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Looking north west from Cava: Graemsay and Mainland are in the background

Cava is an uninhabited island in the Orkney archipelago in Scotland. It is 107 hectares (0.41 sq mi) in extent and rises to 38 metres (125 ft) above sea level. The literal meaning of the name is calf island, a terminology often used to designate a small island near to a larger one. Cava is unusual in that it includes a small peninsula joined to the main body of the island by a narrow isthmus, which is in turn called Calf of Cava.

Norse nameKálfey
Meaning of nameOld Norse meaning 'calf island'
North Cava and Cava Light, Hoy in background, from a glider flying over Scapa Flow.
North Cava and Cava Light, Hoy in background, from a glider flying over Scapa Flow.
Cava is located in Orkney Islands
Cava shown within Scotland
OS grid referenceND326998
Coordinates58°52′43″N 3°10′04″W / 58.878530°N 3.167737°W / 58.878530; -3.167737
Physical geography
Island groupOrkney
Area107 ha (0.41 sq mi)
Area rank147 [1]
Highest elevation38 m (125 ft)
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Council areaOrkney Islands
Cava Lighthouse
On board ferry from Lyness to Houton - View to Calf of Cava & Lighthouse (geograph 3745681).jpg
Calf of Cava lighthouse, at the northern tip of the island
Cava, Orkney is located in Orkney Islands
Cava, Orkney
United Kingdom
Coordinates58°53′14″N 3°10′40″W / 58.887160°N 3.177844°W / 58.887160; -3.177844
Year first constructed1898
Constructioncast iron tower
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower and lantern
Tower height9.5 metres (31 ft)
Focal height11 metres (36 ft)
Light sourcesolar power
CharacteristicFl WR 3s.
Admiralty numberA3636
NGA number3176
ARLHS numberSCO-044
Managing agentNorthern Lighthouse Board[6]

It is situated in the Scapa Flow just offshore from the much larger island of Hoy. Nearby are the islets of Rysa Little and Fara and the skerry Barrel of Butter. To the south of Cava, between Fara and Rysa Little lies Gutter Sound, the scene of the mass-scuttling of the interned German Imperial High Seas Fleet in 1919.

In the eighteenth century a notorious Orkney pirate, John Gow, raided Hall of Clestrain, in Orphir and abducted two servant girls. Reports vary as to their treatment, with one claiming that they were put ashore on Cava "so loaded with presents that they soon afterwards got husbands."[7] Gow's ship Revenge then ran ashore on the Calf of Eday, leading to his capture.[8]

However, in common with a number of the smaller South Isles of Orkney, Cava lost its resident population during the course of the twentieth century.[9] By the 1980s there were just two residents.[10] There is no longer a habitable building on the island. There are no good anchorages in the vicinity.[2]


In mediaEdit

In the webcomic Crossed: Wish You Were Here, Cava is a refuge for survivors of an apocalyptic event.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over 20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  2. ^ a b Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey
  4. ^ Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
  5. ^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)
  6. ^ Cava The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 27 May 2016
  7. ^ "John Gow - The Orkney Pirate" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 11 Mar 2012.
  8. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 388
  9. ^ Wenham, Sheena (2003). The Orkney Book by Omand, Donald (ed.), ed. The South Isles. Edinburgh: Birlinn. p. 208.CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link)
  10. ^ McCallum, Andrew (11 April 1988). "Mystery over island 'sale'". The Glasgow Herald. p. 5. Retrieved 7 November 2018.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 58°52′42.7″N 3°10′03.9″W / 58.878528°N 3.167750°W / 58.878528; -3.167750