The Orkney Islands are an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of Great Britain. Orkney is 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the coast of Caithness and comprises approximately 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited. It 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 islands have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years, originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. The Scottish Parliament then re-annexed the earldom to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for King James III's bride Margaret of Denmark. Orkney is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland. The local people are known as Orcadians and have a distinctive dialect of Insular Scots and a rich inheritance of folklore. There is an abundance of marine and avian wildlife.