For a more detailed description of Orkney see the Article about Orkney in Wikipedia.
Orkney has long been associated with Shetland for certain purposes, and shares a number of historical similarities. It is frequently lumped together as Orkney and Shetland or the Northern Isles (in contradistinction to the Western Isles, i.e. the Hebrides).
There are numerous other connections between the two groups of islands.
Orkney and Shetland are linked by ferry. There have also been flights between the two places.
Geography and economy
Orkney is by far the closest neighbour Shetland has. North Ronaldsay is the nearest island to Shetland. The islands can be seen from Fair Isle fairly regularly, and much less regularly from Mainland.
The archipelago consists of around seventy islands, of which twenty are inhabited. Most of it is much more low lying than Shetland, with some notable exceptions such as Hoy, which has high sea cliffs. A well known saying has it that an Orcadian is a crofter with a boat, whereas a Shetlander is a fisherman with a croft. There is some truth in this as the land tends to be more fertile than Shetland, and so fishing has not developed to such a degree. However, there are few trees on the islands.
Like Shetland, Orkney has benefitted from the North Sea oil boom, and the Isle of Flotta has a terminal for the Piper and Claymore oil fields, which is somewhat similar to Sullom Voe.
One crucial difference between the two island groups, is that Orkney is quite close to Scotland (Caithness), and much further away from Norway. This means that their association with Scotland is a much closer one.
The history of Orkney is fairly similar to Shetland. The islands were inhabited in prehistoric times (and there are some very impressive remains such as Maes Howe), later being occupied by the Picts, Christianised by Culdees and Papar. The islands were then conquered by the Norse, and fell into the sphere of Norway and later the Kalmar Union.
In more recent times the Orkney and Shetland Movement have stood on a joint ticket for parliament in the past.
As in Shetland, the earliest known language of Orkney is Pictish. Orcadian Norn would have been very similar to that of Shetland, and to a lesser extent Faroese, Icelandic and Norwegian.
Like Shetland, Norn was superseded by forms of Broad Scots. In more recent times, English has become dominant. Orcadian dialect, like that of Shetland, reflects these changes, although the Nordic influence is more down than in Shetlandic.