WELCOME TO ORKNEY, where there is much to see and do. The rich archaeological heritage is one of the prime attractions. The soft green and fertile landscape, beautiful beaches, spectacular cliffs, abundant wildlife and above all the friendly people are equally important in making up “Orkney”.
The islands lie just north of Mainland Scotland at around 59 degrees north and comprises over 70 islands of which 17 or 18 are inhabited by about 21,000 people. The first written reference to the islands is attributed to Pytheas the Greek from about 325BC, but they have been inhabited for at least 6,000 years. The timeline from prehistory through historical times to the 21st century is continuous, making the division between past and present at times hard to discern.
Perhaps most famous for its exceptionally well preserved Neolithic monuments, some of which now enjoy World Heritage status, Orkney has a wealth of visitor attractions. These range from archaeological sites, local museums, the Highland Park Distillery and St Magnus Cathedral, to a diverse array of craft workshops and shops selling attractive local goods. Wildlife, especially birds, is another feature of Orkney not to be missed, whatever the season.
The old red sandstone rocks result in a combination of fertile agricultural land, most of which is used to raise Orkney’s renowned grass-fed beef cattle, moorland and spectacular coastal fringes, making it a haven for many species of birds in every season, while in spring and summer wild flowers are abundant.
The maritime climate combined with the relatively warm Atlantic Ocean, make the climate equable, with snow and frost rare in winter. Equally, the temperature rarely exceeds 20 in summer. Situated at the meeting point of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean the islands are surrounded by waters abundant in fish and shellfish, adding to the wide variety of locally produced quality foods.