Eday is one of the islands of Orkney, which are located to the north
of the Scottish mainland. One of the North Isles,
Eday is about 24
kilometres (15 mi) from the
Orkney Mainland. With an area of 27
square kilometres (10 sq mi), it is the ninth largest island
of the archipelago. The bedrock of the island is Old Red Sandstone,
which is exposed along the sea-cliffs.
There are various well-preserved
Neolithic tombs, as well as evidence
Bronze Age settlement and the remains of a Norse-era castle. During
the period of Scottish rule the substantial property of Carrick House
was developed at Calfsound, which became a burgh for a short period.
During the British era many agricultural improvements were introduced,
although there has been a substantial decline in the population since
the mid-nineteenth century. In the twenty-first century the Eday
Partnership has had success in promoting the island's economy. Local
placenames reflect the diverse linguistic heritage and the landscapes
of the island and its surrounding seas attract abundant wildlife.
1 Geography and geology
2.2 Norse colonisation
2.3 Scottish rule
2.4 British era
4 Transport and economy
5 Natural history
6 Prominent natives
7 See also
9 External links
Geography and geology
Looking from Vinquoy Hill towards Westray
Eday is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long from north to south but only
just over 500 metres wide at the narrow neck of land between the Sands
of Doomy and Bay of London and has been described as being "nipped
at the waist". The centre of the island is largely moorland covered
with heather, and cultivation is confined to the coasts.
The highest points are Flaughton Hill at the island's centre, Fersness
Hill at West Side, Vinquoy Hill to the north and Ward Hill to the
south, which reaches 101 metres (331 ft). In
Orkney this last
name, which derives from the Norse varði, is a common one for the
highest point on an island as in the past they were used for lighting
The largest body of water is the 10-hectare (25-acre) sea, south east
of Vinquoy Hill. Loch of Doomy lies on the western side of the
narrow "waist" and the smaller Loch Carrick on the north coast.
The population is dispersed along the coastal farmsteads and nowhere
on the island has the status of a village. Calfsound is the most
populous of the settled areas, with other concentrations at Millbounds
on the east coast, which has a post office and a community facility in
a converted chapel, and
Backaland in the south where the ferry from
the Mainland docks.
Exposure of Old Red Sandstone: Red Head at the north end of Eday. The
lower and steeper part of the cliff is formed of Middle Eday
Sandstone, whereas the upper less steep part is formed of
Geological map of
Eday and neighbouring islands
Eday is surrounded by other small islands that make up the "seemingly
impossible green and russet jigsaw of Orkney's North Isles". Calf
Eday lies 350 metres (0.2 mi) to the north of the settlement
of Calfsound. Further east is Sanday across the
Eday Sound. Stronsay
Linga Holm are to the south east and
Muckle Green Holm
Muckle Green Holm to the
south west beyond the straits known as the Fall of Warness. Egilsay
lies some 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) due west. Rusk Holm,
Faray lie beyond the Sound of
Faray to the north west and
beyond them is the larger island of Westray.
In common with its neighbouring isles,
Eday is largely formed from
Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone deposited in the Orcadian Basin. The
Eday Group is the name for a substantial sequence of sandstones that
is found at many locations in Orkney, for which
Eday and the area
Eday Sound are the type area. In places it is up to 800
metres (2,600 ft) thick, and is largely composed of yellow and
red sandstones with intervening grey flagstones and marls. The
rock is easily quarried and some of the yellow sandstones from
Fersness were used in the construction of
St Magnus Cathedral
St Magnus Cathedral in
Devonian sequence is deformed into a major fold,
the north-south trending
Eday Syncline, with the youngest part of the
sequence, the Upper
Eday Sandstone outcropping in the north of the
island from Bay of Cusby to Red Head. The oldest part of the sequence,
Rousay Flagstones are found on the eastern side of the island at
Bight of Milldale and from Kirk Taing to War Ness, and to the west
from Sealskerry Bay to Fersness. Veness is formed of Upper Eday
Sandstone downfaulted against the flagstones.
Entrance to Vinquoy chambered cairn
The very limited archaeological record provides scant evidence of
Mesolithic life in Orkney, but the later assemblage of houses and
Neolithic structures in the archipelago is without parallel
in the United Kingdom.
The chambered cairn of Vinquoy, located in a commanding position
overlooking the Calf Sound, is 17 metres (56 ft) in diameter and
2.5 metres (8.2 ft) high. The narrow entrance passage of this
Maeshowe-type tomb leads to a central chamber with four
side-cells. Other sites of interest on
Eday include the Stone of
Setter standing stone that dominates the col north of Mill Loch, and
which at 4.5 metres (15 ft) high is one of the tallest monoliths
in Orkney. There are two more chambered cairns at Braeside and
Huntersquoy and another on the Calf of Eday. Rectangular in shape,
it was excavated in 1936–37 and contains a small chamber with two
compartments and a larger one with four stalls that has a separate
entrance and was probably added at a later date.
The lichen-covered Stone of Setter, which is said to resemble a giant
Although there are several
Bronze Age sites on the island, they
provide less dramatic remains. At Warness in the south west there is a
burnt mound from this period and there are the ruins of two houses of
a similar age on Holm of
Faray near the Point of Dogs Bones. The
Fold of Setter is an 85-metre-diameter (279 ft) Bronze Age
enclosure located to the north of Mill Loch. There is the site of
Iron Age roundhouse containing a saddle quern at Linkataing in
north west Eday. Latterly,
Orkney was settled by the Picts
although the archaeological evidence is sparse.
It is not known "when and how the Vikings conquered and occupied the
Isles", and although Norse contacts with
predate the first written records in the 8th century, their nature and
frequency are unknown. The place name evidence of a Norse presence
Eday is conclusive and very little is known about the specifics of
life on the island at this time. The Norse-era ruins of the Castle of
Stackel Brae, which dates from the 12th or 13th centuries, lie under a
green mound to the east of the Bay of Greentoft. The castle may
have been the most important building on
Eday at this time.
Orkney became part of the Kingdom of Scotland and an
influx of Scottish entrepreneurs helped to create a diverse and
independent community that included farmers, fishermen and merchants
that called themselves comunitatis Orcadie and who proved themselves
increasingly able to defend their rights against their feudal
overlords. Nonetheless, the actions of the aristocracy
continue to provide much of the information known about affairs on
Eday at the time. In 1561, during the Reformation, Edward Sinclair was
granted the feu of
Eday by Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney. These were
turbulent times—Sinclair's duties included to defend the reforming
Bishop "against whatsoever invaders"—and later that year he was
one of the ringleaders of an anti-Catholic riot in Kirkwall.[Note
Carrick House, Calfsound, with Carrick Loch beyond and Sanday in the
His son William took over the running of the
Eday estate in due
course, but it became burdened with debt. In 1601 when Edward was "an
auld decrepit man ... aged 100 or thereby" William attempted to
sell the family interest to George Sinclair the Earl of
Caithness.[Note 2] The new proprietor sent half a dozen boatloads
of "vagabondis, broken Highland men of Caithness" to Eday, much to the
alarm of the notorious Earl Patrick of Orkney. Earl Patrick was able
to use the poor relationship between the elderly father Edward and his
son, (the former claiming William fired muskets at him and grabbed him
by the neck like a dog) to take action. Acting, so he alleged, on
behalf of Edward, Earl Patrick evicted William, took the
rents for himself and profited from the extraction of building stone
from Towback quarry.
John Stewart, Earl of Carrick, the brother of Earl Patrick, was
Eday in 1632[Note 3] and he constructed Carrick House at
Calfsound shortly thereafter. He used peat to manufacture salt
from salt pans at both Carrick and on the Calf of Eday. The product
was described as "quite fine" in the 17th century when it was
undertaken on a substantial scale although of "indifferent
quality" in the early 19th century when it was being conducted as
a cottage industry.
Peat extraction was also an important industry
in the past as Sanday and
North Ronaldsay obtained most of their fuel
Eday and this material was also exported to whisky distilleries
on mainland Scotland.
Stewart's ambitions for Calfsound were considerable. Described as the
"town and port" of Carrick it became a burgh (the only other one in
Orkney being Kirkwall) with the right to appoint baillies and hold
markets but it was never likely to flourish in such a location.
Abandoned stone-breaking equipment at Southside
From the first decade of the 18th century
Orkney became part of the
new Kingdom of Great Britain. This was a time of great interest in
agricultural improvement although the changes this brought about were
not of significance in
Orkney until the mid-nineteenth century.
For example, no potatoes were grown on
Eday until around 1780. By
comparison to these gradual changes, Carrick House saw drama in 1725.
The property was now owned by James Fea who had been a school friend
of a "Mr Smith", a trader of Stromness. When Smith was unmasked as the
John Gow he sought to escape the attentions of the
authorities by making for
Eday via a raid on Hall of Clestrain, in
Orphir. When Gow's ship Revenge ran aground on the Calf of Eday, Fea's
men took him prisoner and held him at Carrick House, for which Fea was
given a £1,700 reward. The bell from the Revenge is still in Carrick
In the early nineteenth century the kelp industry provided significant
employment on some of the
Orkney islands, but when the market
collapsed between 1830 and 1832 it caused considerable hardship. North
Ronaldsay was especially hard-hit and several families were allowed to
resettle from there to develop land at Westside on Eday. Rising
populations meant increasing land values, especially for small
tenancies. In 1843 crofts were valued at £1/acre on Eday, nearly
three times the price for larger farms. However, the 20th century
saw decline. Immigration from mainland
Scotland was essentially
unknown even in the late 1950s and the population in 2001 was
about an eighth of the total 160 years earlier.
Historical population of Eday
Johan Blaeu's 1654 map of
Orkney and Shetland. Note that the "Calf of
Heth Øy" has been transposed from its true position north east of
Eday to the west.
"Eday" is a name derived from the
Old Norse eið and means "isthmus
island". This is a name specifically associated with economic
activity used only where the isthmus has been a "route for the
movement of goods and/or boats from one coast to another".
There are numerous other eið names in the islands of the North
Atlantic and those in
Orkney include Hoxa (Haugeið) on South
Ronaldsay, Aith (found on Walls,
Stronsay and the west Mainland) and
St Ola which is derived from the Norse Skálpeið. Bay of
Doomy, near the central isthmus on Eday, may also have a name derived
from dómr-eið, meaning "isthmus of the courthouse", indicating it
could have been an important meeting place during the Norse period of
Scottish history. In the 17th century
Eday was also known as "Heth
In common with elsewhere in the
Orkney islands, place names are
generally a mixture of Norse, Scots and English influences. Any
Pictish names that existed before the arrival of Scandinavian settlers
Eday appear to have been completely obliterated. The common
suffix -quoy is from the
Old Norse kví-ló and signifies an enclosure
in a marshy area. Skaill on the east coast is from the Norse
skáli and suggests an important farm on good fertile land that was
associated with several smaller tunships. The Bay of London also
has Norse origins, lund-inn meaning "woodland", although this is no
longer an apt description for this largely treeless landscape. Old
Norse lundi means "puffin", which creatures may once have nested in
sandy land at the back of the bay.
Orkney was Christianised before the arrival of Viking settlers, and
there are various local "Papa" names that reflect the activities of
the pre-Norse papar monks there. The farm of Papleyhouse near
Linkataing may indicate such a link to the past, although the
connection is by no means certain.[Note 4] The name "geo", which
occurs frequently around the rocky coast, is from the Norse gjá and
means a narrow and deep cleft in the face of a cliff.
Transport and economy
Orkney Ferries arrival at Bay of Backaland
Eday can be reached by both sea and air from the
Orkney Ferries provide daily ferry crossings to
Orkney inter-island air service, operated by
Kirkwall Airport with
Eday Airport. In 2014 the
Orkney Islands Council began consultation to build a number of fixed
crossings between seven of the
Orkney Islands. This includes the
possibility of a 2.6 mile bridge between
Eday and Papa Westray.
Farming and crofting are mainstays of the local economy, especially
livestock husbandry. Flocks of sheep are also kept on Faray.
OpenHydro Open-Centre turbine being tested at the
EMEC site in the
Fall of Warness
European Marine Energy Centre
European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) based at
Stromness is a
Scottish Government-backed research facility. They have installed a
wave testing system at Billia Croo on the
Orkney mainland and a tidal
power testing station, overlooking the Fall of Warness, on Eday.
The test site was chosen because of the marine currents that reach
almost 4 metres per second (7.8 kn) at spring tides. There are
seven offshore testing berths connected to the 33KV North Isles
section of the national grid, via an underground cable.
Eday Heritage and Visitor Centre in the restored former Baptist Church
Eday Partnership, the local development trust is active in promoting
the island's economy and has instigated numerous projects, including
Eday Heritage Centre, and the purchase of a new diesel tank for the
island. Eday's various community projects contributed £380,000 to the
island's economy from 2005-7 and a 900 kW community-owned wind
turbine is planned. The income that this asset will generate
is expected to reduce fuel poverty on the island, support new
community enterprises and create affordable housing.
In July 2008, the island celebrated the opening of the
and Visitor Centre in the restored former Baptist Church. There is a
heritage display area, a permanent archive, a café and a tourist
information point. The
Eday Oral History Project records life on the
island in the past and is also housed within the centre, which has its
own 6 kW wind turbine.
The island's population was 160 as recorded by the 2011 census an
increase of over 30% since 2001 when there were 121 usual
residents. During the same period Scottish island populations as a
whole grew by 4% to 103,702.
Eriophorum angustifolium, or bog cotton, by the roadside near Sandhill
In the early 19th century Patrick Neill wrote of the local flora that
"Eda is a mossy island; a great part of it consisting of barren marshy
Juncus uliginosus here covers whole acres; and the pretty
little plant Radiola millegran, or all-seed, is everywhere
strewed."[Note 5] Over 120 species of wild plants have been
recorded on the island including bog myrtle found nowhere else in
In the mid-17th century,
Eday was described as being "absolutely full
of moorland birds" and today there are red-throated divers on Mill
Loch, Arctic skuas and bonxies on the moors and black guillemot
offshore. Shore birds include meadow pipit, rock pipit and ringed
plover. The woodland at Carrick House attracts a variety of migrants
and otters can be seen around the coasts. There are colonies of
harbour and grey seals on Muckle Green Holm, Little Green Holm, Faray
and Holm of Faray, and white-beaked dolphin, minke whale and killer
whale are occasional visitors to the area. A ranger provideds
guided walks throughout the year.
Australian pioneer union leader and
Australian Labor Party
Australian Labor Party politician,
William Spence was born on
Eday in 1846.
John Flaws Reid, who represented Mackenzie in the Canadian House of
Commons, was born on
Eday in 1860.
Norman Miller Johnson
FRSE (1887-1949) was minister of
died here in 1949.
List of lighthouses in Scotland
List of Northern
Lighthouse Board lighthouses
Geology of Orkney
Tarbert, the Gaelic equivalent of eið
^ The Sinclair's, descendants of Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney,
were a powerful force in
Orkney from the 14th to the 16th century.
Edward was a grandson of Oliver Sinclair of Roslin, himself a son of
William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness.
^ George Sinclair (1582–1643) was the Fifth Earl of Caithness.
^ John Stewart was a first cousin of James VI. He had property in
Ayrshire and hankered after the prestigious title "Earl of Carrick".
King James allowed him to name his
Eday mansion "Carrick", enabling
him to have the style, if not the substance of this title, which
became extinct on his death in 1652.
^ The history of the papar is obscure. The
Landnámabók states that
these Christian settlers had already colonised
Iceland before the
coming of the Norse. The anonymous author of the Historia Norvegiae,
which may date from the 13th century, claimed that "they were Africans
adhering to Judaism".
^ Neill notes that
Juncus uliginofus is also known as "little bulbous
rush". The modern terminology is
Juncus bulbosus. Radiola
millegran is known today as Radiola linoides.
^ a b c d e f g h i Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 386
Orkney Placenames" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 29 Feb 2012
^ a b c d e f g Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 5 Orkney
(Northern Isles) (Map). Ordnance Survey. 2008.
^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over
20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in
the 2011 census.
^ a b c d National Records of
Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf)
Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and
Household Estimates for
Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2:
Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands".
Retrieved 17 August 2013.
^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness,
^ Calfo of
Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 27 May 2016
^ a b c Hewitson, Jim "The North Isles" in Omand (2003) p. 185
^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 387
Orkney Placenames - natural elements" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 15 July
^ "Sites of
Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): Mill Loch" Orkney
Islands Council. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
^ British Geological Survey. "
Eday Group". The BGS Lexicon of Named
Rock Units. BGS. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
^ Hall, Adrian and Brown, John Flett (September 2005) "Upper Middle
Devonian Sediments". "
Orkney Landscapes". Retrieved 4 Mar
^ a b Tait (2005) p. 474
^ Mykura, W. (with contributions by Flinn, D, & May, F.) 1976.
British Regional Geology:
Orkney and Shetland, Institute of Geological
Sciences, Natural Environment Council, 149pp.
^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 20
^ "Eday, Viquoy Hill". Canmore. Retrieved 2 Mar 2012.
^ "Eday, Stone of Setter". Canmore. Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ Noble (2006) pp 116–17
^ "Eday" Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. Visit
Orkney. Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 65, 76
^ Tait (2005) p. 476
^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 97
^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 104
^ Ó Corráin (1998) p. 25
^ Graham-Campbell and Batey (1998) pp. 2, 23
^ "Eday, Castle of Stackel Brae". Canmore. Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ "Eday, Castle of Stackel Brae". Scotland's Places. Retrieved 3 Mar
^ Thompson (2008) p. 220
^ Thompson (2008) p. 183
^ Crawford, Barbara E. "
Orkney in the Middle Ages" in Omand (2003)
^ a b Thomson (2008) p. 258
^ Thomson (2008) p. 235
^ a b c Thomson (2008) pp. 288–90
^ a b "Eday, Carrick House". Canmore. Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ Thomson (2008) p. 302
^ a b Thomson (2008) p. 303
^ a b c Stewart, Walter (mid-1640s) "New Choreographic Description of
the Orkneys" in Irvine (2006) p. 24
^ a b Neill (1806) p. 38
^ Neill (1806) p. 39
^ Thomson (2008) p. 333
^ Thomson (2008) p. 336
^ Tait (2005) p. 481
^ a b c Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 388
John Gow - The
Orkney Pirate" Orkneyjar. Retrieved 11 Mar 2012.
^ Thomson (2008) p. 360
^ Thomson (2008) p. 382
^ Thomson (2008) p. 445
^ a b Waugh (2010) p. 550
^ Waugh (2010) p. 545
^ Waugh (2010) p. 551
^ Blaeu, Johan (mid-1654) "Orcadum and Shetlandiæ" in Irvine (2006)
^ Waugh, Doreen "
Orkney Place-names" in Omand (2003) p. 115
^ Lamb, Gregor "The
Orkney Tongue" in Omand (2003) p. 249
^ Waugh, Doreen "
Orkney Place-names" in Omand (2003) p. 124
^ Thomson (2008) pp. 14–16
^ Thomson (2008) p. 14
^ "Geo". Fettes College. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009.
Retrieved 9 September 2011.
^ "Published Timetables"
Orkney Ferries. Retrieved 10 Mar 2012.
^ "Destinations" Highlands and Islands Airports. Retrieved 10 Mar
Eday Partnership. Retrieved 15 Mar 2012.
^ "EMEC". Retrieved 2007-02-03.
^ "Fall of Warness Test Site" EMEC. Retrieved 14 Mar 2012.
^ Progress in the heart of the North Isles (26 July 2007)
Eday Partnership". HIE. Retrieved 15 Mar 2012.
^ "Community Wind Turbine".
Orkney Communities. Retrieved 15 Mar 2012.
^ "Heritage and Visitor Centre finally opens on Eday" Local People
Leading. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
Eday Heritage & Visitor Centre"
Eday Partnership. Retrieved 15
^ General Register Office for
Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's
Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited
Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
^ "Scotland's 2011 census: Island living on the rise". BBC News.
Retrieved 18 August 2013.
Juncus bulbosus var. uliginosus". The Plant List: Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ "Radiola linoides: Roth - Allseed". Flora of Northern Ireland.
Retrieved 3 Mar 2012.
^ "Environmental Description for the
EMEC Tidal Test Facility" EMEC.
Retrieved 14 Mar 2012.
Eday Partnership. Retrieved 15 Mar 2012.
^ Lansbury, Coral; Bede Nairn. "Spence, William Guthrie
(1846–1926)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian
National University. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
John Flaws Reid – Parliament of Canada biography Retrieved 16 Mar
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RCAHMS aerial photograph of central Eday, showing the narrow isthmus
between Sands of Doomy and Bay of London
Coordinates: 59°11′N 2°47′W / 59.183°N 2.783°W /
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