diocese of Orkney" Firth's Celtic Scotland. Retrieved 9 September 2009.
  49. ^ Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 66-68.
  50. ^ Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) p. 69.
  51. ^ "St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall" Orkneyar. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  52. ^ Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) p. 64.
  53. ^ Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 72-73.
  54. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 134-37.
  55. ^ a b Thompson (2008) pp. 146-47.
  56. ^ Thompson (2008) p. 160.
  57. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 354.
  58. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 168-9.
  59. ^ "Earl Henry Sinclair: The Zeno Narrative" Orkneyar. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  60. ^ Armit (2006) pp. 173–76.
  61. ^ Thomson (2008) p. 40.
  62. ^ Armit (2006) pp. 178–79.
  63. ^ "Diplom fra Shetland datert 24.november 1509" University Library, University in Bergen. (Norwegian). Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  64. ^ "Norsken som døde" Universitas, Norsken som døde (Norwegian) Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  65. ^ Thompson (2008) p. 183.
  66. ^ Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 78-79.
  67. ^ a b Coull, James "Fishing" in Omand (2003) pp. 144-55.
  68. ^ Thompson (2008) pp. 371-72.
  69. ^ Smith (2004) pp. 364-65.
  70. ^ Thomson, William P. L. "Agricultural Improvement" in Omand (2003) pp. 93, 99.
  71. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 434-36.
  72. ^ Thomson (2008) pp. 439-43.
  73. ^ Wenham, Sheena "Modern Times" in Omand (2003) p. 110.
  74. ^ a b c "Orkney Islands" Vision of Britain. Retrieved 21 September 2009. Data is not available for 1851 - 1921.
  75. ^ a b "Get-a-Map" Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  76. ^ Whitakers (1990) pp. 611, 614.
  77. ^ Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) p. 19.
  78. ^ "The Sorcerous Finfolk" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  79. ^ "Fall of Warness Test Site " EMEC. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  80. ^ "The Big Tree, Orkney". Forestry Commission. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  81. ^ Shearer, Lorraine. "Exhibition will tell story of the Boy's Ploughing Match". The Orcadian. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  82. ^ Marshall, J.E.A., & Hewett, A.J. "Devonian" in Evans, D., Graham C., Armour, A., & Bathurst, P. (eds) (2003) The Millennium Atlas: petroleum geology of the central and northern North Sea.
  83. ^ Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Basement Geology". Fettes College. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
  84. ^ Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Lower Middle Devonian". Fettes College. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
  85. ^ a b Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) pp. 4-5.
  86. ^ Mykura, W. (with contributions by Flinn, D. & May, F.) (1976) British Regional Geology: Orkney and Shetland. Institute of Geological Sciences. Natural Environment Council.
  87. ^ Land Use Consultants (1998) "Orkney landscape character assessment". Scottish Natural Heritage Review No. 100.
  88. ^ Odling, N.W.A. (2000) "Point of Ayre". (pdf) "Caledonian Igneous Rocks of Great Britain: Late Silurian and Devonian volcanic rocks of Scotland". Geological Conservation Review 17 : Chapter 9, p. 2731. JNCC. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  89. ^ Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Orkney Landscapes: Permian dykes" Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  90. ^ Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) p. 10.
  91. ^ Chalmers, Jim "Agriculture in Orkney Today" in Omand (2003) p. 129.
  92. ^ a b "Regional mapped climate averages" Met Office. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  93. ^ "The Climate of Orkney" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  94. ^ "About the Orkney Islands". Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  95. ^ "Sunrise and Sunsets" The Orcadian. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  96. ^ John Vetterlein (21 December 2006). "Sky Notes: Aurora Borealis Gallery". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  97. ^ "Alistair Carmichael: MP for Orkney and Shetland" Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  98. ^ "Candidates and Constituency Assessments". - "The almanac of Scottish elections and politics". Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  99. ^ "The Untouchable Orkney & Shetland Isles " (1 October 2009) Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  100. ^ "Liam McArthur MSP" Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  101. ^ "Jim Wallace" Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  102. ^ "Social Work Inspection Agency: Performance Inspection Orkney Islands Council 2006. Chapter 2: Context." The Scottish Government. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  103. ^ "Orkney and Shetland Movement" BookRags. Retrieved 11 January 2008
  104. ^ "Candidates and Constituency Assessments: Orkney (Highland Region)" Retrieved 11 January 2008
  105. ^ Chalmers, Jim "Agriculture in Orkney Today" in Omand (2003) p. 127, 133 quoting the Scottish Executive Agricultural Census of 2001 and stating that 80% of the land area is farmed if rough grazing is included.
  106. ^ a b c "Orkney Economic Review No. 23." (2008) Kirkwall. Orkney Islands Council.
  107. ^ "Business Directory" Orkney Islands Council. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  108. ^ a b "Orkney Economic Update" (1999) (pdf) HIE. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  109. ^ "European Marine Energy Centre". Retrieved 3 February 2007. 
  110. ^ Highlands and Islands Enterprise (28 September 2007). "First Minister Opens New Tidal Energy Facility at EMEC". Press release. Retrieved 1 October 2007. 
  111. ^ "Orkney to get 'biggest' wave farm" BBC News. Retrieved 25 February 2007.
  112. ^ Registered Power Zone Annual Report for period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 (pdf) Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution and Southern Electric Power Distribution. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  113. ^ Facilitate generation connections on Orkney by automatic distribution network management (pdf) DTI. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  114. ^ a b "Getting Here" Visit Orkney. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  115. ^ "Air Travel" Orkney Islands Council. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  116. ^ "Getting Here" Westray and Papa Westray Craft and Tourist Associations. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  117. ^ "Orkney Today" Orkney Today. Retrieved 16 February 2008.
  118. ^ "Radio Orkney". BBC. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  119. ^ "Superstation Orkney" Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  120. ^ "Welcome to the Caithness F.M. website" Caithness FM. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  121. ^ Clarkson (2008) pp. 30-34.
  122. ^ Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) pp. 248-49.
  123. ^ Forsyth, Katherine (1995). "The ogham-inscribed spindle-whorl from Buckquoy: evidence for the Irish language in pre-Viking Orkney?" (PDF). The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (ARCHway) 125: 677–96. Retrieved 27 July 2007. 
  124. ^ Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) p. 250.
  125. ^ Lamb, Gregor (1995) Testimony of the Orkneyingar: Place Names of Orkney. Byrgisey. ISBN 0-9513443-4-X
  126. ^ Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) p. 250.
  127. ^ "The Orcadian Dialect" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  128. ^ Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) pp. 250-53.
  129. ^ Clackson, Stephen (25 November 2004) The Orcadian. Kirkwall.
  130. ^ Grant, W. and Murison, D.D. (1931- 1976) Scottish National Dictionary. Scottish National Dictionary Association. ISBN 0080345182.
  131. ^ "The Trows". Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  132. ^ Muir, Tom "Customs and Traditions" in Omand (2003) p. 270.
  133. ^ Drever, David "Orkney Literature" in Omand (2003) p. 257.
  134. ^ "The Orcadians - The people of Orkney" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  135. ^ "‘We are Orcadian first, and Scottish second’ many people would tell me during the course of my fieldwork." McClanahan, Angela (2004) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney in its Contemporary Contexts: A case study in heritage management and community values. Historic Scotland/University of Manchester, p. 25 (§3.47) [1] Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  136. ^ "Where is Orkney?" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  137. ^ Orkneyjar FAQ Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  138. ^ "Orkney tartan" Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  139. ^ "Sanday Tartan" Retrieved 2 June 2007.
  140. ^ "Clackson tartan" Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  141. ^ "Kirkwall City Pipe Band" Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  142. ^ "Stromness RBL Pipe Band" Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  143. ^ Vedder, David (1832) Orcadian Sketches. Edinburgh. William Tait.
  144. ^ "2009 Competition Programme" Orkney Trout Fishing Association. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  145. ^ a b "Northern Isles". SNH. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  146. ^ Benvie (2004) pp. 126–38.
  147. ^ Haynes, S., Jaarola M., & Searle, J. B. (2003). "Phylogeography of the common vole (Microtus arvalis) with particular emphasis on the colonization of the Orkney archipelago" (abstract). Molecular Ecology 12: 951–956. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294X.2003.01795.x.  Retrieved 27 September 2009.
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  149. ^ "North Ronaldsay". Sheep Breeds. Seven Sisters Sheep Centre. Retrieved 23 April 2009. 
General references
  • Armit, Ian (2006) Scotland's Hidden History. Stroud. Tempus. ISBN 075243764X
  • Benvie, Neil (2004) Scotland's Wildlife. London. Aurum Press. ISBN 1854109782
  • Ballin Smith, B. and Banks, I. (eds) (2002) In the Shadow of the Brochs, the Iron Age in Scotland. Stroud. Tempus. ISBN 075242517X
  • Clarkson, Tim (2008) The Picts: A History. Stroud. The History Press. ISBN 9780752443928
  • Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 1841954543. 
  • Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. London. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500051337
  • Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) The Orkney Book. Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 1841582549
  • Thomson, William P. L. (2008) The New History of Orkney. Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 9781841586960
  • Whitaker's Almanack 1991 (1990). London. J. Whitaker & Sons. ISBN 0850212057
  • Wickham-Jones, Caroline (2007) Orkney: A Historical Guide. Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 1841585963
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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

External links

Coordinates: 59°00′N 3°00′W / 59°N 3°W / 59; -3

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Orkney Islands [1] are an archipelago of approximately 70 islands some 10 miles (16 km) off the northern coast of Scotland.


The Orkney Islands have been settled since the Neolithic Period. There is plenty to do on the islands. They are easy to navigate. The islands are great for culture holidays and sight-seeing

Map of the Orkney Islands
Map of the Orkney Islands
  • Mainland (Orkney), Orkney's largest island where 2/3 of the Isles' population resides.
  • Rousay, the Egypt of the North with a large concentration of spectacular archaeological sites.
  • Hoy, the High Island. Hike through R.S.P.B. Nature Reserve to cliffs overlooking the Old Man of Hoy seastack.
  • Eday, the Isthmus Island with excellent walks.
  • Sanday, aptly named the Sand Island for its beautiful beaches.
  • Westray, Queen o' the Orkney Islands. Excellent place to spot puffins in late spring to find the best fish & chips in Orkney at the Pierowall Hotel.
  • Papa Westray, referred to locally as "Papay", the island is home to the oldest site in Orkney, Knap of Howar.
  • North Ronaldsay, well-worth the trip if only to climb to the top of the new lighthouse for fantastic views, and to see Old Beacon, the third oldest lighthouse in Scotland.
  • Shapinsay, a short ferry sailing from Kirkwall and home to Balfour Castle.
  • Flotta, location of oil terminal
  • Egilsay, where Earl Magnus was martyred.
  • Wyre
  • Stronsay

South Isles connected by the Churchill Barriers:

  • Lambholm, home of the stunning Italian Chapel.
  • Glimsholm
  • Burray
  • South Ronaldsay
  • Kirkwall - the administrative capital of the Orkney Islands
  • Stromness - attractive port and the Orkney's second town
  • Birsay
  • Lyness
  • St Margaret's Hope

Get to Orkney

By plane

Flybe [2] offers flights to Kirkwall, Orkney from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Sumburgh. Air service is operated by Loganair.

By Boat

Ro/Ro Ferries:

  • Scrabster to Stromness, Orkney Mainland: 90-minute sailings offered 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Service provided by Northlink Ferries [3]. Approx. 30 minute drive to Kirkwall from Stromness.
  • Aberdeen to Kirkwall, Orkney Mainland: 6-hour sailing offered Tuesdays*, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Service provided by Northlink Ferries [4]. No Kirkwall call from 1 Jan - 31 Mar & 1 Nov - 31 Dec.
  • Gill's Bay to St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay. 60-minute sailings offered 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Service provided by Pentland Ferries [5]. Approx. 35 minute drive to Kirkwall from St Margaret's Hope.

Passenger-only Ferries:

  • John O'Groats to Burwick, South Ronaldsay. 40-minute sailings offered 7 days a week from 1 May to 30 September only. Service provided by John O'Groats Ferry [6]. Approx. 45 minute drive to Kirkwall from Burwick.


Neolithic structures

Awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1999, the ''Heart of Neolithic Orkney'' includes:

  • Skara Brae, 30km west of Kirkwall [7], the best-preserved prehistoric village in Western Europe, inhabited before the pyramids of Egypt were built. 2009 Admission: adult £6.70, child £3.35, concessions £5.30. Prices include admission to Skaill House April to September. Admission to Skara Brae reduced October to March.
  • Maeshowe, 14km west of Kirkwall [8], finest chambered tomb in north-west Europe, which contains the best collection of Viking runes outside Scandinavia. Advance booking required. 2009 Admission*: adult £5.20, child £2.60, concessions £4.20
  • Ring of Brodgar, 16km west of Kirkwall [9], amazing stone circle with henge ditch. Free admission.
  • Standing Stones of Stenness, [10] one of the oldest stone circles in Britain. Free admission.

Orkney's World Heritage site also includes a number of unexcavated burial, ceremonial and settlement sites.

  • The Orkney Folk Festival [11] - May
  • St Magnus Festival [12] - June
  • Orkney International Science Festival [13] - September
  • Diving: Most of the German WWI Imperial Fleet was scuttled [14] in Scapa Flow [15] and offers excellent opportunities to dive. Some diving companies:
    • Orkney Divers [16]
    • Scapa Flow Diving [17]
    • Stromness Diving Centre [18]

Holidays & day tours with Orkney Archaeology Tours - all tours led by professional archaeologists & qualified Orkney tourist guides [19]

  • Explore the Isles: Take an eco tour or holiday with Wildabout Okney [20].
  • Highland Park, Kirkwall [21]. The world's most northerly Scotch whisky distillery. Tours, including a free sample of the product and a gift shop are available.


There are plenty of places to stay meeting all price criterias, from youth hostels to grand hotels, Orkney has it all!

  • West End Guest House [22] - Sea Facing - St. Margaret's Hope, Orkney
  • Rickla [23] - Harray
  • Merkister Hotel [24] - Loch Harray
  • Albert Hotel [25] - Kirkwall
  • Ayre Hotel [26] - Kirkwall
  • Foveran Hotel [27] - Kirkwall
  • The Lavrockha Guest House [28] - Kirkwall
  • Queen's Hotel [29] - Kirkwall
  • Scorralee [30] - Orphir
  • Westrow Lodge [31] - Orphir
  • Girnigoe[32] - Shapinsay
  • Miller's House [33] - Stromness
  • Stromness Hotel [34] - Stromness
  • Cleaton House [35] - Westray
  • Auld Smokehoose & Scapa Lodge +441224739123 - Kirkwall
  • 76 Junction Road +441856872281 - Kirkwall
  • Bis Geos Self Catering [36] - Westray
  • The Kilnmans Cottage [37] - Westray
  • Kirkwall Youth Hostel [38] - Kirkwall
  • Stromness Youth Hostel [39] - Stromness
  • The Creel Restaurant with Rooms [40] - St. Margaret's Hope
  • Lynnfield Hotel [41] - 4 star Kirkwall hotel
This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!
  • Horrie Farm Holiday Apartments, Tankerness, [42]. Two spacious apartments surrounded by farmland teeming with wildlife. Close to Kirkwall and Minehowe with many amenities nearby.  edit

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ORKNEY ISLANDS, a group of islands, forming a county, off the north coast of Scotland. The islands are separated from the mainland by the Pentland Firth, which is 64 m. wide between Brough Ness in the island of South Ronaldshay and Duncansbay Head in Caithness-shire. The group is commonly estimated to consist of 67 islands, of which 30 are inhabited (though in the case of four of them the population comprises only the light house attendants), but the number may be increased to as many as 90 by including rocky islets more usually counted with the islands of which they probably once formed part. The Orkneys lie between 58° 41' and 59° 24' N., and 2° 22' and 3° 26' W., measure 50 m. from N.E. to S.W. and 29 m. from E. to W., and cover 240,476 acres or 375.5 sq. m. Excepting on the west coasts of the larger islands, which present rugged cliff scenery remarkable both for beauty and for colouring, the group lies somewhat low and is of bleak aspect, owing to the absence of trees. The highest hills are found in Hoy. The only other islands containing heights of any importance are Pomona, with Ward Hill (880 ft.), and Wideford (740 ft.) and Rousay. Nearly all of the islands possess lakes, and Loch Harray and Loch Stenness in Pomona attain noteworthy proportions. The rivers are merely streams draining the high land. Excepting on the west fronts of Pomona, Hoy and Rousay, the coast-line of the islands is deeply indented, and the islands themselves are divided from each other by straits generally called sounds or firths, though off the north-east of Hoy the designation Bring Deeps is used, south of Pomona is Scapa Flow and to the south-west of Eday is found the Fall of Warness. The very names of the islands indicate their nature, for the terminal a or ay is the Norse ey, meaning "island," which is scarcely disguised even in the words Pomona and Hoy. The islets are usually styled hams and the isolated rocks skerries. The tidal currents, or races, or roost (as some of them are called locally, from the Icelandic) off many of the isles run with enormous velocity, and whirlpools are of frequent occurrence, and strong enough at times to prove a source of danger to small craft. The charm of the Orkneys does not lie in their ordinary physical features, so much as in beautiful atmospheric effects, extraordinary examples of light and shade, and rich coloration of cliff and sea.

Table of contents


All the islands of this group are built up entirely of Old Red Sandstone. As in the neighbouring mainland of Caithness, these rocks rest upon the metamorphic rocks of the eastern schists, as may be seen on Pomona, where a narrow strip is exposed between Stromness and Inganess, and again in the small island of Graemsay; they are represented by grey gneiss and granite. The upper division of the Old Red Sandstone is found only in Hoy, where it forms the Old Man and neighbouring cliffs on the N.W. coast. The Old Man presents a characteristic section, for it exhibits a thick pile of massive, current-bedded red sandstones, resting, near the foot of the pinnacle, upon a thin bed of amygdaloidal porphyrite, which in its turn lies unconformably upon steeply inclined flagstones. This bed of volcanic rock may be followed northward in the cliffs, and it may be noticed that it thickens considerably in that direction. The Lower Old Red Sandstone is represented by well-bedded flagstones over most of the islands; in the south of Pomona these are faulted against an overlying series of massive red sandstones, but a gradual passage from the flagstones to the sandstones may be followed from Westray S.E. into Eday. A strong synclinal fold traverses Eday and Shapinsay, the axis being N. and S. Near Haco's Ness in Shapinsay there is a small exposure of amygdaloidal diabase which is of course older than that in Hoy. Many indications of ice action are found in these islands; striated surfaces are to be seen on the cliffs in Eday and Westray, in Kirkwall Bay and on Stennie Hill in Eday; boulder clay, with marine shells, and with many boulders of rocks foreign to the islands (chalk, oolitic limestone, flint, &c.), which must have been brought up from the region of Moray Firth, rests upon the old strata in many places. Local moraines are found in some of the valleys in Pomona and Hoy.

Climate and Industries

The climate is remarkably temperate and equable for so northerly a latitude. The average temperature for the year is 46° F., for winter 39° F. and for summer 54° 3' F. The winter months are January, February and March, the last being the coldest. Spring never begins till April, and it is the middle of June before the heat grows genial. September is frequently the finest month, and at the end of October or beginning of November occurs the peerie (or little) summer, the counterpart of the St Martin's summer of more southerly climes. The average annual rainfall varies from 33.4 in. to 37 in. Fogs occur during summer and early autumn, and furious gales may be expected four or five times in the year, when the crash of the Atlantic waves is audible for 20 m. To tourists one of the fascinations of the islands is their "nightless summers." On the longest day the sun rises at 3 o'clock A.M. and sets at 9.25 P.M., and darkness is unknown, it being possible to read at midnight. Winter, however, is long and depressing. On the shortest day the sun rises at 9.10 A.M. and sets at 3.17 P.M. The soil generally is a sandy loam or a strong but friable clay, and very fertile. Large quantities of seaweed as well as lime and marl are available for manure. Until the middle of the 19th century the methods of agriculture were of a primitive character, but since then they have been entirely transformed, and Orcadian farming is now not below the average standard of the Scottish lowlands. The crofters' houses have been rebuilt of stone and lime, and are superior to those in most parts of the Highlands. The holdings run fairly small, the average being between 30 and 40 acres. Practically the only grain crops that are cultivated are oats (which greatly predominate) and barley, while the favoured root crops are turnips (much the most extensively grown) and potatoes. Not half of the area has been brought under cultivation, and the acreage under wood is insignificant. The raising of live stock is rigorously pursued. Shorthorns and polled Angus are the commonest breeds of cattle; the sheep are mostly Cheviots and a Cheviot-Leicester cross, but the native sheep are still reared in considerable numbers in Hoy and South Ronaldshay; pigs are also kept on several of the islands, and the horses - as a rule hardy, active and small, though larger than the famous Shetland ponies - are very numerous, but mainly employed in connexion with agricultural work. The woollen trade once promised to reach considerable dimensions, but towards the end of the 18th century was superseded by the linen (for which flax came to be largely grown); and when this in turn collapsed before the products of the mills of Dundee, Dunfermline and Glasgow, straw-plaiting was taken up, though only to be killed in due time by the competition of the south. The kelp industry, formerly of at least minor importance, has ceased. Sandstone is quarried on several islands, and distilleries are found in Pomona (near Kirkwall and Stromness). But apart from agriculture the principal industry is fishing. For several centuries the Dutch practically monopolized the herring fishery, but when their supremacy was destroyed by the salt duty, the Orcadians failed to seize the opportunity thus presented, and George Barry (d. 1805) says that in his day the fisheries were almost totally neglected. The industry, however, has now been organized, and over 2009 persons are employed in the various branches of it. The great catches are herring, cod and ling, but lobsters and crabs are also exported in large quantities. There is a regular communication by steamer between Stromness and Kirkwall, and Thurso, Wick, Aberdeen and Leith, and also between Kirkwall and Lerwick and other points of the Shetlands.

Population and Administration

In 1891 the population numbered 30,453, and in 1901 it was 28,699, or 67 persons to the sq. m. In 1901 there were 70 persons who spoke Gaelic and English, but none who spoke Gaelic only. Orkney unites with Shetland to send one member to parliament, and Kirkwall, the county town and the only royal burgh, is one of the Wick district groups of parliamentary burghs. There is a combination poorhouse at Kirkwall, where there are also two hospitals. Orkney forms a sheriffdom with Shetland and Caithness, and a resident sheriff-substitute sits at Kirkwall. The county is under the school-board jurisdiction, but at Kirkwall and Stromness there are public schools giving secondary education.

The Inhabited Islands. - Premising that they are more or less scattered, and that several lie on the same plane, the following list gives the majority of the inhabited islands from south to north, the number within brackets indicating the population. Sule Skerry (3) and the Pentland Skerries (8) lie at the eastern entrance of the Portland Firth; Swona (23), m. from the mainland, belongs to Caithness and is situated in the parish of Canisbay; South Ronaldshay (1991) is the best cultivated and most fertile of the southern isles of the group. On Hoxa Head, to the west of the large village of St Margaret's Hope, is a broch, or round tower, and the island contains, besides, examples of Picts' houses and standing stones.

Hoy (q.v.; 1216) is the southernmost of the larger islands. Flotta (372), east of Hoy, was the home for a long time of the Scandinavian compiler of the Codex Flotticensis, which furnished Thorrnodr Torfaeus (1636-1719), the Icelandic antiquary, with many of the facts for his History of Norway, more particularly with reference to the Norse occupation of Orkney. Pharay (59) also lies E. of Hoy. Burray (677) is famous for the broch from which the island takes its name (Borgarey, Norse, "island of the broch"). The tower stands on the north-western shore, is 15 ft. high, has walls from 15 to 20 ft. thick, built of layers of flat stones without cement or mortar, and an interior diameter of 40 ft. It is entered from the east by a passage, on each side of which there is a small chamber constructed within the thickness of the wall. Similar chambers occur on the west, north and south sides, accessible only from the interior. Adjoining the southern chamber is the inside stair conducting to the top of the broch; of this stair some twenty steps remain. Between Hoy and Pomona are Hunda (8), Cava (17), and Graemsay (195), which has excellent soil and is mostly under cultivation. The isle is surrounded by shoals, and high-level and low-level lighthouses have been erected, the one at the north-west and the other at the north-east corner. The cliffs of Copinshay (10) are a favourite haunt of sea-birds, which are captured by the cragsmen for their feathers and eggs. Half a mile to the N.E. is the great rock which, from a fancied resemblance to a horse rearing its head from the sea, is called the Horse of Copinshay. Pomona (q.v.; 16,235) is the principal island. and as such is known also as Mainland. Shapinshay (765) was the birthplace of William Irving, father of Washington Irving. It possesses several examples of Pictish and Scandinavian antiquities, such as the "Odin stone" and the broch of Burrowstone. Balfour Castle, a mansion in the Scottish Baronial style built in 1848, is situated near the south-western extremity of the island. The island takes its name from Hjalpand, a Norse viking. Gairsay (33) was the residence of Sweyn Asleifson, the rover, celebrated in the Orkneyinga Saga for his exploits as a trencherman and his feats in battle. Stronsay (1159) is a busy station of the herring fishery, and is also largely under cultivation. At Lamb Head, its southeasterly point, is a broch and Pictish pier, and about 2 m. farther north, on Odin Bay, is a round pit in the rocks called the Vat of Kirbuster. The well of Kildinguie was once resorted to as a specific for leprosy. Papa Stronsay (16) commemorates in its name, as others of both the Orkneys and Shetlands do, the labours of the Celtic papae, or missionaries, who preached the Christian gospel before the arrival of the Northmen. The adjacent Veira or Wire has a population of 60. Egilshay (142) is the island on which St Magnus was murdered by his cousin Hacco in 115. It derives its name - Church (ecclesia) Island - from the little church of St Magnus, now in ruins, consisting of a chancel 15 ft. long, and nave 30 ft. long. The building has a round tower at the west end of the nave. The tower resembles similar constructions found beside Irish churches of the 7th and 8th centuries and has walls 3 ft. thick. It is doubtful whether it must be ascribed to the Celtic evangelists or to a much later period - not earlier than the 12th century. On Rousay (627) the cairn of Blotchnie Fiold (811 ft.), the highest point of the island, commands a beautiful survey of the northern isles of the archipelago. At the southern base of the hill stands the fine mansion of Trumbland House. Eday (596) contains several specimens of weems, mounds and standing stones. It affords good pasturage and has sandstone quarries. Carrick village, once a burgh of barony, with salt pans and other manufactures, was named after the earl of Carrick, brother of Patrick Stewart, 2nd earl of Orkney (d. 1614). It was off this island that John Gow, the pirate, was taken in 1725. Sanday (1727), with an area of 19 sq. m., is one of the largest of the northern isles, and yields excellent crops of potatoes and grain. It has safe harbours, in the north at Otterswick and in the south at Kettletoft. The antiquities include a broch in Elsness. Pharay (47) lies W. of Edey. Westray (1956), one of the seats of the cod fishery, has a. good harbour at Pier-o'-wall. Noltland Castle, in the vicinity, is interesting as having been proposed as the refuge of Queen Mary after her flight from Loch Leven. It dates from the 15th century or even earlier, and was at one time the property of Sir Gilbert Balfour, the Master of Queen Mary's Household. The building, now in ruins, was never completed. On one side of the inner court, to which a finely ornamental doorway gives access, is a large hall with a vaulted ceiling of stone, 20 ft. high. The cliffs and overhanging crags at Noup Head (250 ft.), the most westerly point, are remarkably picturesque. An isolated portion, divided from the headland by a narrow chasm, is known as the Stack of Noup. Gentleman's Cave, 1 m. to the south, was so called from the circumstance that it afforded shelter to five of the leading followers of Prince Charles Edward, who lay here during the winter of 1745-1746. Papa Westray (295) and North Ronaldshay (442) are the most northerly islands of the group. The latter is only reached from Sanday, from which it is separated by a dangerous firth 2 m. wide. The monumental stone with Ogham inscription, which was discovered in the broch of Burrian, must date from the days of the early Christian missionaries.


The Orkneys were the Orcades of classical writers, and the word is probably derived from the Norse Orkn, seal, and ey, island. The original inhabitants were Picts, evidence of whose occupation still exists in numerous weems or underground houses, chambered mounds, barrows or burial mounds, brochs or round towers, and stone circles and standing stones. Such implements as have survived are of the rudest description, and include querns or stone handmills for grinding corn, stone worts and bone combs employed in primitive forms of woollen manufacture, and specimens of simple pottery ware. If, as seems likely, the Dalriadic Scots towards the beginning of the 6th century established a footing in the islands, their success was short-lived, and the Picts regained power and kept it until dispossessed by the Norsemen in the 9th century. In the wake of the Scots incursionists followed the Celtic missionaries about 565. They were companions of St Columba and their efforts to convert the folk to Christianity seem to have impressed the popular imagination, for several islands bear the epithet "Papa" in commemoration of the preachers. Norse pirates having made the islands the headquarters of their buccaneering expeditions indifferently against their own Norway and the coasts and isles of Scotland; Harold Haarfager ("Fair Hair") subdued the rovers in 875 and both the Orkneys and Shetlands to Norway. They remained under the rule of Norse earls until 1231, when the line of the jarls became extinct. In that year the earldom of Caithness was granted to Magnus, second son of the earl of Angus, whom the king of Norway apparently confirmed in the title. In 1468 the Orkneys and Shetlands were pledged by Christian I. of Denmark for the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III. of Scotland, and as the money was never paid, their connexion with the crown of Scotland has been perpetual. In 1471 James bestowed the castle and lands of Ravenscraig in Fife on William, earl of Orkney, in exchange for all his rights to the earldom of Orkney, which, by act of parliament passed on the 20th of February of the same year, was annexed to the Scottish crown. In 1564 Lord Robert Stewart, natural son of James V., who had visited Kirkwall twenty-four years before, was made sheriff of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and received possession of the estates of the udallers; in 1581 he was created earl of Orkney by James IV., the charter being ratified ten years later to his son Patrick, but in 1615 the earldom was again annexed to the crown. The islands were the rendezvous of Montrose's expedition in 1650 which culminated in his imprisonment and death. During the Protectorate they were visited by a detachment of Cromwell's troops, who initiated the inhabitants into various industrial arts and new methods of agriculture. In 1707 the islands were granted to the earl of Morton in mortgage, redeemable by the Crown on payment of 30,000, and subject to an annual feu-duty of 50o; but in 1766 his estates were sold to Sir Lawrence Dundas, ancestor of the earls of Zetland. In early times both the archbishop of Hamburg and the archbishop of York disputed with the Norwegians ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Orkneys and the right of consecrating bishops; but ultimately the Norwegian bishops, the first of whom was William the Old, consecrated in 1102, continued the canonical succession. The see remained vacant from 1580 to 1606, and from 1638 till the Restoration, and, after the accession of William II., the episcopacy was finally abolished (1697), although many of the clergy refused to conform. The topography of the Orkneys is wholly Norse, and the Norse tongue, at last extinguished by the constant influx of settlers from Scotland, lingered until the end of the 18th century. Readers of Scott's Pirate will remember the frank contempt which Magnus Troil expressed for the Scots, and his opinions probably accurately reflected the general Norse feeling on the subject. When the islands were given as security for the princess's dowry, there seems reason to believe that it was intended to redeem the pledge, because it was then stipulated that the Norse system of government and the law of St Olaf should continue to be observed in Orkney and Shetland. Thus the udal succession and mode of land tenure (or, that is, absolute freehold as distinguished from feudal tenure) still obtain to some extent, and the remaining udallers hold their lands and pass them on without written title. Among well-known Orcadians may be mentioned James Atkine (1613-1687), bishop first of Moray and afterwards of Galloway; Murdoch McKenzie (d. 1797), the hydrographer; Malcolm Laing (1762-1818), author of the History of Scotland from the Union of the Crowns to the Union of the Kingdoms; Mary Brunton (1778-1818), author of Self-Control, Discipline and other novels; Samuel Laing (1780-1868), author of A Residence in Norway, and translator of the Heimskringla, the Icelandic chronicle of the kings of Norway; Thomas Stewart Traill (1781-1862), professor of medical jurisprudence in Edinburgh University and editor of the 8th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica; Samuel Laing (1812-1897), chairman of the London, Brighton & South Coast railway, and introducer of the system of "parliamentary" trains with fares of one penny a mile; Dr John Rae (1813-1893), the Arctic explorer; and William Balfour Baikie (1825-1864), the African traveller.

Bibliography. - The Orkneyinga Saga, ed. G. Vigfusson, translated by Sir George Dasent (1887-1894), and the edition of Dr Joseph Anderson (1873); James Wallace, Account of the Islands of Orkney (1700; new ed., 1884); George Low, Tour through the Islands of Orkney and Shetland in 1774 (1879); G. Barry, History of Orkney (1805, 1867); Daniel Gorrie, Summers and Winters in the Orkneys (1868); D. Balfour, Odal Rights and Feudal Wrongs (1860); J. Fergusson, The Brochs and Rude Stone Monuments of the Orkney Islands (1877); J. B. Craven, History of the Episcopal Church in Orkney (1883); J. R. Tudor, Orkney and Shetland (1883).

Orleanais, one of the provinces into which France was divided before the Revolution. It was the country around Orleans, the pagus Aurelianensis; it lay on both banks of the Loire, and for ecclesiastical purposes formed the diocese of Orleans. It was in the possession of the Capet family before the advent of Hugh Capet to the throne of France in 987, and in 1 344 Philip VI. gave it with the title of duke to Philip (d. 1375), one of his younger sons. In a geographical sense the region around Orleans is sometimes known as Orleanais, but this is somewhat smaller than the former province.

See A. Thomas, Les Etats provinciaux de la France centrale (1879).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

Orkney Islands

  1. A group of islands off north-east Scotland.
  2. The region of Scotland comprising these islands.


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Up to date as of February 01, 2010

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|Where the Orkney islands are (dark blue), with the rest of Scotland]] The Okney Islands (often also called only Orkney) is a group of islands. The group belongs to Scotland. It is located about 16 kilometres north of Caithness. 20 of the about 70 islands have people living on them. The administrative centre is Kirkwall (with about 8000 people living there). The next bigger settlements are Stromness (2000 people) and St. Margaret's Hope (with about 550 people).

Ferry services go much of the time to Lerwick (on the Shetlands). Most islands have air strips (for airplanes). This includes the shortest known flight service in the world, between Westray and Papa Westray. Official flight time is 2 minutes. If the wind goes in the right direction, the flight can take just over a minute.

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