Orkney Islands

The Islands of Orkney are a group of 70 islands and skerries 10km (6.2 miles) from the north-east tip of the Scottish Mainland. The largest island, known as ‘Mainland’ is home to most of the total 20,000 population but the main north islands of Shapinsay, Gairsay, Stronsay, Wyre, Rousay, Egilsay, Eday, Sanday, Westray, Papa Westray and North Ronaldsay and the south islands of Graemsay, Hoy, Burray, Flotta and South Ronaldsay are also populated. Although Burray and South Ronaldsay are ‘islands’ they are connected to Mainland Orkney by causeways. A few of the very small islands also have permanent or seasonal residents.
The islands of Orkney and Shetland are littered with archaeological remains. People first came here over 5000 years ago and many of their remains survive. New architectural sites are discovered every year. Some, such as Skara Brae, were buried under sand, only to be exposed by a winter storm thousands of years later; Skara Brae presents a fascinating glimpse of stone age life from the beds with their little shelves and cubby holes, to the remains of jewellery and medicine. Research is ongoing here and elsewhere excavation by archaeologists continues to uncover new information. The islands are therefore of enormous interest to anyone who enjoys first-hand contact with ancient settlements and buildings, and the people who once lived here.