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Orkney Islands,archipelago and council area (1991 pop. 19,650), 376 sq mi (974 sq km), N Scotland, consisting of about 70 islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, N of Scottish mainland across the Pentland Firth. About 20 islands are inhabited. Mainland (or Pomona), the largest, has KirkwallKirkwall
, town (1991 pop. 5,867), N Scotland, on the east coast of Mainland Island. It is the trading center and administrative seat of the Orkney Islands, with exports of eggs, fish, whiskey, cattle, and sheep.
..... Click the link for more information. , the county town, and StromnessStromness,
town, on Mainland island, Orkney Islands, N Scotland. It has a harbor with shipyards and docks. Eggs are exported. In the 18th and 19th cent., Stromness was a whaling center and a port of call for the Hudson's Bay Company. A well-known museum of Orkney antiquities is there.
..... Click the link for more information. . Other large islands are HoyHoy,
island, 13 mi (21 km) long and 6 mi (9.7 km) wide, off N Scotland, second largest of the Orkney Islands. It is located at the southwestern side of the Scapa Flow anchorage. Ward Hill (1,565 ft/477 m) is one of many hills on the island; magnificent cliffs line the shore.
..... Click the link for more information. , South Ronaldsay, Stronsay, Sanday, Westray, and Rousay.
The climate is mild, windy, and wet. The Orkneys are one of Scotland's richest farming regions. Beef cattle and eggs are the most important produce. Sheep and pigs are also raised. Some fishing, mainly for lobster, is carried on. The discovery of North Sea oil in the early 1970s provided employment for many inhabitants.
The Orkney Islands were settled by PictsPicts,
ancient inhabitants of central and N Scotland, of uncertain origin. First mentioned (A.D. 297) by the Roman writer Eumenius as northern invaders of Roman Britain, they were probably descendants of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age invaders of Britain.
..... Click the link for more information. . VikingsVikings,
Scandinavian warriors who raided the coasts of Europe and the British Isles from the 9th cent. to the 11th cent. In their language, the word "viking" originally meant a journey, as for trading or raiding; it was not until the 19th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. invaded in the 8th cent. From 875 to 1231 it was a Viking earldom under the Norwegian crown. Details of this period are recounted in the Orkneyinga Saga, a Norse epic. In 1231, the islands passed to the Scottish earls of Angus on the death of the last Viking earl. It became a possession of the Scottish crown in 1472 in trust for the undelivered dowry of Margaret of Norway on her marriage to James III (1469), but the Norse occupation left marked Scandinavian traces; islanders spoke Norn (a form of Norse) until the 18th cent. James V visited Kirkwall in 1540 and made the Orkney Islands a county. Scapa FlowScapa Flow
, area of water, 15 mi (24 km) long and 8 mi (12.9 km) wide, in the Orkney Islands, off N Scotland. It is bounded by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay, and Hoy. Scapa Flow was Britain's main naval base in both world wars.
..... Click the link for more information. , S of Mainland, was Britain's major naval base in World Wars I and II.
The islands have many prehistoric relics. Stone Age settlements have been unearthed at Skara BraeSkara Brae
, Stone Age village, on Mainland in the Orkney Islands, N Scotland. Dating from c.3200 to 2200 B.C., the village was preserved under a sand dune until uncovered by a storm in 1851. It contains seven underground chambers furnished with stone dressers, tables, and beds.
..... Click the link for more information. and Barnhouse Village on Mainland and a broch (prehistoric fort) at Rinyo on Rousay. Other relics include the burial chambers at MaeshoweMaeshowe
or Maes Howe
, prehistoric monument, on Mainland in the Orkney Islands, off N Scotland, near Stenness (see Stenness, Loch of). A passage grave with a corbeled vault, it measures 115 ft (35 m) in diameter and 23 ft (7 m) high.
..... Click the link for more information. , the rings of standing stones at StennessStenness, Loch of
, lake on Mainland island, in the Orkneys, off N Scotland. A headland between Harray and Stenness lochs holds the Standings Stones of Stenness, a ring of flat slabs surrounded by a ditch and bank (henge); it dates from before c.2500 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. and Brodgar, and the complex at the Ness of Brodgar, all on Mainland. The islands have become increasingly popular with tourists and are home to the St. Magnus music festival, founded by the composer Peter Maxwell Davies.
an archipelago in the British Isles off the northern tip of Scotland; part of Great Britain. Population, 17,100 (1971).
Orkney Islands comprise about 70 islands with a total area of approximately 1,000 sq km. The most important island is Mainland. The Orkneys have an extremely hilly terrain, reaching elevations of 477 m on the island of Hoy. They are composed primarily of Devonian sandstones, overlain by glacial deposits. The climate is temperate maritime, and annual precipitation totals 700–800 mm. Heaths and coppices, mainly birch groves, predominate, and there are meadows, peat bogs, and many lakes. The population engages in fishing (Atlantic cod and herring), sheep farming, and cultivation of fodder grasses. Kirkwall is the major city.