Of seas and ships and Spanish sailors

Orkney sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea and is subjected to the turbulence of both! There are thought to be more than 5,000 shipwrecks in Orkney waters, victims of tide races, whirlpools, strong currents and treacherous skerries. Some of the wrecks are said to be part of the famous Spanish Armada of 1588, the remnants of which sailed across the top of Scotland after being defeated by bad weather and the navy of Elizabeth I of England. The Spanish ships left a legacy of flotsam (there are some very fancy bits of furniture about the islands!), knitting patterns (the famous Shetland/Fairisle designs, allegedly), and the Spaniards themselves, who stayed in Orkney, married local lassies, and whose descendants still live in Orkney today, many of them on the island of Westray (known as ‘the Dons’).

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