|Meaning of name||Old Norse, possibly "Ringa's Isle"|
A view of the house and loch at Garso on North Ronaldsay, with the lighthouse in the distance
North Ronaldsay shown within Orkney
|OS grid reference|
|Area||690 hectares (2.7 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||20 metres (66 ft)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Council area||Orkney Islands|
|Population density||10.4 people/km2|
North Ronaldsay is the northernmost island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. With an area of 690 hectares (2.7 sq mi), it is the fourteenth-largest. It is mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga ; in modern times it is known for its historic lighthouse, migratory bird life and unusual breed of sheep.
Orkney, also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of the island of Great Britain. Orkney is 10 miles (16 km) north of the coast of Caithness and has about 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited. The largest island, Mainland, is often referred to as "the Mainland", and has an area of 523 square kilometres (202 sq mi), making it the sixth-largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles. The largest settlement and administrative centre is Kirkwall.
The Orkneyinga saga is a historical narrative of the history of the Orkney and Shetland islands and their relationship with other local polities, particularly Norway and Scotland. The saga has "no parallel in the social and literary record of Scotland" and is "the only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action". The main focus of the work is the line of jarls who ruled the Earldom of Orkney, which constituted the Norðreyjar or Northern Isles of both Orkney and Shetland and there are frequent references to both archipelagoes throughout.
The North Ronaldsay or Orkney is a breed of sheep from North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island of Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland. It belongs to the Northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds, and has evolved without much cross-breeding with modern breeds. It is a smaller sheep than most, with the rams (males) horned and ewes (females) mostly hornless. It was formerly kept primarily for wool, but now the two largest flocks are feral, one on North Ronaldsay and another on the Orkney island of Linga Holm. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists the breed as "vulnerable", with fewer than 600 registered breeding females in the United Kingdom.
North Ronaldsay lies around 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of its nearest neighbour, Sanday, at grid reference . It is around 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) long and is defined by two large sandy bays; Linklet Bay on the eastern shoreline and South Bay at the south. The west of the island is very rocky, with many skerries. North Ronaldsay is low-lying and exposed; its climate is extremely changeable and frequently inclement. The surrounding waters are stormy and treacherous, and have been a notorious "graveyard" for ships (hence the unusually early provision of a lighthouse on the island).
Sanday is one of the inhabited islands of Orkney that lies off the north coast of mainland Scotland. With an area of 50.43 square kilometres (19.5 sq mi), it is the third largest of the Orkney Islands. The main centres of population are Lady Village and Kettletoft. Sanday can be reached by Orkney Ferries or by plane from Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland.
The Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system is a system of geographic grid references used in Great Britain, distinct from latitude and longitude. It is often called British National Grid (BNG).
A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean, a lake, or another bay. A large bay is usually called a gulf, sea, sound, or bight. A cove is a type of smaller bay with a circular inlet and narrow entrance. A fjord is a particularly steep bay shaped by glacial activity.
Hollandstoun at the south of the island is the most sizable settlement; it lies roughly equidistant from the airfield and the pier. North Ronaldsay is also home to a bird observatory.
A bird observatory is a centre for the study of bird migration and bird populations. They are usually focused on local birds, but may also include interest in far-flung areas. Most bird observatories are small operations with a limited staff, many volunteers and a not-for-profit educational status. Many bird observatories conduct bird ringing or bird banding.
A dry stone dyke has been built to surround the island, the purpose of which is to keep the seaweed-eating local sheep off the arable land.
A well-preserved Iron Age broch, known as the Broch of Burrian, is located on the southern tip of the island.Excavations in 1870–1 uncovered a large number of Iron Age and Pictish artefacts, with occupation continuing up to the Norse occupation of the Orkney islands in the 9th century.
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, which had an independent Iron Age culture of its own. The parallel phase of Irish archaeology is termed the Irish Iron Age. The Iron Age is not an archaeological horizon of common artefacts, but is rather a locally diverse cultural phase.
A broch is an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure found in Scotland. Brochs belong to the classification "complex atlantic roundhouse" devised by Scottish archaeologists in the 1980s. Their origin is a matter of some controversy.
The Broch of Burrian is an Iron Age broch located on North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands, in Scotland.
According to the Orkneyinga saga , Torf-Einarr, the 10th-century Norse Earl of Orkney, killed Hálfdan Longlegs on North Ronaldsay in revenge for Hálfdan and his brother Gudrød Ljome's slaying of Rögnvald Eysteinsson, Torf-Einarr's father. Hálfdan and Gudrød, who were the sons of King Harald Finehair of Norway, had trapped Rögnvald in his house and set it alight. Harald, apparently appalled by his sons' actions, overthrew Gudrød and restored Rögnvald's lands to his son, Thorir Rögnvaldarson, while Hálfdan fled westwards to Orkney and displaced Torf-Einarr. From a base in Caithness, Torf-Einarr resisted Hálfdan's occupation of the islands. After a battle at sea, and a ruthless campaign on land, Torf-Einarr spied Hálfdan hiding on North Ronaldsay. The sagas claim that Hálfdan was captured, and sacrificed to Odin as a blood-eagle.
Einarr Rognvaldarson often referred to by his byname Torf-Einarr, was one of the Norse earls of Orkney. The son of the Norse jarl, Rognvald Eysteinsson and a concubine, his rise to power is related in sagas which apparently draw on verses of Einarr's own composition for inspiration. After battling for control of the Northern Isles of Scotland and a struggle with Norwegian royalty, Einarr founded a dynasty which retained control of the islands for centuries after his death.
The Earl of Orkney was originally a Norse jarl ruling the archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland (Norðreyjar). Originally founded by Norse invaders, the status of the rulers of the Norðreyjar as Norwegian vassals was formalised in 1195. Although the Old Norse term jarl looks similar to "earl", and the jarls were succeeded by earls in the late 15th century, a Norwegian jarl is not the same thing. In the Norse context the distinction between jarls and kings did not become significant until the late 11th century and the early jarls would therefore have had considerable independence of action until that time. The position of Jarl of Orkney was eventually the most senior rank in mediaeval Norway except for the king himself.
Caithness is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area of Scotland.
The Joseph of King's Lynn was wrecked on Bride's Ness beach in April 1586. The crew salvaged the brass guns but they were confiscated by the Earl of Orkney.
Holland House was built in 1727; the Old Beacon, dating from 1789, was the third lighthouse to be built by Thomas Smith for the Commissioners of the Northern Lights.
Overview of population trends:
Flights from North Ronaldsay Airport link the island with Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland, as does a weekly ferry operated by Orkney Ferries. In the summer there are ferries on Tuesdays and Fridays. Flights are subsidized to £36 return, or £21 return for those who stay for at least one night.
The main industries on the island are crofting and sheep farming, where unique North Ronaldsay sheep are mostly farmed collectively. Tourism also plays an important role. The island has a population of 60, roughly half of whom are descended from native islanders, and new islanders who have come to live there. There is great interest in attracting new families with young children in order to keep the school open.
The main purpose of the island's bird observatory, established in 1987, is to conduct long-term monitoring of bird populations and migration. North Ronaldsay is well known as one of the best birdwatching sites in the country during the spring and autumn migration periods. The quantity and variety of birds that can be seen at these times is often spectacular.
The great auk (Alca impennis) was a North Atlantic flightless bird about the size of a goose; it became extinct in 1844. North Ronaldsay was one habitat for the great auk which was quite abundant until then. At one Neolithic site, great auk bones make up nearly 14% of bird bones.
North Ronaldsay was also a habitat for the Atlantic walrus through the mid-16th century.
North Ronaldsay lighthouse lies at the north of the island at Point of Sinsoss
|Location||North Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland|
|Year first constructed||1789 (first)|
|Year first lit||1854 (current)|
|Construction||brick tower (current)|
stone tower (first)
|Tower shape||tapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern (current)|
cylindrical tower and no lantern (first)
|Markings / pattern||unpainted tower with two white bands, black lantern, ochre trim (current)|
|Tower height||43 metres (141 ft) (current)|
21 metres (69 ft) (first)
|Focal height||42 metres (138 ft)|
|Range||24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi)|
|Characteristic||Fl W 10s.|
|Fog signal||blast every 60s.|
|ARLHS number||SCO-155 (current)|
|Managing agent||North Ronaldsay Trust|
Dennis Head, in the northeast of the island, is home to an historic lighthouse known as the Old Beacon. The light was first established in 1789 by Thomas Smith. It was to be the first of many island lighthouses for Smith (he had previously worked on the lights at Kinnaird Head and Mull of Kintyre). Smith received assistance with the North Ronaldsay light from his stepson Robert Stevenson, and from Ezekiel Walker.
In 1809, with the construction of other nearby lighthouses, it was decided that the North Ronaldsay light was no longer required, and it was extinguished. The round stone tower was retained as a sea-mark, however, and the original beacon chamber at the top replaced by a vaulted roof, capped by a remarkable ball finial. The stone spiral staircase which once led to the beacon was demolished. The original keepers' houses, roofless but largely complete, survive below the tower. In 2006, it was one of the neglected buildings selected for the TV series Restoration .
However, a new lighthouse was built nearby just 43 years later in 1852. The modern lighthouse lies at the north of the island at Point of Sinsoss, and boasts Britain's tallest land-based lighthouse tower. The old fog siren with notable red trumpet was replaced by an electric diaphragm-type horn. That horn was discontinued in favour of a Tyfon horn consisting of 8 mini-trumpets installed on the building that once housed the fog siren. The Tyfon horn gives three blasts every 60 seconds. The electric beeper horn now lies flat on the ground next to the fog signal building. The fog signal is still in service today.
The community has a single school, North Ronaldsay Primary School. It had a single student until July 2017, when its sole student graduated. Various organizations use the school building.
Rognvald Eysteinsson was the founding Jarl of Møre in Norway, and a close relative and ally of Harald Fairhair, the earliest known King of Norway. In the Norse language he is known as Rognvaldr Eysteinsson and in modern Norwegian as Ragnvald Mørejarl. He is sometimes referred to with bynames that may be translated into modern English as "Rognvald the Wise" or "Rognvald the Powerful".
Bressay is a populated island in the Shetland archipelago of Scotland.
Mousa is a small island in Shetland, Scotland, uninhabited since the nineteenth century. The island is known for the Broch of Mousa, an Iron Age round tower, and is designated as a Special Protection Area for storm-petrel breeding colonies.
South Ronaldsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is linked to the Orkney Mainland by the Churchill Barriers, running via Burray, Glimps Holm and Lamb Holm.
Auskerry is a small island in eastern Orkney, Scotland. It lies in the North Sea south of Stronsay and has a lighthouse, completed in 1866.
Papa Stronsay is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying north east of Stronsay. It is 74 hectares (0.29 sq mi) in size, and 13 metres (43 ft) at its highest point.
Thorfinn Torf-Einarsson also known as Thorfinn Skull-splitter was a 10th-century Earl of Orkney. He appears in the Orkneyinga saga and briefly in St Olaf's Saga, as incorporated into the Heimskringla. These stories were first written down in Iceland in the early 13th century and much of the information they contain is "hard to corroborate".
Eystein Glumra also known as Eystein Ivarsson, was reputedly a petty king on the west coast of Norway, during the 9th Century.
Rognvald Kale Kolsson was an Earl of Orkney and a Norwegian saint.
Sigurd Eysteinsson or Sigurd the Mighty was the second Earl of Orkney – a title bequeathed to Sigurd by his brother Rognvald Eysteinsson. A son of Eystein Glumra, Sigurd was a leader in the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland.
Brusi Sigurdsson was one of Sigurd Hlodvirsson's four sons. He was joint Earl of Orkney from 1014. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Rognvald Brusason , son of Brusi Sigurdsson, was Earl of Orkney jointly with Thorfinn Sigurdsson from about 1037 onwards. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Tarbat Ness is headland that lies at the end of the Tarbat peninsula in Easter Ross, Scotland. The name is from the Gaelic tairbeart meaning "isthmus" and the Old Norse ness, meaning "headland". It lies at the south of the entrance to the Dornoch Firth.
South Walls is an inhabited tidal island adjacent to Hoy in Orkney, Scotland. The name is a corruption of "Sooth Was", which means the "southern voes" - as with Kirkwall, it was assumed that it was a mispronunciation of "walls".
Helliar Holm is an uninhabited island off the coast of Shapinsay in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is home to a 42-foot-tall (13 m) lighthouse, which was built in 1893 and automated in 1967. It is a tidal island that used to be connected to Shapinsay. It is still possible to walk across from the mainland during very low tides.
Halfdan Long-Leg was a Viking-Age warrior who lived in the latter half of the 9th century. He was the son of King Harald Fairhair and a Sami woman named Snofrid Svasadottir.
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