Orkney Walking Tours
The History of Orkney Literature
Orkney's Italian Chapel
The New History
Rent a Self Catering Cottage on Orkney Scotland
Orkney Whisky ScotlandA
tour of Orkney's inhabited islands takes the traveller back
through man's history. Scattered across the fertile, flat land
are countless reminders of the people who have lived here. Stone
Age communities buried their dead in skillfully constructed
tombs. Iron Age families inhabited underground earth houses.
Celtic Christians founded monasteries, and Norse earls designed
Let NorthLink Ferries take you on a voyage of discovery to the islands of Orkney.
of palace built by Earls of Orkney in late 16th century. Remains
of 7th and 8th century Pictish settlement stand on Brough of
Birsay island, reached by foot at low tide. Ruins of Thorfinn
the Mighty's Romanesque church, shoreline ruins of his hall
and outlines of Norse longhouses. Brough of Birsay Photographs.
of several Neolithic cairns on Rousay.
Its megalithic burial chamber is 47ft long and is split into
seven separate stalls by standing slabs.
winds provide energy to power three wind turbine generators
on windswept Mainland hill-top. Visitor centre in summer.
ordered these concrete
causeways to be built in 1939 to block off eastern approach
to naval base at Scapa Flow. Some 250,000 tons of material were
used, linking largest island of Mainland with islands of Lamb
Holm, Glims Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay.
building on Mainland, Houses Orkney's only working corn
mill, with wheel set horizontally, not vertically. Based on
Norse design, this type was used by islanders for centuries.
Signposted off B9057.
keep on Wyre,
surrounded by circular ditch, said to be Scotland's earliest
stone castle. Built in 12th century by Norse chief. In graveyard
is ruined chapel, possibly built by chief's son.
of dogs and oxen were found along with human remains inside
this hillside Neolithic
burial tomb, south of Finstown on Mainland. Passage 18ft
long leads to central chamber with adjoining smaller cells.
tomb cut into slab of sandstone, on Hoy. Passage leads to
two chambers. Legend says it is home to malevolent dwarf of
tower of 12th century Church
of St Magnus soars above roofless nave. Islanders prayed
here well into 19th century.
tower, 2000 years old, stands on Mainland headland overlooking
Rousay. It had underground well-chamber, still visible today,
and upper gallery and floor. Later settlers built houses around
Highland Park Single Malt is a Scotch whisky distilled by Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall in Orkney.
island with huge megalithic tomb. Main chamber over 75ft long
is adjoined by 14 smaller cells. No signs of life on island
since tomb was built.
1943 Italian prisoners-of-war built unique
chapel inside two Nissen huts on Lamb Holim using scrap
metal, driftwood and concrete. Interior has medieval-style wall
paintings and altarpiece. Facade in traditional Italian style
even has belfry.
harbour on Mainland is capital of Orkneys. St Magnus Cathedral
built in 1137 by Norse leader Rognvald, in memory of his murdered
uncle, Magnus. Nearby is 17th century Earl's Palace, built for
2nd Earl of Orkney. Tankerness House is a 16th century merchant's
home, now a local museum. Public library, founded 1683. is Scotland's
mallets and spatula have been unearthed on site of two well-built
structures on Papa Westray. About 5500 years old, they are
considered to be oldest standing dwellings in north-western
of three stone circles dominate Mainland horizon between Loch
of Harray and Loch of Stenness. Encircling ditch still visible
of Bookan. Ring
of Brodgar has 36 tall thin stones forming a circle 2 1/2
acres in extent.
115ft in diameter, with vaulted stone chamber and adjoining
smaller cells, built about 2500 BC. Later, Viking raiders scratched
messages into walls; one message alludes to finding treasure. Maes Howe Photographs.
entrance to Longhope Sound at Harkness, Hoy, one of a pair of
towers built 1813 to protect British convoys in Longhope Sound
against French and American privateers.
reserve supporting flocks of breeding cormorants, kittiwakes,
guillemots and razorbills. Reserve overlooks the spot where
Lord Kitchener's boat was sunk by German mines in 1916. Monument
to Kitchener within reserve.
of Orkneys cairns, on Rousay.
Main chamber, 76ft long, is divided into 12 stalls with central
passage. Benches held human remains, including 23 people buried
about 2000 BC.
was mainly built by Gilbert Balfour in 16th century. Its 71
gun loops in walls and 7-shape were intended to protect it from
Hoy Nature Reserve
moorland and sea cliffs of this RSPB nature reserve make ideal
habitat for hundreds of birds, from kittiwakes to Arctic skuas.
Cliff formations include 450ft stack called Old Man of Hoy.
of isles of Orkneys is ringed by 6ft stone wall to protect
crops from sheep. Sheep survive on seaweed yet produce fine
wool. Prehistoric fort remains on southern coast.
Farm and Folk Museum
farmsteads show evolution of Orkney farm buildings over
centuries. Kirbuster is the only surviving farmhouse with hearth
in middle of floor. Corrigal's 19th-century house has gable
fireplace and wooden box beds. Traditional breeds of sheep and
at St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay; exhibits range from
early crystal set to modern transistor radio; wireless sets
from 1930s and old records.
of 12th century circular Mainland church
overlooks Scapa Flow's northern shore. Probably built by returned
Crusader; only one of its type in Scotland. Apse remains, rest
used to build 18th century Presbyterian structure.
set in curve of sheltered bay on east coast of farming island
The Norse leader Rognvald sailed here in 1136. Ruins of medieval
church has tombstones with finely carved inscriptions.
house was discovered on Mainland in 1926. Its roof collapsed
under weight of farm threshing machine and revealed a floor
strewn with human bones. Corbelled roof was supported on four
fringed by golden beaches. Human bones found in chambered tomb
at Quoyness suggest that people were living here over 4000 years
square miles of sea enclosed by Mainland's south coast and isles
of Burray, South Ronaldasy, Flotta and Hoy. This natural harbour
was naval base during both world wars. Scapa
by sand for 4500 years, Stone
Age Mainland village was discovered in 1850 when storm tore
sand away. Its roofless houses, linked by covered passages,
have central hearths, stone bed-frames and a stone dresser.
Paved courtyard where village council probably met. Skara Brae Photographs.
town in sheltered Mainland harbour. Single, narrow street
whose seaward houses have little jetties of their own. Fishermen
offload catches of lobster and crab. Museum illustrates maritime
history and island wildlife. Hudson's Bay Company recruiting
site now Pier Arts Centre. Stromness Hotels.
for many bodies in this split-level Neolithic
burial mound on southern coast of Rousay. Upper entrance is
at ground level, lower one found through a 19ft sunken passage.
If you would like to visit Orkney as part of a highly personalized
small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me: