Orkney is underlain largely by the Old Red Sandstone, which breaks down into well-drained, fertile soil capable of supporting productive and stable agriculture.In Shetland, however, the Old Red Sandstone occurs largely in southern Mainland, and much of the rest of the archipelago is blanketed with poorer soils that formed on igneous and metamorphic substrates.These soils have been improved in many places through 5,000 years of cultivation, but in general, Orkney has always been a better environment for raising crops, while the Shetland landscape has fostered more pastoral adaptations. Waters of the great North Atlantic current system, which give the British Isles unusually warm temperatures for their northern latitudes, mix with the cooler and less saline North Sea around both Orkney and Shetland.
" was formed as a multinational, £1 million heritage project to investigate the nature of Viking settlement and place it in context, presenting the results to the public.
The work involves archaeological excavation, reconstruction and display – including the display of the replica longboat, the Skidbladnir, on the shores of Harold’s Wick.
In 2008, Viking Unst will also start work on a replica Viking longhouse, the first in Britain, which will be located beside the Skidbladnir.
Once completed, the house will become the focus for “living history” talks and demonstrations and Viking feasts will also be held. However, many years of multidisciplinary research have revealed that these northernmost British Isles played significant roles in the politics and economies of the Viking World of the North Atlantic and the North Sea.
Saxa Vord guests will be warmly welcomed – and very well fed in a Viking way! From their earliest settlements by Neolithic agriculturalists in the fourth millenium B.
The Orkney and Shetland archipelagos were among the smallest regions settled by Norwegians during the Viking Expansion that took place c. C., the “Northern Isles of Scotland,” as Orkney and Shetland are known collectively, served as the northwestern frontier of the Eurasian landmass, and any westward movements of people, ideas, and domestic plants and animals stopped there.When the islands were settled by the Norse in the early medieval period, their peripheral status was transformed as they became the first stepping stones in an epic transoceanic migration that ended in North America.At that point, Orkney and Shetland became the gateway to the North Atlantic and a crossroads between Britain and Scandinavia.ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT To better understand the first Viking contacts with Orkney and Shetland and the eventual Norse settlement of the islands, it is necessary to examine the larger geographical contexts of the archipelagos.First, Shetland is the part of Britain which is geographically closest to Norway; as such it was a logical first landfall for Norwegian Vikings who sailed south to British and Irish locations.Thus, Shetland and nearby Orkney were likely staging points for Viking raids in the ninth and tenth centuries A. Second, although some archaeological evidence suggests that the islands were settled by people from northern Norway, broader sources point to the west coast of Norway as the home of most of the Viking colonists.