Orkney Islands

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The Orkney Islands include 70 island with very scenic coastlines, huge concentrations of marine birds and Europe's largest collection of prehistoric sites. Only 20 of the islands are inhabited and despite their northern latitude they have a very mild climate. Although no trees grow on the Orkneys, the islands are still very green, as numerous other sorts of vegetation thrive. Between the 9th and the 13th centuries the Orkney islands were under Norse rule.

The major town in the Orkney archipelago is Kirkwall on the island of Mainland, the largest island of the group. Kirkwall is home to one of Scotland's nicest cathedrals, St. Magnus', and there are tours available along the town's several distilleries. Stromness, the main port in the Orkney Islands, is also on Mainland. It is much smaller than Kirkwall, but its fishing and ferry ports are fairly busy. 13 km (8 miles) north of Stromness is Skara Brae, where northern Europe's best preserved prehistoric village can be seen. It was covered by sand for some 5000 years, until it was uncovered by excavations in 1850. Stone furniture was unearthed almost intact. Nearby is the Ring of Brodgar, a large ring of standing stones up to 4.8 m (16 feet) tall.

Hoy is on the other side of the Scapa Flow from Mainland. It possesses the archipelago's highest mountains, as well as cliffs and countless bird species. Also found on Hoy is the Old Man of Hoy, a 135 m (450 feet) high rock stack.

On Rousay are numerous archaeological sites, while the waters around Shapinsay and Stronsay are filled with thousands of seals. The interesting Stone of Setter can be found on Eday, which also boasts many chambered cairns. Chambered tombs, as well as beautiful white sand beaches are situated on Sanday, while Westray is the largest of the northern islands. It is very scenic and you can find prehistoric sites, nice beaches, ruins of old castles and a varied bird life there. Papa Westray is a vary small island, but Europe's oldest domestic building, the 8th-century St. Bonieface's Church can be found there, as well as the continent's largest colony of arctic terns.


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