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Orkney Isles Guide

The quiet sandy beaches, stunning scenery, abundance of wildlife, fresh quality cuisine and warm welcoming hospitality make these islands an ideal place for relaxing or an action-packed holiday.

When in Orkney you’ll feel touched by the power of the sea and by the power of the past. With 5,000 years of culture, there is history around every corner. Wherever you are, you can literally touch the past as you run your hand across rock hewn thousands of years ago.

Orkney also has a vibrant contemporary culture. Throughout the year there are festivals and events ranging from the magical midsummer St Magnus Festival to the annual agricultural shows and sporting events, including Orkney’s very own Ba’ and, of course, the islands’ varied craft industry continues through all seasons.

Here are some facts about the Orkney Islands:

• The Orkney Isles are loved be divers, with Scapa Flow regarded as one of the best wreck-diving sites in Europe. Among the boats for divers to check out around the Orkney Isles are 3 battleships of the German High Seas Fleet that were scuttled in 1919, a World War 2 German escort vessel and the barge sent to salvage it.

• Skara Brae is one of the Orkney Isles' most impressive Neolithic sites. The well preserved stone village has beds and cupboards still intact, and dates back 5,000 years. It was not uncovered until 1850, when fierce winds and high tides stripped the earth from Skerrabra mound.

• Bessie Millie is the Orkney Isles' legendary witch. She sold 'favourable winds' to sailors for a sixpence and she was described as having a nose and chin that almost met. She told author Sir Walter Scott the tale of John Gow, the famous Orkney Isles buccaneer, which influenced Scott's novel 'The Pirate'.

• The Orkney Isles are home to many lighthouses built by the Stevenson family, well respected engineers whose number included Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of 'Treasure Island'.

• The tradition of ba' is upheld in the Orkney Isles at Christmas and Hogmanay. In this mass street football game in Kirkwall, the 'Uppies' goal is the wall of a house in the south of the town, while the 'Doonies' have to get the ba' into the sea. Games last for hours and there are no rules, attempts to smuggle the ba' out of the scrum have seen players take to the Orkney Isles' rooftops.

• One of the Orkney Isles' most famous sons is James Petrie Chalmers. Born in 1866, he became an apprentice printer for The Orkney Herald and later moved to New York where he edited the first film magazine, the highly influential 'The Moving Picture World'.

• The Orkney Isles offer the shortest flight in the world. The flight lasts just two minutes and takes you from Westray to Papa Westray. It can take even less time if the wind is low.

Here are just some places to visit in and around The Orkney Isles:

SKAILL HOUSE BURGAR HILL
MARWICK HEAD CLICK MILL
YESNABY CLIFFS KIRBISTER FARM MUSEUM
COVENANTERS' MEMORIAL CHURCHILL BARRIERS

Scotland is packed with stunning countryside views, steaped in history and proud of its many traditions.
There really is something for everyone in Scotland and the BEST way to get the full experience is by camping.
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