Island Destinations - North Ronaldsay


...The island time forgot

A unique assembly - the ancient sheep court of North Ronaldsay - elected by the traditional townships on the island, manages the flocks of native seaweed-eating sheep.

Although North Ronaldsay is further north than the southern tip of Norway, its climate is far less severe, having winter temperatures which are usually some 5 degrees centigrade higher than most places on this latitude. This is due to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream.

Since North Ronaldsay is the most remote of Orkney's North Isles, life is in many ways different from the other islands. Old traditions prevail. Orcadian surnames predominate and the custom of communal sheep grazing on the seashore is still pursued.

Natural history

Though only a small island with a low profile North Ronaldsay supports an extremely rich and diverse population of wild flowers, mammals and birds. It lies on the migration crossroads with birds heading north towards Iceland and Greenland as well as into Scandinavia pausing or being grounded.

Thus from late March to early June and middle August to early November there are large concentrations of migrant birds visiting the island. All classes of birds are represented and several national rarities recorded annually. In summer the island is alive with the calls of breeding birds. Areas of land are left uncultivated and corncrake may call from the hayfield.

Common and Grey Seals are numerous, both breed around the island and are easily seen and have become quite tame since culling was banned. Other sea mammals are seen offshore and porpoises occasionally accompany the local lobster boats. Inland the island can broadly be divided into four distinct habitat types: foreshore, grazed links, marshland and agricultural land which together provide a wealth of opportunities for wildlife.