Orkney Fun Facts

The Orkneys are made up of over 70 islands of which 16, 17 or 18 are inhabited, depending upon what guidebook one references. We imagine a hermit moving surreptitiously from island to island, confusing the count.

We’re at 59 degrees north latitude, which is the same latitude as southern Alaska. As further reference, the southern border of the Northwest Territories is just north of the 59th parallel.

voleOrkney has a subspecies of the common vole that is unique to the islands. It’s thought that this subspecies has been isolated from other voles for 5000 years. It’s larger than the common vole, and its fur is shorter and paler than the field vole. (As if we all have vivid mental pictures of the common vole and the field vole. Hm.)

Britain’s oldest natural woodland is located on the island of Hoy in the Orkneys. It is believed to be 10,000 years old, a relict remaining after the last ice age. Hazel, rowan and birch grow in the wood. It’s believed that prior to man’s arrival, with his attendant animals, the Orkneys were largely wooded.

Scotland’s first free lending library opened in 1683 on Orkney Island.

pytheasGreek explorer Pytheas wrote about the Orkneys in 325BC, claiming he’d seen the end of the world. I assume he meant the edge of the world, but maybe not.

People have farmed these islands for 5000 years.

Orkney has the lowest unemployment in Scotland.

The Hudson’s Bay Company drew a vast majority of its workforce from the Orkneys. Which makes sense looking at the 59th parallel, eh.

puffinThe Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is the biggest landowner on Orkney Island.

Cliffs on the isle of Hoy are 1140 ft high. They are the tallest cliffs in the UK.

The shortest official air service is the flight between Papay and Westray. Flight time: 2 minutes. Let’s hope their security check doesn’t take as long as it does in other places.

Orkney has so many Neolithic sites, its been suggested by some that the whole island could be designated a World Heritage UNESCO site.

skara brae 2


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