Burray is one of the Orkney Islands, located in the northern part of Scotland. It is situated to the east of the Orkney Mainland, separated by the narrow waters of Water Sound. The history of Burray, like many of the Orkney Islands, is rich and steeped in ancient heritage.
Prehistoric and Norse Settlements: The Orkney Islands have a long history of human habitation dating back to prehistoric times. There is evidence of Neolithic settlements on several islands, including Burray. The village of Swandro on Burray's west coast has been the site of archaeological excavations revealing significant prehistoric structures.
Viking Influence: Orkney, including Burray, was settled by the Norse in the 8th and 9th centuries. They established a network of farms and communities across the islands. Burray would have been part of this Norse domain.
Medieval Period: Orkney became a part of the Kingdom of Norway during the Viking Age. In 1468, the islands were pawned to Scotland as part of a marriage dowry. This agreement was later confirmed in the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1266.
Military History: During World War II, Burray played a significant role in the defense of the Orkney Islands. The Churchill Barriers, a series of causeways linking several islands, including Burray, were constructed to impede the access of German submarines to the natural anchorage of Scapa Flow. Italian prisoners of war were used in the construction of these barriers.
Post-War Era: After the war, the barriers remained, providing important road links between various islands. Burray, once two separate islands (North Burray and South Burray), were effectively joined by the barriers.
Modern Times: Today, Burray is a relatively small island with a mix of residential areas and agricultural land. It is connected by road to both the Orkney Mainland and other islands via the Churchill Barriers.
It's worth noting that like many places in Orkney, the history of Burray is still being researched and new discoveries may continue to shed light on its past. The island's historical significance and natural beauty continue to attract visitors and researchers interested in exploring its heritage.
Top Tourist Attractions
The island may not have as many tourist attractions as larger islands like the Orkney Mainland. However, it still offers several points of interest for visitors who appreciate natural beauty, history, and local culture. Here are some of the top tourist attractions on Burray:
- The Churchill Barriers: These causeways, constructed during World War II to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow from enemy submarines, are a significant historical feature of Burray. They connect several islands, including Burray, and offer scenic drives with views of the surrounding waters.
- Swandro Archaeological Site: Located on the west coast of Burray, Swandro is an ongoing archaeological excavation site. It has revealed well-preserved Neolithic and Iron Age structures. Visitors interested in ancient history and archaeology can learn about the island's prehistoric past.
- Burray Beaches: Burray has some beautiful coastal areas, and its beaches offer opportunities for beachcombing, picnicking, and enjoying the seaside scenery. There are sandy stretches and rocky shorelines to explore.
- War Memorial: Burray has a war memorial that pays tribute to those who served and lost their lives during World War I and World War II. It's a solemn place to reflect on the island's wartime history.
- Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum: While not technically on Burray (it's on the neighboring island of Hoy), the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum is easily accessible by car. It provides in-depth information about the naval history and wartime activities in the waters around Orkney.
- Burray Community Centre: This community hub hosts various events and activities throughout the year. Check for local events, exhibitions, workshops, and performances that might be taking place during your visit.
- Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing: Burray, like many of the Orkney Islands, is rich in birdlife. The surrounding waters are also home to seals and other marine creatures. Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy observing the local fauna.
While Burray may not have the same concentration of tourist attractions as some larger Orkney islands, it offers a unique and tranquil experience for visitors seeking a more laid-back and natural setting. Additionally, its historical significance during World War II adds an extra layer of interest for those curious about the island's past.
The island experiences a maritime subarctic climate, which is influenced by its northern latitude and its proximity to the North Atlantic Ocean. Here are some characteristics of Burray's climate:
- Mild Winters: Winters on Burray tend to be relatively mild compared to other places at similar latitudes. The average low temperatures in winter typically stay above freezing, although frost and occasional snowfall can occur.
- Cool Summers: Summers are cool, with average high temperatures ranging from 12°C to 15°C (54°F to 59°F). While the climate is generally cool, it rarely experiences extreme heat.
- High Humidity: Due to its coastal location, Burray experiences relatively high humidity levels. This is typical of maritime climates, where moisture from the ocean contributes to higher humidity levels in the air.
- Rainfall Throughout the Year: Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with no distinct dry season. October and November tend to be the wettest months, while April and May are often drier.
- Windy Conditions: The Orkney Islands, including Burray, are known for being windy. The islands are exposed to prevailing westerly winds from the Atlantic, which can bring gusty conditions, especially during the winter months.
- Frequent Cloud Cover: Cloud cover is common, particularly in the winter months. This can lead to overcast skies and limited sunlight during this period.
- Limited Temperature Extremes: Burray experiences relatively stable temperatures, with limited temperature extremes. It is rare for temperatures to reach extremely high or low levels.
- Sea Influence: The surrounding North Atlantic Ocean has a moderating effect on Burray's climate. This means that temperatures tend to be less extreme than in continental climates at similar latitudes.
It's important to note that while these are general climate characteristics for Burray, there can be variations from year to year due to weather patterns and natural variability. Visitors to Burray should be prepared for a maritime climate and the possibility of cool, wet, and windy conditions, especially in the winter months.
It is part of the Orkney archipelago, which consists of around 70 islands, of which about 20 are inhabited. Here are some key geographical features of Burray:
- Location: Burray is located to the east of the Orkney Mainland, separated by the narrow waters of Water Sound. It is surrounded by other islands, including South Ronaldsay to the southeast and the uninhabited island of Fara to the north.
- Size: Burray is a relatively small island, with an area of approximately 3.3 square kilometers (about 1.3 square miles). It is not one of the largest islands in the Orkney archipelago.
- Topography: The terrain of Burray is characterized by a mix of low-lying coastal areas, beaches, and some gently rolling hills in the interior. The highest point on the island is around 24 meters (79 feet) above sea level.
- Coastline: Burray has a rugged coastline with numerous inlets, bays, and small beaches. The island's coastline is shaped by the surrounding waters of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Vegetation: Much of Burray's land is used for agricultural purposes, with fields and pastures. There are also areas of heath and moorland, as well as some patches of woodland. The vegetation is influenced by the maritime climate of the Orkney Islands.
- Churchill Barriers: One of the most significant human-made features on Burray are the Churchill Barriers. These causeways were built during World War II to block access to the anchorage at Scapa Flow. They connect Burray with other islands and have become important road links in the Orkney Islands.
- Swandro Archaeological Site: On the west coast of Burray, there is an ongoing archaeological excavation at Swandro. This site has revealed evidence of ancient settlements, including well-preserved structures from the Neolithic and Iron Age periods.
- Surrounding Waters: Burray is surrounded by the waters of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. These waters are important for the maritime history and economy of the Orkney Islands.
Overall, Burray's geography is characterized by a combination of coastal features, agricultural land, and areas of historical and archaeological interest. Its relatively small size and proximity to other islands make it an accessible and interesting destination for visitors interested in the natural and cultural heritage of the Orkney Islands.