The soils of Orkney are developed on a range of parent materials. Where the till is thin or absent, soils are developed directly from weathered or shattered sandstone. The till is generally sandy and therefore free-draining but clay-rich variants give waterlogged soils on low ground. Dune sands offer exceptional drainage and high Ca contents.

Of great interest is the long term human influence on Orkney soils. With over 5000 years of human occupation, Orkney offers exceptional opportunities to study soil transformation. The archaeological record provides evidence of woodland clearance, soil erosion, turf cutting and the addition of manure, seaweed and shell, all practices which had profound influence on local soils.

Orkney Landscapes

  • The rocks of Orkney are dominated by flagstones and sandstones deposited in a huge fresh water lake. They belong in time to the Devonian (Old Red Sandstone) period 416 – 359 million years ago). The sediments of Lake Orcadie are superbly exposed along the many cliffs and shore platforms and so Orkney gives us one of the best examples of a Devonian lake basin in the world. ...

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  • The landforms of Orkney are special not only in terms of the magnificent diversity and quality of the island scenery. This is a sandstone landscape, with features similar to those found in many other parts of the world where sedimentary rocks lie just below the surface. And an Ice Age landscape, where glaciers cut corries and shelly boulder clay was dredged from the bed of the sea by ice sheets. Then there is the magnificent coast, retreating from Atlantic and North Sea storms but slowly building in sheltered firths. Orkney is all the while changing and fascinating.

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