Located 10km off Scotland's north coast are the Orkney Islands known for the most dramatic coastal scenery in Scotland. There are 300m-tall cliffs, sandy beaches, an abundance of marine-bird life, and prehistoric sites, including an entire 4500 year old village at Skara Brae. Visitors come annually in June for the St. Magnus Arts Festival. 16 of the 70 islands are inhabited. The major towns of Kirkwall and Stromness.
The Orkneys, ancient Orcades, were subdued in 875 by Harold Haarfager, first king of Norway, and were ruled by Scandinavian earls until 1231. In 1468, they were pledged to the Scottish crown as security for the dowry of Margaret, wife of James III, and since the pledge was unredeemed, remained under Scotland. Most of the place names are Norse, and the population is of Scandinavian and Scottish descent.