The Orkney Islands – Scotland’s Northernmost Islands :
Located off the northern tip of Scotland where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet are the Scottish islands of Orkney. Orkney is an archipelago of 70 or so islands covering an area of 974 square kilometres. The main island, known as the “Mainland of Orkney” takes up more than half of the area and only twenty-one of the islands are inhabited.
A World Heritage Site
Part of Mainland Orkney is rich in prehistoric sites and as such has been declared a World Heritage Site. On our Orkney Islands excursion, we’ve come to see the sunken Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae overlooking the Bay of Skaill, the stone circle at the Ring of Brodgar, the Kirkwall and the Italian Chapel. But these are just a few of Orkney’s prehistoric heritage and there are much much more to marvel at, such the skills of stone masons who built the large tomb at Maeshowe some 5,000 years ago and other circles such as the one at Stenness.
And, it’s not just on the Mainland where one can see prehistoric sites – in fact, almost every one of the islands has some prehistoric relic or discovery.
The Orkney Islands are about 85 km from north to south and 37 km from east to west. Islands to the north include Shapinsay, Rousay, Egilsay, Wyre, Westray, Eday, Sanday, Stronsay, Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay and to the south of the Mainland are Hoy, Graemsay and Flotta.
Industries on the Islands
There are about 20,000 people living on the islands, with approximately 7,600 in the capital of Kirkwall and 2,100 in the second largest town of Stromness.
Beef farming is the main industry on the islands and fishing is important as well – Orkney has the largest crab processing plant in the UK. Tourism provides jobs and income for the islands as does the arts and craft industry. Orkney is one of the major jewellery producing counties in the UK and scattered around the islands you’ll find studios and workshops of silversmiths, knitwear, pottery, art galleries and jewellers, several of which are internationally renowned jewellery manufacturers.
Things to Do
- The stunning scenery and abundance of wildlife make this an ideal place for nature lovers. The sandy beaches are quiet for a reason – it’s very windy and cold up here, even during our visit in August!
- Orkney’s fascinating prehistoric history and 5,000 years of culture, make this a haven for the amateur archaeologist.
- Craft studios and workshops are often open to the public, and there are craft and artists’ trails that you can follow.
We’ve arrive by ferry from John O’Groats at Caithness. The John O’Groats Ferries provide services to Orkney Islands. From Aberdeen and Scrabster take the Northlink Ferries and from Gill’s Bay and St. Margaret’s Hope the Pentland Ferries.
Flybe operates flights (operated by Loganair) to Kirkwall Airport on Mainland Orkney from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness and Sumburg.
Scotrail Railways (www.firstgroup.com) run services to Thurso, where a bus connects to the ferry at Scrabster, or travel to Aberdeen where the station is near to the harbour area.