The largest island in Orkney is called The Mainland, and the largest towns are Kirkwall and Stromness. There is much to see in Orkney.
Kirkwall, the most populated place on the Mainland, is an attractive town with plenty to see. A visit to St. Magnus Cathedral is a must. The cathedral was founded in 1137 by Earl Rognvald Kolson in memory of his uncle Saint Magnus. The nearby St. Magnus Centre offers a warm welcome, a video presentation about the history of St. Magnus and Earl Rognvald Kolson, and a refreshing cup of coffee.
Orkney is a fascinating place if you're interested in history. You can visit Skara Brae - see photo on the right - a village that was hidden for 5,000 years and only discovered after a sand storm. Some excavation work was done in the 1800's but this was only fully completed around 1930 revealing the village as we can see it today - eight dwellings linked by low alleyways.
Skara Brae Prehistoric Village is the best preserved group of stone age houses in Western Europe. The houses give a remarkable picture of life in neolithic times and contain stone furniture (even a dresser with things on display), stone beds, hearths and drains. There is an excellent visitor centre and a restaurant.
Other Interesting Places
Other places of interest include the Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle, and Maeshowe - a large burial chamber that was raided by the Vikings who left their graffiti on the stone walls. The chamber was cleverly built so that on winter solstice day the sun shines through the long entry passage and illuminates the back of the cairn. If you visit the Maeshowe web site you can view the web cam set up for this event.
The famous Orkney cheese is produced on the outskirts of Kirkwall in a new factory, opened by Princess Anne in April 2002. Visitors are made very welcome, and you can watch the whole cheese-making process from start to finish. When we visited, some of the employees came to explain what was happening and are clearly proud of their cheese. Afterwards we had the chance to try samples and were given an Orkney cheese knife as a souvenir of our visit.
This amazing building was created by Italian prisoners of war during World War Two while they were building the Churchill Barriers. When you look at the front facade, you would never guess the church is actually built in an old nissen hut. The inside of the church is decorated with beautiful artwork. Well worth a visit.
To find out more about this fascinating, magical group of Islands, visit some of the following links.