ORKNEY, Scotland - History and Description, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"MAINLAND OF ORKNEY, (or Pomona), the chief and much the largest of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It contains the parishes of Birsay, St. Andrew's, Deerness, Evie, Firth, Harray, Holm and Pophay, Kirkwall and St. Ola, Orphir, Randall, Sandwick, Shenness and Stromness. The size of the island is 20 miles by 3 to 15, with an area of about 150 square miles. The surface consists of bare moor and moss, with pasture for small sheep and cattle; there are a few fertile valleys, and no part of the island is more than 4 or 5 miles from the sea. There are several fresh-water lakes, among which are Orphir, Stennis, Skaill, Birsay, and Aikerness. These send off streams which abound with fish, and turn several mills. Besides other game, grouse and plover are shot here. Half the inhabitants live by agriculture, and the other half are, fishermen. The coast is much broken up, and on the W. is bold and precipitous. Around the whole coast safe anchorage and harbours occur, more particularly at Stromness, Kirkwall Dew, and Holm Sound."

""HOLM, (and Holms) a name given to numbers of the small islands of the Orkney group, Scotland, as the Holm of Fara, of Grimbister, of Houton, of Anskerry, of Balfron, but they will be described with their larger neighbours or the parishes to which they belong. "

"NORTH ISLES, a district of the Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland, comprising the islands and parishes of Burness, Cross, Eday, Lady, North Ronaldshay, Rousay, Sanda, Shapinshay, Stronsay, and Westray. It gives name to a presbytery in the synod of Orkney."

"PENTLAND FIRTH, the strait which separates the Orkney Isles from the mainland of Scotland. It is 24 miles in length, and from four to five leagues in breadth, extending from Duncansby Head to Dunnet Head light on the S., and from South Ronaldsay to Hog Islands on the N. It has 10 to 40 fathoms water, and forms a communication between the North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. In the mouth of the Frith, towards the E. are situated the Pentland Skerries, two small uninhabited islands, upon one of which a lighthouse is erected, and in the middle, opposite Scalpa Flow, are Stroma and Swoma islands. The tides run E. from 5 to 10 miles an hour, causing whirlpools and eddies about the islands, the two currents, stretching from Duncan's Bay Head and St. John's Head, called respectively "The Boars of Duncan's Bay" and "The Men of Moy" being considered the most dangerous to navigation, the billows often rolling mountains high in the finest summer day. There is an anchorage in Gills Bay."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]