The islands have a varied geology and history and several have both ecclesiastical connections and were involved in military occupations throughout the centuries of recorded history. Various lighthouses and other aids to navigation have been erected on the islands and skerries, one dating to the 17th century, but only one of the islands is still permanently inhabited. The area has a diversity of bird and sea life and the scientific name for the northern gannet is derived from this bird's connection with the Bass Rock.
There are few islands off eastern Scotland and most of any size are in this group.
13 June: Radiocarbon dating reveals that four crannogs – artificial islands on lochs – on the Isle of Lewis date from 3640–3360 BC during the Neolithic period, rather than the Iron Age as previously believed.
The great skua (Stercorarius skua) is a large seabird in the skua family Stercorariidae. The English name and species name "skua" is believed to originate from the Faroese skúvur or skúgvur[ˈskɪkvʊər] and is the only known bird name to originate from the Faroes that has come into regular use elsewhere. In Britain, it is sometimes known by the name bonxie, a Shetland name of Norse origin. The genus name Stercorarius is Latin and means "of dung"; the food disgorged by other birds when pursued by skuas was once thought to be excrement.
An example of a page from the Orkneyinga saga, as it appears in the 14th century Flateyjarbók.
The Orkneyinga saga (also called the History of the Earls of Orkney and Jarls' 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 narrative commences with a brief mythical ancestry tale and then proceeds to outline the Norse take-over of the Norðreyjar by Harald Fairhair – the former event is not in doubt although the role of the latter King of Norway is no longer accepted by historians as a likelihood. The saga then outlines, with varying degrees of detail, the lives and times of the many jarls who ruled the islands between the 9th and 13th centuries. The extent to which the earlier sections in particular can be considered genuine history rather than fiction have been much debated by scholars.
There are several recurring themes in the Orkneyinga saga, including strife between brothers, relationships between the jarls and the Norwegian crown, and raiding in the Suðreyjar – the Hebrides. In part, the saga's purpose was to provide a history of the islands and enable its readers to "understand themselves through a knowledge of their origins" but even where its historical veracity is lacking it provides modern scholars with insights into the motives of the writers and the politics of 13th century Orkney.
After losing office as First Minister of Scotland, McConnell became a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. He made a commitment to continuing his work to tackle poverty in Africa and to develop the relationship between Scotland and Malawi.
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 is best known as the name given to the lighthouse on the skerry, built with some difficulty between 1838 and 1844 by Alan Stevenson.
At a height of 156 feet (48 m) 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.
With established residencies for writers, artists, musicians, and dramatists; its prominent degree courses in media and traditional music; its hosting of the national folklore digitisation project Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches; and Fàs, its £8-million centre for creative industries, Sabhal Mòr fulfils an important cultural remit both in the Highlands and in Scotland more generally.