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[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"ORPHIR, a parish and post-office village in the S. district of Mainland, or Pomona, Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland, 7 miles S.W. of Kirkwall. It comprises that portion of Pomona bounded on the S. and W. by Scalps Flow, together with the island of Cava, and a curiously formed rock or skerry, called the Barrel of Butter. It was called by the Northmen Jorfior, corrupted into Orphir, from jord, "land", and fior, "fire", because the large peat mosses in the eastern part of the parish supplied peat for fuel to the surrounding district.

The parish, which is about 7 miles long by 3½ broad, is traversed by the road from Kirkwall to Stromness, and is bounded on the N. and N.W. by a range of hills, the highest summit of which, Wart Hill, is about 700 feet above sea level. The parish is advantageously situated for commerce, having a coast line, including sinuosities, of near 12 miles, in general bold and rocky, but indented with bays or coves, one of which, called the Bay of Houton, forms a safe harbour for small vessels.

Near the centre of the parish is the Loch of Kirbister, between 2 and 3 miles in circumference, and abounding with excellent sea-trout, and in various parts of the parish are mineral springs, the most celebrated of which is Scoridale, noted for its tonic, diuretic, and antiscorbutic properties. A large part of the surface is hilly, pasture, or moss, but in parts near the coast it is fertile, the soil being a rich loam mixed with stones.

In favoured localities the crops are good, and the fisheries on the coast are very prolific. There are quarries of flagstone, sandstone, and trap, and bog-iron ore is abundant. The principal landed proprietors have houses on their estates, the chief seats being the Hall of Clairstran, the property of the late Lord Armadale, and Graemsay, of Sir G. E. Honyman, Bart. From the summit of a hill near the church a view is commanded of all the Orkneys, embracing 25 islands, and parts of Caithness and Sutherland.

The parish is in the presbytery of Cariston and synod of Orkney. The minister's stipend is 8158, with glebe. The poor's estate produces about 812 per annum. The parish church was erected in 1829. There is a Free church, also two schools maintained by mortifications. In the churchyard is a stone pile, 18 feet in diameter and 20 feet high, rudely resembling the Pantheon at Rome, called Girth House, and supposed to have been an ancient Romish chapel, of which several existed in this part of the country. In the district of Swambister is an ancient circular tower 180 feet in circumference, supposed to have been the stronghold of Sueno Boerstrop, who was murdered by Paul, the Norwegian Count of Orkney. There are also barrows and tumuli in various parts of the parish."

"CAVA, one of the Mainland Orkney islands of the Orkney and Shetland group, 2 miles S. of Houton Head, in the mainland, and forming part of the parish of Orphir. It is 1 mile in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth."

"HOUTON HOLM, one of the islands of the South Orkney Isles, coast of Scotland, 1 mile S. of Pomona."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]