Orkney Mainland

(Pomona, Hrossey, Mainland)

The largest island of the Orkney Island group, Orkney Mainland (also known as Pomona or Hrossey) has a length of 26 miles (42 km) from Brough Head in the northwest to Rose Ness in the southeast and an area of 225 sq. miles (583 sq. km). Irregular in shape, it lies 16 miles (26 km) north of Duncansby Head on the Scottish Mainland and is surrounded by the islands of the Orkney Islands group. Kirkwall is the principal town of Mainland and lies on the southern shore of the Bay of Kirkwall, an inlet of the Wide Firth on the island's eastern coast. To the south lie the islands of Hoy and South Ronaldsay, separated from Mainland by Scapa Flow, and further south lies the Pentland Firth. Major lochs of the island include the lochs of Stenness and Harray to the west and Broadhound, Hundland and Swannay to the north. Principally composed of Devonian sedimentary rocks, the island has some of the highest levels of dangerous radon gas recorded in Scotland, deriving from the decay of natural uranium concentrated in the Middle Old Red Sandstone. The island is covered in prehistoric sites. The population has shown a rising trend, from 13495 (1961), 12747 (1971), 14000 (1981), 15123 (1991), 15314 (2001) to 17162 (2011).

The name Pomona - the Roman goddess of fruit - derives from a mistranslation of a text written by the Roman author Gaius Julius Solinus by Latin scholar George Buchanan (1506-82). Hrossey is the Old Norse name for the Orkney Mainland, meaning 'horse island'.

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