In addition to the Mainland, most of the remaining islands are divided into two groups: The North Isles and the South Isles. The climate is relatively mild and the soils are extremely fertile: Most of the land is farmed, and agriculture is the most important sector of the economy. The significant wind- and marine-energy resources are of growing importance; the amount of electricity that Orkney generates annually from renewable energy sources exceeds its demand. (Full article...)
The northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird, the largest species of the gannet family, Sulidae. It is native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, breeding in Western Europe and Northeastern North America. The sexes are similar in appearance. The adult northern gannet has a mainly white streamlined body with a long neck, long and slender wings. It is 87–100 cm (34–39 in) long with a 170–180 cm (67–71 in) wingspan. The head and nape have a buff tinge that is more prominent in breeding season, and the wings are edged with dark brown-black feathers. The long pointed bill is blue-grey, contrasting with black bare skin around the mouth and eyes. Juveniles are mostly grey-brown, becoming increasingly white in the five years it takes them to reach maturity.
Nesting takes place in colonies on both sides of the North Atlantic, the largest of which are at Bass Rock (75,000 pairs as of 2014), St. Kilda (60,000 pairs as of 2013) and Ailsa Craig (33,000 pairs as of 2014) in Scotland, Grassholm in Wales, and Bonaventure Island (60,000 pairs in 2009) off the coast of Quebec. Its breeding range has extended northward and eastward, colonies being established on Russia's Kola Peninsula in 1995 and Bear Island, southernmost island of Svalbard, in 2011. Colonies are mostly located on offshore islands with cliffs, from which the birds can more easily launch into the air. The northern gannet undertakes seasonal migrations and hunts for the fish that form the bulk of its diet by high-speed dives into the sea.
There are numerous important prehistoric remains in Orkney, especially from the Neolithic period. Four of these remains today constitute a World Heritage Site. There are diverse reasons for the abundance of the archaeological record. The sandstone bedrock provides easily workable stone materials and the wind-blown sands have helped preserve several sites. The relative lack of industrialisation and the low incidence of ploughing have also helped to preserve these ancient monuments. In addition, local tradition hints at both fear and veneration of these ancient structures (perhaps inherited from the Norse period of occupation), and these attitudes may have helped prevent human interference with their structural integrity.
Prehistory is conventionally divided into a number of shorter periods, but differentiating these various eras of human history is a complex task – their boundaries are uncertain, and the changes between them are gradual. A number of the sites span long periods of time, and, in particular, the distinctions between the Neolithic and the later periods are not clear cut. However, in general, the Paleolithic lasted until the retreat of the ice, the Mesolithic until the adoption of farming and the Neolithic until metalworking commenced The Neolithic period’s extraordinary wealth of structures is not matched by the remains from earlier periods, in which the evidence of human occupation is sparse or non-existent - nor is it matched by remains from the later Bronze Age, which provides a relative dearth of evidence. However, the subsequent Iron Age supported a return to monumental building projects, especially brochs.
Formal excavations were first recorded in the late 18th century. Over time, investigators’ understanding of the structures they uncovered progressed — from little more than folklore in the beginning, to modern archaeological science today. (Full article...)
Skerryvore (from the GaelicAn Sgeir Mhòr meaning "The Great Skerry") is a remote island that lies off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles (19 kilometres) south-west of the island of Tiree. Skerryvore Lighthouse is located on these rocks, built with some difficulty between 1838 and 1844 by Alan Stevenson.
At a height of 156 feet (48 metres) it is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland. The shore station was at Hynish on Tiree (which now houses the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum); operations were later transferred to Erraid, west of Mull. The remoteness of the location led to the keepers receiving additional payments in kind. The light shone without a break from 1844 until a fire in 1954 shut down operations for five years. The lighthouse was automated in 1994. (Full article...)
The Beach, Largo, at Low Tide, date unknown, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums
George Leslie Hunter (7 August 1877 – 7 December 1931) was a Scottish painter, regarded as one of the four artists of the Scottish Colourists group of painters. Christened simply George Hunter, he adopted the name Leslie in San Francisco, and Leslie Hunter became his professional name. Showing an aptitude for drawing at an early age, he was largely self-taught, receiving only elementary painting lessons from a family acquaintance. He spent fifteen formative years from the age of fifteen in the US, mainly in California. He then returned to Scotland, painting and drawing there and in Paris. Subsequently, he travelled widely in Europe, especially in the South of France, but also in the Netherlands, the Pas de Calais and Italy.
Hunter painted a variety of still-lifes, landscapes and portraits, and his paintings are critically acclaimed for their treatment of light and the effects of light. They became popular with more progressive critics and collectors during his lifetime and have grown to command high prices since his death, becoming among the most popular in Scotland. (Full article...)