Orcadians - Settlements



Since Neolithic times, the Orkneys have been relatively sparsely settled. Even though clustered settlements, such as the village of Skara Brae, were present in the Neolithic period, dispersed farms and houses have been the norm. The few clusters of farmhouses are near crossroads where there is Usually a store, a pub, and a garage. During Norse times, the Udal land-tenure system, whereby each child received a share of the farm, led to a highly fragmented system of land tenure and demographic dispersal. Although many of these shares were consolidated into "feudal" estates by the Scottish earls, this system in part persisted. In 1886, the Udal system continued within the framework of the Crofters' Holdings Act and the emergence of commercial beef-cattle production. The largest settlement, Kirkwall, was founded by the Norse in the tenth century. Stromness is the main ferry port linking the islands to northern Scotland.


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