Orkney is a group of 67 islands lying off the north coast of Caithness. Only about a third of the islands are inhabited. As an aside, it is correct to talk about these islands as "Orkney" or "the Orkney Islands": but wrong to describe them as "the Orkneys".
After centuries of Norwegian rule, Orkney was annexed as part of Scotland by James III in 1468 after its rents had been pledged as security against a dowry that was not paid. The Norwegians have never formally recognised Orkney as part of Scotland.
But while signs of a Norse background can be seen everywhere, Orkney's history goes back much further. It has been said that if you scratch Orkney, it bleeds archaeology. As a result, parts of West Mainland have been declared a World Heritage Site. This includes the superbly preserved prehistoric village at Skara Brae, the standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tomb at Maes Howe.
In terms of local authority coverage, the Orkney Islands formed the traditional county of Orkney. In 1975 a major reorganisation of local government in Scotland swept away the 33 traditional counties and replaced them with 12 regions. In most parts of the country, the regions were the upper tier of a two tier structure and were divided into districts. Things were different in the major island groups, and the Orkney Islands became an undivided region: in effect a unitary council area managed by Orkney Islands Council.
In 1996 another reorganisation of Scottish local government replaced the 12 regions with 32 unitary councils. Orkney Islands Council, which was already a unitary council, was not affected by the change.
InformationOrkney Islands Council:
Tel: 01856 873535
Fax: 01856 874615
School Place, Kirkwall,
Orkney, KW15 1NY.