Northern Isles

The Northern Isles (Scots: Northren Isles; Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan a Tuath; Old Norse: Norðreyjar; Norn: Nordøjar) are a pair of archipelagos off the north coast of mainland Scotland, comprising Orkney and Shetland. They are part of Scotland, as are the Hebrides. The climate is cool and temperate and much influenced by the surrounding seas. There are a total of 36 inhabited islands. The landscapes of the fertile agricultural islands of Orkney contrast with the more rugged Shetland islands to the north, where the economy is more dependent on fishing and on the oil wealth of the surrounding seas. Both island groups have a developing renewable energy industry. Both have a Pictish and Norse history. Both were part of the Kingdom of Norway until they were absorbed into the Kingdom of Scotland in the 15th century. They remained part of it until the 1707 formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 1801 formation of the United Kingdom. They both played a significant naval role during the world wars of the 20th century.

Northern Isles
Northern Isles
Northern Isles shown within Scotland
OS grid referenceHY99
Coordinates59°50′N 2°00′W
Physical geography
Island groupBritish Isles
Area2,464 km2[1]
Highest elevationWard Hill
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Population density18/km2
Largest settlementKirkwall

Tourism is important to both archipelagos, and there are regular ferry and air connections between them and with mainland Scotland. Their distinctive prehistoric ruins play a key role in their attraction for tourists. The Scandinavian influence remains strong, especially in local folklore, and the place-names of the islands are dominated by their Norse heritage, although some may retain pre-Celtic elements. Both island groups have strong, although distinct, local cultures.

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