The Orkneys are a group of around 70 islands in the far north of Scotland. The largest island in the archipelago is Mainland with around 14,000 inhabitants. The fertile soil and mild maritime climate attracted settlers to the region as far back as the prehistoric era. The stone houses of Skara Brae, Europe's best-preserved Neolithic village, are believed to be over 5,000 years old. The landscape consists of rolling farmland, heaths and moors. The islands are considered a paradise for ornithologists, hikers and fishermen. Visitors should not neglect to sample the local malt whisky.