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Orkney

So much to discover

Orkney is an archipelago of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited, stretching northwards across the Pentland Firth from mainland Scotland. Orkney has an incredibly rich past, for people have lived here since the fourth millennium BC, and the islands have the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Western Europe. So many stirring events have effected Orcadians, from the days of the Norse sagas to the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in 1919, and the establishment of one of the first North Sea oil bases in recent times.

Orkney’s coastline is its greatest scenic glory, as the ceaseless pounding of Atlantic waves has sculpted its sandstone cliffs into spectacular shapes. These cliffs are home to more than a million seabirds – one in six of all seabirds breeding in Britain nests in Orkney, thus birdwatching is compulsive. Away from the Atlantic furies, the coasts are low lying, with broad, curving bays which attract seals, otters, dolphins, and thus naturalists enjoying the wildlife and the coastal scenery.

The past always leaves clues on the landscape and nowhere does it do this more clearly then Orkney. For archaeologists, Orkney offers on average three prehistoric sites per square mile. The 50,000 year old Neolithic village of Skara Brae, Orkney’s most famous attraction, is a quintessential Stone Age site where dwellings are perfectly preserved with stone beds, dressers and chairs. The Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar are two of Britain’s most spectacular stone circles erected about 2300 BC and 1200 BC respectively. Orkney is simply peppered with historic sites and antiquities, an archaeologist’s paradise.

Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney on the island known as Mainland, is dominated by the 12th century St Magnus Cathedral, the most northerly cathedral in Britain. Nearby is Bishop’s Palace and the Earl Patrick’s Palace, two ruined palaces once the residences and strongholds of bishops and of Orkney’s last earls. Everyone will enjoy stepping back in time as they wander through the narrow winding streets of Orkney’s capital and absorbing the area’s history.

Orkney has also a rich military history, for south of Kirkwall is the great natural harbour of Scapa Flow. Though calm and tranquil now, and a great spot for fishing, it was here the captured German fleet was anchored after World War I, and then scuttled by the German crew as a final act of defiance. At the beginning of World War II, Scapa Flow’s sheltered harbour was breached by a German submarine, which sank the battleship Royal Oak. Thereafter, the Churchill Barriers were built linking three of the islands south of Mainland by Italian prisoners of war, forming an eastern boundary and making anchorage at Scapa Flow almost impregnable. Today, sculptural wrecks break the water, and although most of the wrecks have been salvaged, seven warships and four destroyers remain on the bottom, giving great scope for wreck diving.

Orkney has so much to intrigue the visitor, the geology of the islands, the fascinating coastal features, it’s wild flora and fauna, the famous prehistoric remains and rich history. There is so much to discover, with each island claiming a reason to visit.

Loganair flies to Kirkwall from Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Sumburgh. In addition Loganair operates scheduled island hopping flights within Orkney, linking Mainland with the northern isles of Eday, North Ronaldsay, Sanday, Stronsay, Westray and Papa Westray. Flying between Westray and Papa Westray would honour you with travelling on the world’s shortest scheduled flight, less than 2 minutes depending on the wind.

Loganair flies to Kirkwall from Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sumburgh, and Bergen during the Summer.

Useful links

The Travel Centre
West Castle Street
Kirkwall
KW15 1GU
t. +44 (0)1856 872856

kirkwall@visitscotland.com

www.visitscotland.com

Kirkwall Airport

For Kirkwall Airport Information click here