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Orkney Islands

archipelago in northern Scotland

The Orkney Islands (often also called only Orkney) is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, United Kingdom. It is about 16 kilometres north of Caithness. 20 of the about 70 islands have people living on them.[1][2] The administrative centre is Kirkwall (with about 8000 people living there). The next largest settlements are Stromness (2000 people) and St. Margaret's Hope (with about 550 people).

Gaelic name Arcaibh
Orkney Islands UK relief location map.jpg
Orkney is located in Scotland
Orkney shown within Scotland
Coordinates 59°N 3°W / 59°N 3°W / 59; -3Coordinates: 59°N 3°W / 59°N 3°W / 59; -3
Physical geography
Island group Northern Isles
Area 990 km2 (380 sq mi)
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area Orkney Islands Council
Population 21,349 (2011 census)
Population density 52 per square mile (20/km2)
Largest settlement Kirkwall

In addition to the mainland, most of the islands are in two groups, the North and South Isles. All of them are made of sandstone. The climate is mild and the soil is fertile. Most of the land is farmed and agriculture is the main source of income for the economy. There are many birds and fish.


Ferry services go much of the time to Lerwick (on the Shetlands). Most islands have air strips (for airplanes). This includes the shortest known flight service in the world, between Westray and Papa Westray. Official flight time is 2 minutes. If the wind goes in the right direction, the flight can take just over a minute.


  1. Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 336-403.
  2. Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 1 states there are 67 islands.
Where the Orkney islands are (dark blue), with the rest of Scotland

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