Orkney and Shetland saw a significant influx of Norwegian settlers between 800AD and 1000AD. This was due to the overpopulation of Norway in comparison to the resources and arable land available there at the time. History once held that the Norwegians largely replaced the original population on the islands, the Picts. However contemporary DNA studies refute this, suggesting instead a slight majority of aboriginal Pictish genes.
More Orkney facts
During World War I and II, Orkney was the site of a Royal Navy
base at Scapa Flow. 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
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 whereby travellers can go from island to island by road instead of being obliged to rely on boats. The causeways were constructed by Italian prisoners of war, who also constructed the beautiful Italian Chapel.
Your Orkney Holiday
Orkney consists of approximately 70 islands, 19 of which are inhabited. The landscape of Orkney is green and rolling, treeless - with large skies and stunning sunsets.
The Mainland of Orkney is filled with treasures - amazing stone built villages and monuments that have stayed for thousands of years. Sometimes not having much wood to build with is a good thing! Franklin's View in Stromness is an excellent base from which to explore Orkney, and Stromness is a beautiful distinctive town well worth enjoying your evenings in.
Orkney is famous for delicious produce - orkney milk, meat, cheese, ice cream, beer, bread and fudge are all highly recommended. Pubs and restaurants and evening entertainment is all close to hand. Come stay in Orkney with us and discover it's magic for yourself!
Things to see and do:
Skara Brae - a neolithic village by the sea -
uncovered by a sand-storm in the 19th century. Houses remain
intact, offering the visitor an amazing glimpse into the past.
- a neolithic tomb, which was sealed from the inside, Maeshowe
also contains a Viking history. During a storm, Vikings took
shelter within this small grassy dome, and carved the most
impressive collection of runes in Western Europe. These can be
deciphered by a guide - phone ahead to book a tour.
The Old Man of Hoy - a stunning 137m tall sea
stack in the island of Hoy - the Old Man, viewed from the cliffs
is an awe-inspiring sight. The stack is made up of red sandstone
perched on a plinth of Igneous Basalt rock, and is frequently
climbed during the summer by brave climbers!
Ring of Brodgar
- a large neolithic circle of standing stones, the Ring of
Brodgar remains, to this day, an enigma. A walk around the Ring
of Brodgar is especially recommended during Orkney's long summer
evenings, when the light never seems to go.
St Magnus Cathedral - an impressive red
sandstone Cathedral in Orkney's biggest town, Kirkwall. St
Magnus Cathedral was built in memory of the Viking Saint Magnus,
and is a popular place to get married during the summer.
- a tiny chapel representing a testament to faith - the Italian
Chapel was built out of Nissan huts by Italian Prisoners of War,
whilst building the Churchill Barriers in WW2. Scrap metal and
concrete were used to make the alter - and the interior is so
beautiful it will take your breath away.
Wildlife Watching - Orkney's moors are full of
birdlife, and it's shores alive with sealife and seals. Even
windswept cliffs are home to rare flowers. Much of the island of
Hoy is an RSPB reserve and is a guaranteed place to see puffins
and seabirds - many of whom may swoop at you for trespassing on
Diving Trip - evening in Stromness is an
exciting time - when divers, alive with stories of their day
exploring beneath the waves, return to shore. The waters around
Orkney may not be the
clearest, and may not offer the most exotic species of fish -
however, they do, like the land, contain a wealth of history.
German battleships and other sunken vessels can all be explored
Visit a North or South isle - or even better
stay in one! Visiting an island, like Hoy, lets you sample the
many flavours of Orkney. Every island is distinctive and
contains archaeology, birdlife and plantlife unlike anywhere
else! Ferries are frequent, and some islands can also be reached
Rackwick beach - we could talk for days about
how beautiful Rackwick beach is. Hemmed in to
the fierce Atlantic swell by two tall hills on
either side, the bay has distinctive and massive sea-smoothed
pebbles and a wide strip of sand. That so few
other people will be there only makes it better!