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Norwegians and Danes, this place afforded a still better refuge than for the Romans. Towards the land side, which is in some degree barren and uninhabited, they could easily defend themselves; and from the sea, the Scots could attack them only by entering the harbour, where the well-equipped vessels of the Northmen of course prevented their landing. In all probability, therefore, the Norwegians and Danes still further fortified this important point, and gave it, perhaps, its present name. Tradition, at least, relates that the Danes, after taking Nairn, isolated the town or fortress, and called it "Borgen" (the castle); in which account it is very probable that the names of Nairn and the neighbouring Burghead have been confounded. The latter place gradually gained such importance that it was the last stronghold the Danes possessed in the Lowlands.
It is therefore clear that the Danes, or rather the Norwegians and Danes, have scarcely a right to claim many of the numberless monuments in the Lowlands which both the learned and unlearned ascribe to them. In fact, the whole eastern coast of Scotland, from the Cheviot Hills to Moray Firth, is entirely destitute of characteristic and undoubted Scandinavian monuments. It must, however, be remembered, that the actual Scandinavian immigrations into the Lowlands certainly took place after the Norman conquest of England; or, at all events, at so late a period that the Northmen could not remould the Scotch names of places into Scandinavian forms. Nor is it strange that the Scandinavian colonists in the Lowlands, who at the close of the eleventh century had long been Christians, and influenced by the civilization prevailing in England, should neither have erected such monuments as stone circles, bauta stones, cairns, and barrows, which presuppose a state of heathenism among a people, nor have impressed their characteristics generally on that district by means of peculiar memorials. For at that time they played a subordinate part there, and afterwards gradually became very much mixed with Celts, Anglo-Saxons, and subsequently even with Normans.
The very circumstance, however, that so large a tract of land as the Scottish Lowlands lay out of the path of the Scandinavian conquerors during the ninth, tenth, and first half of the eleventh centuries, was the cause not only that the Danes were able to direct all their power with more effect against England, but also that the Norwegians could more easily subdue the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles, the Hebrides, and various tracts in the northern and western Highlands. In these districts much more perceptible traces of the Norwegian settlers, and of the results which they produced, are still preserved, than in the Lowlands of the in general transient devastations of the Danes and Norwegians.
The Orkneys and Shetland Isles.—Natural Features.—Population.— Oppression.
We might expect that the most northern isles of Scotland, which lie exposed in a stormy sea, should possess the same wild and mountainous character as the Faroe Isles and Iceland. Such a belief gains strength when, for the first time, in passing from Scotland, we obtain a view of the southern Orkneys, especially the considerable mountain heights of the Isle of Hay. Indeed Hay obtained its name (originally "Haey," or the high island) from the old Northmen, on account of the mountains which distinguish it from the rest of the Orkneys; for on sailing farther northwards, past Hay and the adjacent South Ronaldshay (formerly "Rognvaldsey"), we soon discover that the Orkneys are in general flat and sandy, although with cliff-bound coasts. Their heath-covered hills scarce deserve the name of mountains, though here and there called by the inhabitants "fjolds," or Fjelde (mountain rocks). The islands are destitute of wood, and exhibit frequent ling moors and desert tracts of heath. But there is also much, and by no means unfertile, cornland to be found; and an improved system of agriculture has made such advances, that the stranger is sometimes surprised, in these distant isles, by the sight of luxuriant fields of wheat.
The waves of the sea, and the powerful currents, have intersected the Orkneys with innumerable winding bays, or sounds. Besides Mainland, the chief island (first called by the Norwegians "Hrossey," and afterwards "Meginland," or the continent), the archipelago includes a great number of islands of different sizes, which spread themselves in a north-east direction from the north coast of Scotland. The farthest of the Orkneys is Fairhill, or Fair Isle (formerly "Fri^arey "). It lies almost midway between the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands, in the midst of the rapid current now called Sumburg Roost, but which the Norwegians in former times called Dynrost (from "rost," a maelstrom, or whirlpool); whence, again, the most southern promontory of the Shetland Islands has obtained the name of Dunrossness (Dynrasternes). The Shetland archipelago (the old Northern "Hjaltland," "Hjatland," or "Hetland"), like that of the Orkneys, forms a long-extended line, but differs from it in consisting principally of one large island, Mainland (" Meginland"), surrounded by a great number of proportionately small and insignificant ones.
The most southern point of Dunrossness, on Mainland, forms the promontory of Sumburg Head (" SunnboejarhoiRSi"), which, however, is of no very great height; indeed the highest mountain in Shetland is only about fifteen hundred feet above the sea. Athough the Shetland Islands, with regard to mountains, are not to be compared with the Faroe Isles, still they exhibit a sort of transition from the flatter Orkneys to the mountainous character of the Faroe group. Before the coasts of Shetland stand many high and ragged rocks, called "stacks " (old Norsk, "stackr"). The coasts themselves are steeper, and the mountains larger than in the Orkneys. On the other hand, however, the valleys are both longer and broader than the mountain valleys of the Faroe Islands. Heath and moorland abound, whilst the corn-fields are small, and the corn harvest in general very uncertain and difficult to gather. Fishing ia the most important source of profit for the inhabitants.
The Orkneys and the Shetland Isles were, as is well known, completely colonized by Norwegians in the ninth and tenth centuries. They were, however, known and inhabited much earlier. It is possible that the Shetland Islands were the "ultima Thule" spoken of by Roman authors in the first centuries after Christ; but it is certain that the Romans at that time knew the Orkneys by the name of "Orcades:" whence it appears that the primitive root Ork, in the later Norwegian name of the islands, is very ancient, and probably of Celtic origin. Before the arrival of the Norwegians, both the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands seem to have been inhabited by the same Pictish or Celtic race that was settled in the rest of Scotland. Of these older inhabitants memorials still exist in different kinds of antiquities of stone and bronze that are dug out of the earth, as well as in numerous ruins of castles, or Pictish towers, originally built of flag stones laid together, without any cement of loam or mortar. There are also cairns and stone circles; the most prominent amongst which are the "Stones of Stennis," on each side of Brogar Bridge, in Orkney. They are, like Stonehenge and Abury circle in England, surrounded with ditches and ramparts of earth; and, after Stonehenge, must be regarded as amongst the largest stone circles in the British Islands. The immense masses of erect stones are remarkable evidences both of the strength and of the religious enthusiasm of the old Celtic inhabitants; and it is no wonder that they made in ancient times such an impression on the Norwegians, on their arrival at these islands, as to induce them •to call the promontory on which the largest circle stands "Steinsnes" (Stones-naze) and the adjoining firth, " Steinsnesfjordr " (Stones-naze Firth, now Loch of Stennis).
No sooner had the Scandinavian Vikings settled themselves, in the ninth century, securely in these islands, than they became a central point for the Northmen's expeditions not only to the British Islands, but also to Iceland and Greenland. Thus when Floke Vilgerdeson, or "Ravnefioke," went on a voyage of discovery from Norway to Iceland, he landed on Hjaltland, or Shetland, in a bay which obtained from him the name of "Flokavagr." This bay must probably be sought on the east coast of Mainland, about Cat Firth (KattarfjortSr); for in its neighbourhood lay the Loch of Girlsta (originally "GeirhildarstaSir "), which is said to have obtained its name from the circumstance of Floke's daughter, Geirhilde, having been drowned in it during her father's short visit to the country. By degrees the islands became the rendezvous of a great number of discontented Norwegian emigrants, who, to avoid the new order of things, had withdrawn themselves from their old paternal home, and from this distant place of refuge continually harassed the coasts of Norway.
This induced King Harald Haarfager to undertake an expedition against the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles, as well as against the Hebrides, on the west coast of Scotland; all of which he suceeeded in subjugating. He gave the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles, as an earldom under the crown of Norway, to Ragnvald More-Jarl's family. This family produced some great men, who extended their dominion over large tracts in the adjacent kingdom of Scotland. The islands continued, however, to be the resort of many malcontent and fugitive Norwegians. The renowned Ganger-Rolf, the founder of the royal Norman house, is said to have dwelt a long time on them before he undertook his expedition against Normandy. When King