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Orkney Islands Tourism Info
Location: Far North Scotland Islands, 10 miles off the coast
Counties: Orkney Islands
Main City/Town: Kirkwall (Population 8,686)
Orkney Islands Tourism Info
There are approximately 70 islands in the Orkneys, about 20 are inhabited. The islands where under Norwegian rule for about 500 years until it was annexed to the Scottish Crown in 1468. Buildings of there occupation can be seen throughout the mainland. The Orkney's history go back much further and are a prehistoric haven with archaeological discoveries found throughout the islands. There is evidence of inhabitancy from as early as the 1st century BC.
The mainland is the largest of the Orkney Islands and, Kirkwall is the centre town and main port. It is a Norse Viking town founded in 1035. St. Magnus Cathedral in the centre is a medieval cathedral built by the Norse Earl Rognvald Kolson in 1137. There are other Norse sights to visit on the islands such as Brough of Birsay, the rock stack in Brough of Deerness, Orphir circular church, the Earl's Palace at Birsay, the Earl's Palaces in Kirkwall, Skaill House near Skara Brae, the Martello towers on Hoy, and Noltland Castle on Westray.
The prehistoric sights of the Orkney's are the biggest tourist attractions on the island. Skara Brae is a recreation built near the actual sight of a village from 5000 years ago. It displays certain artifacts in the house such as stone beds, dressers, and other stone furnishing. Preserved under protective glass are the actual ruins left of the village. Near by the village are the standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brogar, said to have been standing since 2500 BC. Sir Walter Scott described the Stones of Stenness as an altar for human sacrifice, but it is still not sure the reason for the circles. It is calculated that the circles would have take about 5000 man-days to erect considering the digging and ploughing also involved. Maes Howe is an ancient Neolithic burial tomb that is older than the pyramids in Egypt. It appears on a grassy mound rising from a flat plain, hiding a complex of passageways and chambers, the slabs of stone weigh up to 30 tons and had to have been carried a great distance. In the east mainland is the mound in Tankerness known as Mine Howe, another rock built burial tomb. Other prehistoric sights to visit are the Brochs at Gurness (circular defensive towers made of stone), Burroughston on Shapinsay in the north isles, and Midhowe Broch on Rousay.
The Scapa Flow on Hoy is an old 20th Century naval complex built by Churchill in World War 2. A terrible disaster happened here in 1939 as a German U-Boat fired a torpedo at the blockships killing 833 members of the HMS Royal Oak's crew. After this Churchill built barriers and causeways throughout the island, they were completed just as the war ended. Some sunken blockships are still visible. Now there is a Visitors Centre on Scapa Flow with a museum.
Off the shores of the mainland there are many ferry services to the northern and southern isles. Each have there own unique characteristics including historical sights, sea wildlife and natural landscapes. Some to note are the Balfour Castle in Shapinsay, Midhowe in Rousay, Ward Hill and the Cuilags in Hoy. The Highland Park Whisky Distillery is located just outside Kirkwall. For more details download a virtual tourism brochure.
Photo Credits: 1,2,3,4,6 Paul Tomkins/VisitScotland, 5 morourke
Recommended Tours in Orkney Islands
• Orkney Explorer and Far North of Scotland Tour
• Orkney Islands Day Trip from John OGroats
• Orkney Islands Day Trip from Inverness
more tours of Orkney Islands
Recommended Hotels in Orkney Islands
• Lav rockha Guest House 4*
• Houton Bay Lodge 3*
• Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh - Royal Mile 3*
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Recommended Books of Orkney Islands
• Orkney and Shetland: Scottish Islands (Scottish Islands: Orkney & Shetland)
• Scapa Flow (Fortress)
• Walking in the Orkney and Shetland Islands: 80 Walks in the Northern Isles (Cicerone Guide)
- 2 Day Tour of Loch Ness and Inverness
- Isle of Skye and Highlands Scotland Tour
- Scotland Highland Explorer Tour
- Outer Hebrides Tour Experience - Skye, Harris and Lewis
- Islay Whisky Adventure Tour Scotland
- Speyside Whisky Trail Tour Scotland
- Orkney Islands and Far North of Scotland Tour
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