Orkney Islands (Scotland) 90 x 150 cm
Orkney (Scottish Gaelic: Arcaibh) also known as the Orkney Islands (and sometimes incorrectly as "The Orkneys"), is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the coast of Caithness. Orkney comprises approximately 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited. The largest island, known as the "Mainland" has an area of 523.25 square kilometres (202.03 sq mi) making it the sixth largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles. The largest settlement and administrative centre is Kirkwall.
The name "Orkney" dates back to the 1st century BC or earlier, and the islands have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. Originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts, Orkney was invaded and then forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. It was subsequently annexed to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III's bride, Margaret of Denmark. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Orkney is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, a constituency of the Scottish Parliament, a lieutenancy area, and a former county. The local council is Orkney Islands Council, one of only three Councils in Scotland with a majority of elected members who are independents.
In addition to the Mainland, most of the islands are in two groups, the North and South Isles, all of which have an underlying geological base of Old Red Sandstone. The climate is mild and the soils are extremely fertile, most of the land being farmed. Agriculture is most important sector of the economy and the significant wind and marine energy resources are of growing importance. The local people are known as Orcadians and have a distinctive dialect and a rich inheritance of folklore. There is an abundance of marine and avian wildlife.