With no tradition of clans or tartans, Orkney is not "Highlander" or "Scottish". It is uniquely Orcadian. Though Orkney was inhabited by Picts from the 6th century BC, during most of its formative history – from 875 until 1468 – it was a trading hub of the Norwegian realm and it still feels more Scandinavian than Celtic. In Orkney you'll find the remains of Neolithic communities where subterranean homes were connected by tunnels and lit only by whale-oil lamps.
Orkney (70 islands / 20 inhabited) can be alluring for travelers seeking a contrast to the rest of Scotland. The islands' claims to fame – astonishing prehistoric sites, Old Norse heritage, and recent history as a WWI and WWII naval base – combine to spur travelers' imaginations.
Although the featured attractions, sites and landmarks are always chosen by me, I have made a serious effort to differentiate 4 levels:
- (***) This is, for whatever reason, a very personal favourite! Will definitely be on my itinerary! Could possibly be disappointing for someone else though.
- (**) A major must-see tourist attraction that you can find in many a brochure.
- (*) Worth seeing and possibly interesting if you happen to be in the vicinity.
- (-) A hefty dollop of imagination is a must, but it might be interesting if you know the background.