Orkney Islands Coast Guide
Situated only a few miles off of the north Scotland coast, across the Pentland Firth, lie the Orkney Islands. A group of around 70 islands, most of which are uninhabited; which provides an ideal situation for abundant wildlife. The largest island is Mainland, on which most of the population of 9500 live.
Island of Hoy
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There are only two towns of any size on the islands and these are Stromness and Kirkwall both of which are on Mainland, the largest island. The main industry of the islands is crab and lobster fishing, so as you can imagine there are some fine seafood restaurants around. The other major industry is tourism, which is thriving. The coast is spectacular and you will need your camera and walking boots.
To the south of Mainland is the island of Hoy which is the second largest in the group and is also the highest. There are spectacular coast views at St John's Head where the cliffs tower 350 meters above the pounding sea. The islands best known sight however is the Old Man of Hoy, a sea stack that rises some 140 meters out of the sea. In all there are around ten sea stacks in the Orkneys and these are very popular with climbers. To the south of the island there is a lighthouse at Tor Ness and views back to the UK mainland.
South Ronaldsay is linked to Mainland by a road, the A961, which crosses the island Burray and two artificial barriers. These barriers are constructed from old ships and concrete blocks and were placed between the islands during the Second World War on the orders of Winston Churchill to afford more protection to the Navy ships moored in Scarpa Flow.
Scarpa Flow is the stretch of water that is enclosed 360 degrees by the Orkney Islands, because of this geography it has been used as a natural harbour since Viking times. It was from here that the British fleet sailed out to engage the German fleet in May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland. After the war much of the remaining German fleet were interned at Scarpa Flow until on 21 June 1919 the fleet scuttled itself on the orders of Admiral von Reuter. Although many of the ships were later salvaged there are still around ten shipwrecks in the area, including the battleship Markgraf and the cruisers, Karlsruhe and Dresden. Today this is a very popular diving site as the ships wrecks act as natural reefs and attract a lot of marine life.
Ferries operate from Kirkwall to the northern islands of Rousay, Westray, Eday, Sanday, Stronsay, Shapinsay and North Ronaldsay; but not to the other sixty islands - you have to row yourself to these! Sanday has the best beaches in the Orkneys with sparkling white sand and azure seas - when the sun shines! British Airways operate flights to several of the northern islands.
Places to visit around Orkney
Orkney Marine Life Aquarium - Pool Farmhouse, Grimness, Orkney, Orkney KW17 2TH Tel: 01856 831700
Tomb of the Eagles - A 5000 year old tomb - Liddle Farm, St Margarets Hope, Orkney, Orkney KW17 2RW Tel: 01856 831339
Orkney Fossil & Vintage Centre - Viewforth, Burray, Orkney, Orkney KW17 2SY Tel: 01856 731255
Orkney Ferries - Operate to thirteen of the inner islands - Shore Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LG | tel:01856 872044
Tourist Information Centre - 6 Broad Street - Kirkwall - Orkney KW15 1NX Telephone: 01856 872 856 Fax: 01856 875 056
Map of the Orkney Islands and Scottish coast
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