North Ronaldsay is the most northerly island in Orkney, and like its more
southerly neighbour Sanday, is very low lying. A unique feature of North
Ronaldsay is the drystone sheep dyke that surrounds the island. The dyke
was built to keep North Ronaldsay's seaweed-eating sheep on the narrow strip
of beach and foreshore and off the agricultural land. During lambing season,
the ewes are permitted to graze on grass inside the dyke for three to four
months before being returned to the shore with their new offspring.
The island is justifiably famous among ornithologists as a resting place
for migrant birds with several rare types being spotted annually. The Bird
Observatory is used to observe and record the migrating birds, and is of
an interesting energy-efficient design.
The Broch of Burrian is part of an extensive Iron Age settlement on the
shore of Strom Ness. The broch and settlement were in use until the 9th
century - well into the Pictish period. When the site was excavated, a piece
of flat stone inscribed with the Burrian Cross (a design popular with modern
jewellers) was found along with an ogam stone and several fine bone implements.
Muckle Gairsty and Matches Dyke are two earthworks that divide the island
into three parts. Part of the Muckle Gairsty is roughly 2 metres high and
10 metres wide.
The North Ronaldsay lighthouse at 42.3 metres is Britain's tallest land
The old beacon with a North Isles Yole in the foreground
(C) Richard Welsby
Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby
Copyright Orknet 1996