North Ronaldshay


"Ronaldshay, North, an island and a quoad sacra parish in Cross and Burness parish, Orkney. The island is the most northerly of the North Isles of Orkney, lying 2½ miles N of Tafts Ness in Sanday, and 15 E of Papa Westray. Divided from Sanday by North Ronaldshay Firth, very dangerous to navigation, it measures 3 miles in extreme length from N by E to S by W, and 2 miles in extreme breadth. Its outline is diversified by five headlands: Dennis Head in the NE, Brides Ness in the SE, Strom Ness in the S, Twinyas Ness in the SW, and Tor Ness in the NW. ...

The seaweed-covered shores are flat and rocky; and the interior is much of it low and flat, but rises gently towards the middle of the island, which contains three small lakes, and consists partly of coarse slate rock. The soil is sandy but fertile, mixed in some places with clay, and mostly in a state of cultivation. Antiquities are several tumuli and vestiges of Burrian Castle, near which, on the southern headland, is a lighthouse built in 1854 at a cost of £12,927, whose flashing light attains its brightest state every ten seconds, and is visible at a distance of 17 nautical miles. Dr Traill of Woodwick is sole proprietor. The quoad sacra parish is identical with the island, and was constituted by the General Assembly in 1831, reconstituted by the Court of Teinds subsequent to 1843. It is in the presbytery of North Isles and the synod of Orkney; the minister's stipend is £120. The parish church is a parliamentary one, and there is also a Free church. Pop. (1811) 384, (1831), 522, (1861) 532, (1871) 539, (1881) 547."

From Francis Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1882-4



  • A Window on North Ronaldsay: by Peter A. Tulloch. Published by The Orcadian 1974, reprinted 1995. 230pp. In print. ISBN 0952617404
    Comprehensive history, includes names of officials and frequency of surnames in 1733, 1801, 1901, 1973.
  • Island Saga. The Story of North Ronaldsay: by M. A. Scott. Published by Alex. P. Reid, Edinburgh. 1968.
  • The Placenames of North Ronaldsay: by Hugh Marwick. Published 1923 Proceedings of the Orkney Antiquarian Society i,53-64.


Presbyterian / Unitarian
North Ronaldshay, Church of Scotland

Church Records

Old Parish Registers

Other church records (held at Orkney Archives in Kirkwall).

  • Ref: OCR/FC/17: North Ronaldsay Free Kirk: Baptisms 1844-1914, Marriages 1848-1911, Communion Roll 1847-1882 and 1915-1931.
  • Ref: OCR/KC/18: Ringansay Kirk, N.R. Baptisms 1855-1930 and 1934-1948, Marriages 1855-1931, Communion Roll 1865-1931.

Civil Registration

The Registrar of births, deaths, and marriages for the island of North Ronaldsay.
The Registrar's records extend back only as far as 1st January 1855 when registration became compulsory in Scotland.


Description & Travel

You can see pictures of North Ronaldshay which are provided by:





You can see maps centred on OS grid reference HY729470 (Lat/Lon: 59.308115, -2.477246), North Ronaldshay which are provided by:


Names, Geographical

The Place-names of North Ronaldsay
by Hugh Marwick
Published: 1923 in theProceedings of the Orkney Antiquarian Society i, 53-64.
Accessible in Orkney Archives.