Where are the Orkney Islands?
The Orkney Islands are located off the northern tip of Scotland where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. Orkney is an archipelago of 70 or so islands and currently 21 of them are inhabited.
The population of the islands is around 20,000 people, with approx 7,600 in capital of Kirkwall and 2,100 in the second largest town of Stromness.
Orkney covers an area of 974 square kilometres, with more than half being taken up by the Mainland of Orkney. The islands are about 85km (53 miles) from north to south and 37km (23 miles) from east to west.
The main island is known as the “Mainland”, with the south islands of Lamb Holm, Burray, Glimps Holm and South Ronaldsay being joined by the Churchill Barriers which were constructed during WW2.
The outer islands are definitely worth a visit as each has its own unique character. To the North there is Shapinsay, Rousay, Egilsay, Wyre, Westray, Eday, Sanday, Stronsay, Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay and to the South of the “Mainland” you’ll find Hoy, Graemsay and Flotta.
The islands are low-lying, gently sloping and richly fertile with the exception of the island of Hoy, which is high and rugged. The climate is temperate, warmed by the Gulf Stream. The best time to visit the islands is April to October to make the most of the long hours of daylight and the best of the weather. However visiting the islands during the winter can also make a great break, with miles of coastline to watch the waves rolling in and if you’re lucky you may see the Northern Lights or ‘Aurora Borealis’ as they are known locally.
Things to See & Do
The quiet sandy beaches, stunning scenery, abundance of wildlife, fresh quality cuisine and warm welcoming hospitality make these islands an ideal place for relaxing or an action-packed holiday.
Not forgetting Orkney’s fascinating history, with 5,000 years of culture, there is history around every corner. Wherever you are, you can literally touch the past as you run your hand across rock hewn thousands of years ago.
Events & Festivals
Orkney also has a vibrant contemporary culture. Throughout the year there are festivals and events ranging from the magical midsummer St Magnus Festival to the annual agricultural shows and sporting events, including Orkney’s very own Ba’ and, of course, the islands’ varied craft industry continues through all seasons.