The locals made it clear to us that saying “islands” was redundant, and they just refer to the group as simply “Orkney,” as a whole. That’s great if you live there, but maybe not so much if you’re a visitor trying to navigate 😄
One thing not in Rick’s book when we were there a few years ago, but maybe in there now, is the Tomb of the Eagles, at the southern tip of the South Ronaldsay island, east of Burwick. There are some ruins foundations, and the ancient burial tomb, where eagle remains were discovered, with an opening so small and low that you lie on a small trolley and wheel yourself in. Once thru the opening, the space opens up. The shop at the visitors center there had a great selection of wonderful Orkney music CD’s, and we bought several.
In the northwestern corner of the Orkney Mainland is the Brough of Birsay, with remnants of a former settlement, and a fantastic view of the ocean and shore on the north side. You park, then get to the Brough on foot, via a causeway that’s only accessible at low tide. Check the tide tables, and get back to the mainland before the tide strands you on the Brough. It’s fascinating watching the tide rush in to reclaim the causeway! Also on the Mainland, the Ring of Brodgar stone circle is wonderful. Just down the road, the Ness of Brodgar is an active archaeological dig site, only open in the summer. Archeologists and students are happy to share their finds, and explain the processes used to uncover artifacts. Very kid- and adult-friendly site, when they’re open.