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{{About|the Scottish islands}}{{Use Scottish English|date=July 2015}}{{Use dmy dates|date=August 2012}}

|norse name = Orkneyjar|island group = Northern Isles990sqmi|abbr=on}}|area rank =|highest elevation =|Population = 22,100 (2017)52/km2abbr=on}}|population rank =|main settlement = Kirkwall|local authority =Orkney Islands Council|references =}}Orkney {{IPAc-en|ˈ|É”r|k|n|i}} (), also known as the Orkney Islands,{{#tag:ref|"The Orkneys" is used by non-Orcadians and does have historical precedent, yet it is clear that this is frowned upon by the residents.Anderson, Peter "Is 'The Orkneys' ever right? And other musings on 'Orkney' usage." Orkneyjar. Retrieved 29 July 2009.|group="Notes"}} is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of the isle of Great Britain. Orkney is 10 miles (16 km) north of the coast of Caithness and comprises approximately 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited.Haskell-Smith (2004) pp. 336–403.Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 1 states there are 67 islands.{{NRS1C}} The largest island, Mainland, is often referred to as "the Mainland", and has an area of {{convert|523|km2}}, making it the sixth-largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles.Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 334, 502. The largest settlement and administrative centre is Kirkwall.Lamb, Raymond "Kirkwall" in Omand (2003) p. 184.Orkney is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, a constituency of the Scottish Parliament, a lieutenancy area, and a historic county. The local council is Orkney Islands Council, one of only three Councils in Scotland with a majority of elected members who are independents.{{#tag:ref|The other independent-run Councils are Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Moray is run by a Conservative/Independent coalition.MacMahon, Peter and Walker, Helen (18 May 2007) "Winds of change sweep Scots town halls". Edinburgh. The Scotsman."Political Groups" Shetland Islands Council. Retrieved 23 April 2010.|group="Notes"}}A form of the name dates to the pre-Roman era. The islands have been inhabited for at least {{formatnum:8500}} years, originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts. Orkney was colonized and later annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. The Scottish Parliament then annexed the earldom to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III's bride Margaret of Denmark.Thompson (2008) p. 220.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 the most important sector of the economy. The significant wind and marine energy resources are of growing importance, and the island generates more than its total yearly electricity demand using renewables. The local people are known as Orcadians and have a distinctive dialect of the Scots language and a rich inheritance of folklore. 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. There is an abundance of marine and avian wildlife.


File:Blaeu - Atlas of Scotland 1654 - ORCADVM ET SCHETLANDIÆ - Orkney and Shetland.jpg|thumb|right|alt=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. Map makers at this time continued to use the original Latin name "Orcades" .]]Pytheas of Massilia visited Britain – probably sometime between 322 and 285 BC – and described it as triangular in shape, with a northern tip called Orcas.Breeze, David J. "The ancient geography of Scotland" in Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 11–13.This may have referred to Dunnet Head, from which Orkney is visible."Early Historical References to Orkney" Retrieved 27 June 2009.
Writing in the 1st century AD, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela called the islands , as did Tacitus in 98 AD, claiming that his father-in-law Agricola had "discovered and subjugated the Orcades hitherto unknown"Tacitus (c. 98) Agricola. Chapter 10. "ac simul incognitas ad id tempus insulas, quas Orcadas vocant, invenit domuitque". (although both Mela and Pliny had previously referred to the islands).
Etymologists usually interpret the element ' as a Pictish tribal name meaning "young pig" or "young boar".{{#tag:ref|The proto-Celtic root ', can mean either pig or salmon, thus giving an alternative of "island(s) of (the) salmon"."Proto-Celtic – English Word List" (pdf) (12 June 2002) University of Wales. p. 101.|group="Notes"}}Waugh, Doreen J. "Orkney Place-names" in Omand (2003) p. 116. Speakers of Old Irish referred to the islands as "island of the pigs".Pokorny, Julius (1959) weblink {{Webarchive|url= |date=14 May 2011 }} Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Retrieved 3 July 2009."The Origin of Orkney" Retrieved 27 June 2009. The archipelago is known as ' in modern Welsh and ' in modern Scottish Gaelic, the representing a fossilized prepositional case ending.Some earlier sources alternately hypothesize that Orkney comes from the Latin "(:wikt:orca|orca)", whale."Strictures on Mr. Laing's Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian," The Scots Magazine, Volume 64, August 1802, p. 651. (Google Books link)Pope, Alexander, Ancient History of Orkney, Caithness, & the North, Peter Reid, Caithness, 1866 (English translation, with translator's notes, of Torfaeus, Thormodus, 1697.) (Google Books link)The Anglo-Saxon monk Bede refers to the islands as in his seminal work Ecclesiastical History of the English People.BOOK, harv, Plummer, Carolus, Venerabilis Baedae Historiam Ecclesiasticam (Ecclesiastical History of Bede,weblink 2003, Gorgias Press, 978-1-59333-028-6, Norwegian settlers arriving from the late ninth century reinterpreted orc as the Old Norse ' "seal" and added ' "islands" to the endThomson (2008) p. 42. so the name became ' "Seal Islands". The plural suffix ' was later removed in English leaving the modern name "Orkney". According to the Historia Norwegiæ, Orkney was named after an earl called Orkan."A History of Norway", vol. XIII Translated by Devra Kunin pp. 7–8The Norse knew Mainland, Orkney as ' "Mainland" or as ' "Horse Island".Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 354. The island is sometimes referred to as Pomona (or Pomonia), a name that stems from a sixteenth-century mistranslation by George Buchanan, which has rarely been used locally.Buchanan, George (1582) Rerum Scoticarum Historia: The First Book The University of California, Irvine. Revised 8 March 2003. Retrieved 4 October 2007."Pomona or Mainland?" Retrieved 4 October 2007.


File:RingofBrodgarJM.jpg|thumb|upright|alt=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.|Ring of Brodgar, on the island of Mainland, OrkneyMainland, Orkney


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."Hazelnut shell pushes back date of Orcadian site" (3 November 2007) Stone Pages Archaeo News. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 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."Skara Brae Prehistoric Village" Historic Scotland. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 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.Moffat (2005) p. 154."Scotland: 2200–800 BC Bronze Age" {{Webarchive|url= |date=3 December 2010 }} Retrieved 23 August 2008.Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) pp. 32, 34.During the Bronze Age fewer large stone structures were built although the great ceremonial circles continued in useWickham-Jones (2007) p. 73. as metalworking was slowly introduced to Britain from Europe over a lengthy period.Moffat (2005) pp. 154, 158, 161.Whittington, Graeme and Edwards, Kevin J. (1994) "Palynology as a predictive tool in archaeology" (pdf) Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 124 pp. 55–65. There are relatively few Orcadian sites dating from this era although there is the impressive Plumcake Mound WEB,weblink The Ring o' Brodgar - 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.Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 74–76.Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) p. 33.

Iron Age

File:Midhowe Broch.jpg|thumb|left|alt=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 RousayRousayExcavations 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.Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 81–84. 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 BurroughstonHogan, C. Michael (2007) Burroughston Broch. The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 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.Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) pp. 35–37.Crawford, Iain "The wheelhouse" in Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 118–22.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.Moffat (2005) pp. 173–75.{{#tag:ref|Thomson (2008) suggests that there was 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.Thomson (2008) pp. 4–5 Similarly, Ritchie describes Tacitus' claims that Rome "conquered" Orkney as "a political puff, for there is no evidence of Roman military presence".Ritchie, Graham "The Early Peoples" in Omand (2003) p. 36|group="Notes"}} 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.Thomson (2008) pp. 4–6.By the late Iron Age, Orkney was part of the 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.{{#tag:ref|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.Ritchie, Anna "The Picts" in Omand (2003) p. 39|group="Notes"}} 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.Ritchie, Anna "The Picts" in Omand (2003) pp. 42–46. However, before the Gaelic presence could establish itself the Picts were gradually dispossessed by the Norse from the late 8th century onwards. The nature of this transition is controversial, and theories range from peaceful integration to enslavement and genocide.Thomson (2008) pp. 43–50. It has been suggested that an assault by forces from Fortriu in 681 in which Orkney was "annihilated" may have led to a weakening of the local power base and helped the Norse come to prominence.Fraser (2009) p. 345

Norwegian rule

File:Flateyjarbok Haraldr Halfdan.jpg|thumb|alt=A page from an illuminated manuscript shows two male figures. On the left a seated man wears a red crown and on the right a standing man has long fair hair. Their right hands are clasped together.|According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Harald Fairhair (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 pirate expeditions carried out against Norway and the coasts of mainland Scotland. In response, Norwegian king Harald Fairhair (Harald HÃ¥rfagre) annexed the Northern Isles, comprising Orkney and Shetland, in 875. (It is clear that this story, which appears in the Orkneyinga Saga, is based on the later voyages of Magnus Barelegs and some scholars believe it to be apocryphal.)Thomson (2008) pp. 24–27. 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.Thomson (2008) p. 24.However, Sigurd's line barely survived him and it was Torf-Einarr, Rognvald's son by a slave, who founded a dynasty that controlled the islands for centuries after his death.Thomson (2008) p. 29.{{#tag:ref|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."Thomson (2008) p. 30 quoting chapter 5.|group="Notes"}} 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.Wenham, Sheena "The South Isles" in Omand (2003) p. 211.Thomson (2008) pp. 56–58.File:Peter nicolai arbo, olaf tryggvasson king.jpg|thumb|left|alt=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.| Artist's conception of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, who forcibly Christianised Orkney. Painting by Peter Nicolai ArboPeter Nicolai ArboInitially a pagan culture, detailed information about the turn to the Christian religion to the islands of Scotland during the Norse-era is elusive.Abrams, Lesley "Conversion and the Church in the Hebrides in the Viking Age: "A Very Difficult Thing Indeed" in Ballin Smith et al (2007) pp. 169–89 The Orkneyinga Saga suggests the islands were Christianised by Olaf Tryggvasson in 995 when he stopped at South Walls on his way from Ireland to Norway. The King summoned the jarl Sigurd the Stout{{#tag:ref|Sigurd the Stout was Thorfinn Skull-splitter's grandson.|group="Notes"}} 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,Thomson (2008) p. 69. quoting the Orkneyinga Saga chapter 12. receiving their own bishop in the early 11th century.{{#tag:ref|The first recorded bishop was Henry of Lund (also known as "the Fat") who was appointed sometime prior to 1035.Watt, D.E.R., (ed.) (1969) Fasti Ecclesia Scoticanae Medii Aevii ad annum 1638. Scottish Records Society. p. 247. 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)."The Diocese of Orkney" Firth's Celtic Scotland. Retrieved 9 September 2009.|group="Notes"}}{{#tag:ref|When the sagas were written down Orkney had been Christian for 200 years or moreThomson (2008) pp. 66–67 and this conversion tale has been described as "blatantly unhistorical".Beuermann (2011) pp. 143–44|group="Notes"}}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.Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 66–68. 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.{{#tag:ref|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.Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) p. 69.|group="Notes"}}{{#tag:ref|"St Magnus Cathedral still dominates the Kirkwall skyline – a familiar, and comforting sight, to Kirkwallians around the world.""St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall" Orkneyar. Retrieved 10 September 2009.|group="Notes"}}File:Kirkwall cathedral.jpg|thumb|right|alt=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 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.Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) p. 64. In 1231 the line of Norse earls, unbroken since Rognvald, ended with Jon Haraldsson's murder in Thurso.Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 72–73. 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.Thomson (2008) pp. 134–37. In 1290, the death of the child princess Margaret, Maid of Norway in Orkney, en route to mainland Scotland, created a disputed succession that led to the Wars of Scottish Independence.Thompson (2008) pp. 146–47.{{#tag:ref|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 coincidence of the name.|group="Notes"}} In 1379 the earldom passed to the Sinclair family, who were also barons of Roslin near Edinburgh.Thompson (2008) p. 160.{{#tag:ref|The notion that Henry the first Sinclair Earl, voyaged to North America many years before Christopher Columbus has gained some currency of late. 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".Thomson (2008) pp. 168–69."Earl Henry Sinclair: The Zeno Narrative" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 4 October 2009.|group="Notes"}}Evidence of the Viking presence is widespread, and includes the settlement at the Brough of Birsay,Armit (2006) pp. 173–76. the vast majority of place names,Thomson (2008) p. 40. and the runic inscriptions at Maeshowe.{{#tag:ref|The Maeshowe inscriptions date from the 12th century.Armit (2006) pp. 178–79.|group="Notes"}}

Annexation by Scotland

File:James III and Margaret of Denmark.jpg|thumb|upright=0.9|left|alt=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 sceptre 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. However the money was never paid, and Orkney was annexed by the Kingdom of Scotland in 1472. {{#tag:ref|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."Diplom fra Shetland datert 24.november 1509" University Library, University in Bergen. (Norwegian). Retrieved 13 September 2009. He secured a clause in the contract that 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."Norsken som døde" Universitas, Norsken som døde (Norwegian) Retrieved 13 September 2009.|group="Notes"}}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 comunitas Orcadie and who proved themselves increasingly able to defend their rights against their feudal overlords.Thompson (2008) p. 183.Crawford, Barbara E. "Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003) pp. 78–79.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 later Stromness becoming leading centres of development. White fish 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 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.Thompson (2008) pp. 371–72. During this period, burning kelp briefly became a mainstay of the islands' economy. For example on Shapinsay over {{convert|3000|LT|tonnes|0|lk=on}} of burned seaweed were produced per annum to make soda ash, bringing in £20,000 to the local economy.Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 364–65. The industry collapsed suddenly in 1830 after the removal of tariffs on imported alkali.Thomson, William P.L. "Agricultural Improvement" in Omand (2003) p. 98.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.Thomson, William P.L. "Agricultural Improvement" in Omand (2003) pp. 93, 99.During the 18th century Jacobite risings, Orkney was largely Jacobite in its sympathies. At the end of the 1715 rebellion, a large number of Jacobites who had fled north from mainland Scotland sought refuge on Orkney and were helped on to safety in Sweden.Baynes (1970) p. 182 In 1745, the Jacobite lairds on the islands ensured that Orkney remained pro-Jacobite in outlook, and was a safe place to land supplies from Spain to aid their cause. Orkney was the last place in the British Isles that held out for the Jacobites and was not retaken by the British Government until 24 May 1746, over a month after the defeat of the main Jacobite army at Culloden.Duffy (2003) pp. 464–465, 528, 533–534, 550

20th century

File:The altar art of the Italian chapel of Orkney - - 739607.jpg|thumb|right|The Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm was built and decorated by Italian prisoners of war working on the Churchill BarriersChurchill BarriersOrkney was the site of a Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, which played a major role in World War I and II. After the Armistice in 1918, the German High Seas Fleet was transferred in its entirety to Scapa Flow to await a decision on its future. 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, a German U-boat sank the Royal Navy battleship {{HMS|Royal Oak|08|6}} 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.Thomson (2008) pp. 434–36.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.Thomson (2008) pp. 439–43. Orkney was rated as the best place to live in Scotland in both 2013 and 2014, and in 2019 the best place to live in the UK, according to the Halifax Quality of Life survey.Harrison, Jody (20 December 2014) "Orkney best for quality of life". Glasgow. The Herald. Retrieved 20 December 2014weblink Sky News. Retrieved 28 May 2019

Overview of population trends

In the modern era, population peaked in the mid 19th century at just over 32,000 and declined for a century thereafter to a low of fewer than 18,000 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 these trends are very similar to those experienced elsewhere.Wenham, Sheena "Modern Times" in Omand (2003) p. 110."Orkney Islands" Vision of Britain. Retrieved 21 September 2009. The archipelago's population grew by 11% in the decade to 2011 as recorded by the census.{{GRO10}} During the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by 4% to 103,702."Scotland's 2011 census: Island living on the rise". BBC News. Retrieved 18 August 2013.{{col-begin|width=auto}}{{col-break}}{{historical populations| percentages = pagr| align = none| source= 24,445 23,238 26,979 28,847 30,507 31,455 32,395 32,044 25,897 24,111 22,077 21,255 18,747 17,070 18,194 19,644 19,245 21,349}}{{col-break|gap=1em}}{{col-end}}


(File:Orkney Islands by Sentinel-2.jpg|left|thumb|Satellite image taken by Sentinel-2)(File:Orkney Map.png|thumb|right|alt= A map of the Orkney archipelago showing 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 main transport routes)Orkney is separated from the mainland of Scotland by the Pentland Firth, a {{convert|10|km|mi|1|adj = on}} wide seaway 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 {{convert|80|km|mi|0}} from northeast to southwest and {{convert|47|km|mi|0}} from east to west, and covers {{convert|975|km2|sqmi|0}}."Get-a-Map" Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 19 September 2009. {{webarchive |url= |date=29 November 2013 }}Whitakers (1990) pp. 611, 614.Orkney is separated from the Shetland Islands, a group farther out, by a body of water called the Fair Isle Channel.BOOK, Tullio Treves, Laura Pineschi, The Law of the Sea: The European Union and Its Member States,weblink 1 January 1997, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 978-90-411-0326-0, 530, 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".Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) p. 19.The tidal currents, or "roosts" as some of them are called locally,"The Sorcerous Finfolk" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. off many of the isles are swift, with frequent whirlpools.{{#tag:ref|For example at the Fall of Warness the tide can run at 4 m/s (7.8 knots)."Fall of Warness Test Site " {{Webarchive|url= |date=1 December 2008 }} EMEC. Retrieved 19 September 2009.|group="Notes"}} The islands are notable for the absence of trees, which is partly accounted for by the amount of wind."The Big Tree, Orkney". Forestry Commission. Retrieved 19 September 2009. {{webarchive |url= |date=27 July 2009 }}


Genetic studies have shown that 25% of the gene pool of Orkney derives from Norwegian ancestors who invaded the islands in the 9th century.Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry. The Guardian.


The Mainland

File:Stromness 2.jpg|thumb|alt=Stone houses crowd around a shore, the gable ends facing the water, with green hills beyond.|StromnessStromnessThe 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 Mainland is split into areas called East and West Mainland. These areas are determined by whether they lie East or West of Kirkwall. The bulk of the mainland lies West of Kirkwall, with comparatively little land lying East of Kirkwall.West Mainland parishes are:Stromness, Sandwick, Birsay, Harray, Stenness, Orphir, Evie, Rendall and Firth.East Mainland Parishes are:St Ola, Tankerness, St Andrews, Holm and Deerness.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 {{convert|60|km|mi|0}} 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

File:NR sheep.jpg|thumb|right|North Ronaldsay sheep are a (feral|semi-feral]] breed that has evolved to eat seaweed.WEB,weblink Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, Sheep Breeds, Sheep Breeds: North Ronaldsay, 23 April 2009, Their unique genetic inheritance makes them of interest to conservationists.JOURNAL, Heredity, 2007, 99, 6, 620–631, Genetic structure of European sheep breeds, 10.1038/sj.hdy.6801039, 17700634, Lawson Handley, L-J, Byrne, K., Santucci, F., Townsend, S., Taylor, M., Bruford, M. W., Hewitt, G. M., )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 {{convert|4|km|mi|0}} beyond its nearest neighbour, Sanday. To the west is Westray, which 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.File:Hoy Lighthouse RLH.jpg|thumb|upright|alt= A tall white lighthouse with a brown stripe around the parapet and dark coloured lantern sits on a rocky shore. A white wall obscures the lower floor of grey stone buildings gathered around its base.|Hoy Lighthouse on GraemsayGraemsay

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 on the third Saturday in August.WEB,weblink The Festival of the Horse and the Boys' Ploughing Match, Orknejyar, 6 April 2012, 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, Glimps Holm, 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, Glimps Holm, Hunda, Lamb Holm, Rysa Little, Switha and Swona. The Pentland Skerries lie further south, closer to the Scottish mainland.


File:OldManofHoycloseJM.jpg|thumb|right|upright|alt=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 HoyOld Man of HoyThe superficial rock of Orkney is almost entirely Old Red Sandstone, mostly of Middle Devonian age.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. 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.Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Basement Geology". Retrieved 10 November 2008.(File:OrkneyGeologyMap.png|thumb|left|alt=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 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.Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Lower Middle Devonian". Retrieved 10 November 2008. The later Rousay flagstone formation is found throughout much of the North and South Isles and East Mainland.Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) pp. 4–5.The Old Man of Hoy is formed from sandstone of the uppermost Eday group that is up to {{convert|800|m|yd}} thick in places. It lies unconformably upon steeply inclined flagstones, the interpretation of which is a matter of continuing debate.Mykura, W. (with contributions by Flinn, D. & May, F.) (1976) British Regional Geology: Orkney and Shetland. Institute of Geological Sciences. Natural Environment Council.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.Land Use Consultants (1998) "Orkney landscape character assessment". Scottish Natural Heritage Review No. 100. 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.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. Lamprophyre dykes of Late Permian age are found throughout Orkney.Hall, Adrian and Brown, John (September 2005) "Orkney Landscapes: Permian dykes" {{Webarchive|url= |date=21 January 2012 }} Retrieved 4 October 2009.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.Brown, John Flett "Geology and Landscape" in Omand (2003) p. 10.


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.Chalmers, Jim "Agriculture in Orkney Today" in Omand (2003) p. 129. The average temperature for the year is {{convert|8|°C|°F|abbr=on}}; for winter {{convert|4|°C|°F|abbr=on}} and for summer {{convert|12|°C|°F|abbr=on}}."Regional mapped climate averages" Met Office. Retrieved 19 September 2009.The average annual rainfall varies from {{convert|850|mm|in}} to {{convert|940|mm|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."The Climate of Orkney" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009.To tourists, one of the fascinations of the islands is their "nightless" summers. On the longest day, the sun rises at 04:00 and sets at 22:29 BST and complete darkness is unknown. This long twilight is known in the Northern Isles as the "simmer dim"."About the Orkney Islands". Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. Winter nights are long. On the shortest day the sun rises at 09:05 and sets at 15:16."Climatology: Sunrise/Sunset for Orkney, United Kingdom " The Weather Channel. Retrieved 12 May 2012. At this time of year the aurora borealis can occasionally be seen on the northern horizon during moderate auroral activity.WEB,weblink Sky Notes: Aurora Borealis Gallery, 21 December 2006, John Vetterlein, 9 September 2009, The averages table below is for largest settlement Kirkwall's weather station.{{Weather box|location = Kirkwall, 26m asl, 1981–2010, Extremes 1951–|metric first = Yes|single line = Yes|Jan record high C = 12.2|Feb record high C = 12.8|Mar record high C = 18.9|Apr record high C = 18.3|May record high C = 22.0|Jun record high C = 22.8|Jul record high C = 25.6|Aug record high C = 24.8|Sep record high C = 22.8|Oct record high C = 19.4|Nov record high C = 14.5|Dec record high C = 12.8|year record high C = 25.6|Jan high C = 6.4|Feb high C = 6.4|Mar high C = 7.6|Apr high C = 9.5|May high C = 12.0|Jun high C = 14.0|Jul high C = 15.9|Aug high C = 16.0|Sep high C = 14.1|Oct high C = 11.4|Nov high C = 8.6|Dec high C = 6.8|year high C = 10.7|Jan low C = 1.9|Feb low C = 1.7|Mar low C = 2.4|Apr low C = 3.8|May low C = 5.6|Jun low C = 8.1|Jul low C = 10.2|Aug low C = 10.3|Sep low C = 8.8|Oct low C = 6.7|Nov low C = 4.2|Dec low C = 2.3|year low C = 5.5|Jan record low C = −7.8|Feb record low C = −7.0|Mar record low C = −6.8|Apr record low C = −4.9|May record low C = −2.1|Jun record low C = 1.0|Jul record low C = 3.4|Aug record low C = 3.7|Sep record low C = 0.5|Oct record low C = -1.6|Nov record low C = −5.5|Dec record low C = −7.6|year record low C = −7.8| rain colour = green| Jan rain mm = 109.7| Feb rain mm = 93.3| Mar rain mm = 95.7| Apr rain mm = 60.3| May rain mm = 48.0| Jun rain mm = 52.7| Jul rain mm = 57.4| Aug rain mm = 66.3| Sep rain mm = 95.3| Oct rain mm = 126.0| Nov rain mm = 126.0| Dec rain mm = 107.8| year rain mm = 1038.5|unit rain days= 1.0 mm|Jan rain days = 20.1|Feb rain days = 16.8|Mar rain days = 17.9|Apr rain days = 13.4|May rain days = 10.6|Jun rain days = 10.7|Jul rain days = 11.6|Aug rain days = 12.5|Sep rain days = 16.2|Oct rain days = 19.6|Nov rain days = 20.8|Dec rain days = 18.5|year rain days= 188.7|Jan sun = 32.2|Feb sun = 59.3|Mar sun = 98.2|Apr sun = 136.8|May sun = 190.0|Jun sun = 148.6|Jul sun = 132.2|Aug sun = 129.7|Sep sun = 105.3|Oct sun = 75.8|Nov sun = 40.1|Dec sun = 24.5|year sun = 1172.4|source 1 = Met OfficeHTTP://WWW.METOFFICE.GOV.UK/CLIMATE/UK/AVERAGES/19812010/SITES/KIRKWALL.HTML> TITLE = KIRKWALL 1981–2010 AVERAGES ACCESSDATE= 13 SEPTEMBER 2012, |source 2 = Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMIHTTP://ECA.KNMI.NL/UTILS/MAPSERVER/ANOMALY.PHP?INDEXCAT=**&INDEXID=TXX&YEAR=2005&SEASONID=18&CREATE_IMAGE=TRUE&MINX=-617738.09523815&MINY=-3936547.6190476&MAXX=248928.57142858&MAXY=-3286547.6190476&MAPSIZE=560%2C420&IMAGEWIDTH=560&IMAGEHEIGHT=420&MAINMAP.X=285&MAINMAP.Y=165&CMD=QUERY_POINT&CMD=QUERY_POINT#BOTTOM > TITLE = KIRKWALL EXTREMES LANGUAGE =, |date=Nov 2011}}


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 Great Britain."Alistair Carmichael: MP for Orkney and Shetland" Retrieved 8 September 2009.weblink" title="">"Candidates and Constituency Assessments". – "The almanac of Scottish elections and politics". Retrieved 9 February 2010."The Untouchable Orkney & Shetland Isles " (1 October 2009) Retrieved 9 February 2010. {{webarchive |url= |date=29 July 2013 }}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."Liam McArthur MSP" Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 8 September 2009. Before McArthur the MSP was Jim Wallace, who was previously Deputy First Minister."Jim Wallace" Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 8 September 2009. Orkney is within the Highlands and Islands electoral region.Orkney Islands Council consists of 21 members, 20 of whom are independent, that is they do not stand as representatives of a political party. The remaining councillor represents the Green Party."Social Work Inspection Agency: Performance Inspection Orkney Islands Council 2006. Chapter 2: Context." The Scottish Government. Retrieved 8 September 2009.NEWS,weblink BBC News, Orkney Islands Council : Election 2017 Results, 8 May 2017, The Orkney Movement, a political party that supported devolution for Orkney from the rest of Scotland, contested the 1987 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."Candidates and Constituency Assessments: Orkney (Highland Region)" Retrieved 11 January 2008 {{webarchive |url= |date=18 January 2012 }}In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum 67.2% of voters in Orkney voted No to the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" This was the highest % No vote in any council area in Scotland.NEWS,weblink BBC News – In maps: How close was the Scottish referendum vote?, BBC News, 8 February 2015,weblink 8 February 2015, no, dmy-all, 2014-09-19, Jeavans, Christine, Turnout for the referendum was at 83.7% in Orkney with 10,004 votes cast in the area against independence by comparison to 4,883 votes for independence.NEWS,weblink Scottish independence: no campaigners buoyed by first referendum results, Severin Carrell, The Guardian, 8 February 2015,weblink 8 February 2015, no, dmy-all,


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.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. More than 90% of agricultural land is used for grazing for sheep and cattle, with cereal production utilising about 4% ({{convert|4200|ha|acre}}) and woodland occupying only {{convert|134|ha|acre}}."Orkney Economic Review No. 23." (2008) Kirkwall. Orkney Islands Council.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.{{#tag:ref| 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.Coull, James "Fishing" in Omand (2003) pp. 144–55.|group="Notes"}}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."Orkney Business Directory". Retrieved 12 May 2012. Retailing accounts for 17.5% of total employment, and public services also play a significant role, employing a third of the islands' workforce."Orkney Economic Update" (1999) (pdf) HIE. Retrieved 20 September 2009.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. 55% of these businesses employ between 5 and 49 people.


File:Pelamis at EMEC.jpg|thumb|alt=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. Although Orkney is connected to the mainland, it generates over 100% of its net power from renewables.WEB, Llewelyn, Robert, Orkney Island of the future,weblink Fully Charged, Robert Llewelyn, 20 May 2015, Kryten, This comes mainly from wind turbines situated across Orkney.The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is a research facility operating a grid-connected wave test site at Billia Croo, off the west coast of the Orkney Mainland, and a tidal power test site in the Fall of Warness, off the northern island of Eday.WEB,weblink European Marine Energy Centre, 3 February 2007, 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."{{#tag:ref|"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 into an onshore substation. Testing takes place in a wide range of sea and weather conditions, with comprehensive round-the-clock monitoring."PRESS RELEASE, First Minister Opens New Tidal Energy Facility at EMEC, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, 28 September 2007,weblink 1 October 2007, |group="Notes"}}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, involving "active network management" that will make better use of existing infrastructure and allow a further 15MW of new "non-firm generation" output from renewables onto the network.Registered Power Zone Annual Report for period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007. (2007) Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution and Southern Electric Power Distribution.Facilitate generation connections on Orkney by automatic distribution network management (pdf) DTI. Retrieved 18 October 2007. {{webarchive |url= |date=27 March 2009 }} 1.5 MW of polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis form a partial hydrogen economy for hydrogen vehicles and district heating,WEB, About,weblink BIG HIT, and grid batteries and electric vehicles also use local energy.WEB, Grant, Alistair, Pioneering Orkney energy project offers glimpse of fossil fuel-free future,weblink HeraldScotland, The Herald (Glasgow), en, 4 April 2019, WEB, Press release: Energy system of the future to be demonstrated in Orkney : EMEC: European Marine Energy Centre,weblink European Marine Energy Centre, en, 4 April 2019,



Highland and Islands Airports operates the main airport in Orkney, Kirkwall Airport. Loganair, provides services to the Scottish mainland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness), as well as to Sumburgh Airport in Shetland."Getting Here" Visit Orkney. Retrieved 13 September 2009.Within Orkney, the council operates airfields on most of the larger islands including Stronsay, Eday, North Ronaldsay, Westray, Papa Westray, and Sanday."Air Travel" Orkney Islands Council. Retrieved 13 September 2009. The shortest scheduled air service in the world, between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, is scheduled at two minutes duration"Getting Here" Westray and Papa Westray Craft and Tourist Associations. Retrieved 7 January 2010. but can take less than one minute if the wind is in the right direction.


File:Ferry at Whale Geo pier, Westray - - 33804.jpg|thumb|right|MV Earl Thorfinn arrives at Westray. (Orkney Ferries]] operate a fleet of inter-island ferries."Welcome to Orkney Ferries". Orkney Ferries Ltd. Retrieved 16 May 2012.)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.


Orkney is served by a weekly local newspaper, The Orcadian.A local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Orkney, the local opt-out of BBC Radio Scotland, broadcasts twice daily, with local news and entertainment."Radio Orkney". BBC. Retrieved 19 September 2009. Orkney also had a commercial radio station, The Superstation Orkney, which broadcast to Kirkwall and parts of the mainland and also to most of Caithness"Superstation Orkney" Retrieved 19 September 2009 until its closure in November 2014.Superstation Orkney ends community radio broadcasting, RadioToday, 16 November 2014 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 Orkney."Welcome to the Caithness F.M. website" Caithness FM. Retrieved 19 September 2009.Orkney is home to the Orkney Library and Archive, located in Kirkwall, Scotland, on the mainland. The Library service provides access to over 145,000 items.WEB,weblink Orkney Library & Archive,, They have a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles available for loan as well as audiobooks, maps, eBooks, music CDs, and DVDs.WEB,weblink About our libraries,, Orkney Library and Archive operates a Mobile Library Service that serves the rural parishes and islands of Orkney. The Mobile Library carries a wide range of books and audio books suitable for all ages and is completely free to use.WEB,weblink Mobile Library,,


The islands are the home of several international festivals, including the Orkney International Science Festival in September, a folk festival in May, and the St Magnus International Arts Festival in June."Do not disturb: Oakhurst Cottage, Orkney", The Scotsman, 3 August 2015. Retrieved 03 August 2015.

Language, literature, and folklore

(File:Odin-Stone sketch.jpeg|thumb|upright|alt= 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.{{#tag:ref|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.Clarkson (2008) pp. 30–34. 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.Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) pp. 248–49.|group="Notes"}} The Ogham script on the Buckquoy spindle-whorl is cited as evidence for the pre-Norse existence of Old Irish in Orkney.JOURNAL, Katherine Forsyth, Forsyth, Katherine, The ogham-inscribed spindle-whorl from Buckquoy: evidence for the Irish language in pre-Viking Orkney?, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 125, 1995, 677–96,weblink PDF, 12 May 2012, {{#tag:ref|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.Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) p. 250.|group="Notes"}}After the Norse occupation, the toponymy of Orkney became almost wholly West Norse.Lamb, Gregor (1995) Testimony of the Orkneyingar: Place Names of Orkney. Byrgisey. {{ISBN|0-9513443-4-X}} The Norse language changed into the local Norn, which lingered until the end of the 18th century, when it finally died out. 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"The Orcadian Dialect" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 4 October 2008. and the distinctive sing-song accent and many dialect words of Norse origin remain in use.{{#tag:ref|Lamb (2003) counted 60 words "with correlates in Old Norse only" and 500 Scots expressions in common use in the 1950s.Lamb, Gregor "The Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) pp. 250–53.|group="Notes"}} The Orcadian word most frequently encountered by visitors is peedie, meaning small, which may be derived from the French petit.Clackson, Stephen (25 November 2004) The Orcadian. Kirkwall.{{#tag:ref|The word is of uncertain origin and has also been attested in the Lothians and Fife in the 19th century.Grant, W. and Murison, D.D. (1931–1976) Scottish National Dictionary. Scottish National Dictionary Association. {{ISBN|0-08-034518-2}}.|group="Notes"}}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."The Trows". Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. Local customs in the past included marriage ceremonies at the Odin Stone that formed part of the Stones of Stenness.Muir, Tom "Customs and Traditions" in Omand (2003) p. 270.King Lot in certain versions of the Arthurian legend (e.g., Malory) is ruler of Orkney. His sons Gawaine, Agravaine, Gareth, and Gaheris are major characters in the Matter of Britain.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.Drever, David "Orkney Literature" in Omand (2003) p. 257.


(File:The Bridge of Brodgar, Stenness, 1875. By Walter Hugh Patton (1828-1895).tif|thumb|The Bridge of Brodgar, Stenness, 1875. By Walter Hugh Patton (1828–1895).)An Orcadian is a native of Orkney, a term that reflects a strongly held identity with a tradition of understatement."The Orcadians – The people of Orkney" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. Although the annexation of the earldom by Scotland took place over five centuries ago in 1472, some Orcadians regard themselves as Orcadians first and Scots second."‘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) weblink Retrieved 8 January 2010. However in response to the national identity question in the 2011 Scotland Census, self-reported levels of Scottish identity in Orkney were in line with the national average.WEB,weblink Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion | Scotland Census 2011, The Scottish mainland is often referred to as "Scotland" in Orkney, with "the mainland" referring to Mainland, Orkney."Where is Orkney?" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. The archipelago also has a distinct culture, with traditions of the Scottish Highlands such as tartan, clans, bagpipes not indigenous to the culture of the islands.Orkneyjar FAQ Orkneyjar. Retrieved 19 September 2009. 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,"Orkney tartan" Retrieved 19 September 2009."Sanday Tartan" Retrieved 2 June 2007. {{webarchive |url= |date=11 September 2012 }}"Clackson tartan" Retrieved 19 September 2009. and there are pipe bands in Orkney."Kirkwall City Pipe Band" Retrieved 19 September 2009."Stromness RBL Pipe Band" Retrieved 19 September 2009.Native Orcadians refer to the non-native residents of the islands as "ferry loupers", ("loup" meaning "jump" in the Scots language WEB,weblink Dictionary of the Scots Language :: DOST :: Lowp V, ) a term that has been in use for nearly two centuries at least.Vedder, David (1832) Orcadian Sketches. Edinburgh. William Tait.{{#tag:ref|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.|group="Notes"}}

Natural history

File:Seals hauled out by Lyrie Geo, Hoy, Orkney - - 2472901.jpg|thumb|right|upright|Seals hauled out at Lyrie Geo on HoyHoyOrkney has an abundance of wildlife, especially of grey and common seals and seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes, tysties, ravens, and bonxies. Whales, dolphins, and otters are also seen around the coasts. Inland the Orkney vole, a distinct subspecies of the common vole introduced by Neolithic humans, is an endemic."Northern Isles" {{Webarchive|url= |date=5 December 2008 }}. SNH. Retrieved 27 September 2009.Benvie (2004) pp. 126–38. 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.JOURNAL, 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, Molecular Ecology (journal), Molecular Ecology, 12, 951–956, 10.1046/j.1365-294X.2003.01795.x, 12753214, 4, Retrieved 27 September 2009.The coastline is well known for its colourful flowers including sea aster, sea squill, sea thrift, common sea-lavender, bell and common heather. The Scottish primrose is found only on the coasts of Orkney and nearby Caithness and Sutherland. Although stands of trees are generally rare, a small forest named Happy Valley with 700 trees and lush gardens was created from a boggy hillside near Stenness during the second half of the 20th century."Boggy hillside reborn as Orkney forest reserve". (27 May 2011) BBC. Retrieved 27 May 2011.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.WEB,weblinkwork=Sheep Breedsaccessdate=23 April 2009, The island was also a habitat for the Atlantic walrus until the mid-16th century.{{citation title= Trichecodon huxlei (Mammalia: Odobenidae) in the Pleistocene of southeastern United States.}}The Orkney char (Salvelinus inframundus) used to live in Heldale Water on Hoy. It has been considered locally extinct since 1908."Salvelinus inframundus: Regan, 1909" – FishBase. Retrieved 5 January 2013.WEB,weblink The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2018-10-24, The introduction of alien stoats just prior to 2015, a natural predator of the common vole and thus of the Orkney vole,WEB,weblink Orkney vole is from Belgium, WEB,weblink Orkney Fox in Neolithic era, may be harming native bird populations.WEB,weblink Orkney Stoats,

See also

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General references

  • Armit, Ian (2006) Scotland's Hidden History. Stroud. Tempus. {{ISBN|0-7524-3764-X}}
  • Beuermann, Ian "Jarla SÇ«gur Orkneyja. Status and power of the earls of Orkney according to their sagas" in Steinsland, Gro; Sigurðsson, Jón Viðar; Rekda, Jan Erik and Beuermann, Ian (eds) (2011) Ideology and power in the Viking and Middle Ages: Scandinavia, Iceland, Ireland, Orkney and the Faeroes . The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 A.D. Peoples, Economics and Cultures. 52. Leiden. Brill. {{ISBN|978-90-04-20506-2}}
  • Baynes, John (1970) The Jacobite Rising of 1715. London. Cassell. {{ISBN|0-304-93565-4}}
  • Benvie, Neil (2004) Scotland's Wildlife. London. Aurum Press. {{ISBN|1-85410-978-2}}
  • Ballin Smith, B. and Banks, I. (eds) (2002) In the Shadow of the Brochs, the Iron Age in Scotland. Stroud. Tempus. {{ISBN|0-7524-2517-X}}
  • Ballin Smith, Beverley; Taylor, Simon; and Williams, Gareth (eds) (2007) West Over Sea: Studies in Scandinavian Sea-borne Expansion and Settlement Before 1300. Brill. {{ISBN|90-04-15893-6}}
  • Clarkson, Tim (2008) The Picts: A History. Stroud. The History Press. {{ISBN|978-0-7524-4392-8}}
  • Duffy, Christopher (2003) The 45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. London. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. {{ISBN|0-304-35525-9}}
  • Fraser, James E. (2009) From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795. Edinburgh University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-7486-1232-1}}
  • {{Haswell-Smith}}
  • Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. London. Thames & Hudson. {{ISBN|978-0500051337}}
  • Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) The Orkney Book. Edinburgh. Birlinn. {{ISBN|1-84158-254-9}}
  • Thomson, William P.L. (2008) The New History of Orkney. Edinburgh. Birlinn. {{ISBN|978-1-84158-696-0}}
  • Whitaker's Almanack 1991 (1990). London. J. Whitaker & Sons. {{ISBN|0-85021-205-7}}
  • Wickham-Jones, Caroline (2007) Orkney: A Historical Guide. Edinburgh. Birlinn. {{ISBN|1-84158-596-3}}
  • {{EB1911|wstitle=Orkney Islands}}

Further reading

  • Batey, C.E. et al (eds.) (1995) The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney and the North Atlantic. Edinburgh University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-7486-0632-0}}
  • Fresson, Captain E.E. Air Road to the Isles. (2008) Kea Publishing. {{ISBN|978-0-9518958-9-4}}
  • Hutton, Guthrie (2009) Old Orkney. Catrine: Stenlake Publishing {{ISBN|9781840334678}}
  • Livesey, Margot, The Flight of Gemma Hardy (a novel). HarperCollins, 2012. {{ISBN|978-0-06-206422-6}}
  • Lo Bao, Phil and Hutchison, Iain (2002) BEAline to the Islands. Kea Publishing. {{ISBN|978-0-9518958-4-9}}
  • Nicol, Christopher (2012) Eric Linklater's Private Angelo and The Dark of Summer Glasgow: ASLS {{ISBN|978-1906841119}}
  • Rendall, Jocelyn (2009) Steering the Stone Ships: The Story of Orkney Kirks and People Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh.
  • Tait, Charles (2012) The Orkney Guide Book, Charles Tait, St. Ola, Orkney. {{ISBN|978-0-9517859-8-0}}
  • Warner, Guy (2005) Orkney by Air. Kea Publishing. {{ISBN|978-0-9518958-7-0}}
  • Dance, Gaia (2013) "The Sea Before Breakfast." Amazon. {{ISBN|978-1-3015054-8-7}}

External links

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