Orkney Islands

Six miles (10 km) north of the mainland of Scotland, beyond the Pentland Firth, lie the 70 islands of the Orkney archipelago. Twenty of these islands are inhabited and most are formed by rock of the Middle Old Red Sandstone period, except for the hills of Hoy which consist of rocks from Upper Old Red Sandstone. The geology gives rise to sandstones and flagstones which split easily along bedding planes and are therefore ideal for building. A fertile land of well-cultivated, gently rolling hills rising to spectacular sheer cliffs along the west and north coasts, the Orkney Islands lie at the meeting point of the Atlantic and North Sea where fresh coastal waters are rich in plankton and fish. Sea cliffs, moors and marshland are home to over a million seabirds during the summer, making the islands a mecca for ornithologists. There are ferries to most of the inhabited islands and airfields servicing local flights on Flotta, Westray, Papa Westray, Eday, North Ronaldsay, Sanday and Stronsay.

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