Travel: Exploring the Cultural Diversity of The Orkneys, Scotland

With a population varied by a history based in both Scotland and Scandinavia, the beautiful islands of the Orkneys offer a unique blend of natural beauty and distinct culture.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

When the average traveler hears about the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, he or she might imagine rugged, wind-swept crags popping out of the sea — populated by burly, red-bearded men tossing cabers in every direction as ivory-skinned lasses applauded in their simple farmer’s attire. Of course, in the 21st century, such simple-minded preconceived notions always come up short.

Those travelers would be especially misplaced in throughout The Orkneys. The island chain combines stirring scenery with progressive technology, cultural diversity with endless history.

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Identifying with a heritage mixed between Viking and Scottish lore, the people of The Orkneys maintain an independent spirit and a genuine love for their resident archipelago. The rest of the world recognized the island chain as perhaps the globe’s most prominent center for the study of Neolithic humans.

Multiple archeological sites across The Orkneys open a window on how men and women lived as long as 5,000 years ago. The star attraction remains Skara Brae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a complete Neolithic village preserved as it was abandoned thousands of years ago. Archeologists and historians are relearning what they thought they knew about “cavemen” while scouring The Orkneys for clues.

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The islands’ prominent and ancient history lends the region an aura of mystery. However, even if that was not the case — even if The Orkneys were somehow uninhabited, they would still be a prime attraction for travelers with their spectacular natural beauty. The blend of rolling hills, distant mountains and sprawling seasides nestle below ever-changing North Atlantic skies will fill a camera’s memory in a matter of hours without allowing a bad photo,

The gallery below offers a few captured images from a short tour through the islands. Along the way, a few interesting facts of life in The Orkneys highlight some of the area’s more surprising historical and cultural qualities.