In 1469, James III married Margaret, the young daughter of Christian I of Denmark and Norway. Her father pledged Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish crown until such time as the dowry was settled in full. As he was crippled with debts, the dowry was never paid. So, in 1472, the islands became part of Scotland, creating the kingdom of Scotland as we know it today.
The Norse influences are still strong. Gaelic was never spoken here, and the place names (and many family names) all have Norse derivations. Both sets of islands are nearer Oslo than they are London, and there have even been occasional calls for the islands to be independent of Scotland.
The Brough Ness on South Ronaldsay in Orkney is no more than eight miles from the Scottish mainland, while the Shetland Islands sit much further out to sea, with the distance between Sumburgh Head and the...