People have called Orkney home for over 5,000 years.
The name "Orkney" is thought to date back to at least the 1st Century BC. First occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts, Orkney was settled by Vikings during the eighth century, becoming a Norse Earldom in the ninth. Orkney was an important seat of power in the Viking Empire, a heritage best reflected by the magnificent 12th century catherdral of St Magnus in Kirkwall and through the islands' distinctly Scandinavian place names.
The islands remained under Norse rule until 1472, when they were annexed by the Scottish Crown following the failed payment of a dowry for James III's bride, Margaret of Denmark. Strong cultural links with Norway remain to this day.
And Orkney played a strategically vital role during two world wars, with the vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow acting as naval anchorage. You can see evidence of this all around Scapa Flow, from defences and lookouts to sunken block ships, the Churchill Barriers, the Italian Chapel (built by Italian prisoners of war) and the buoy which marks the tragic loss of the HMS Royal Oak.
In our more recent history, the islands have played a key part in the development of North Sea and Atlantic Ocean oil and gas fields and are now a global centre for marine energy developers.
Find out more about five thousand years of history in Orkney with our short film...
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Ness of Brodgar
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