During Middle Devonian time a thick succession of organic-rich, mainly lacustrine flagstones developed within the Orcadian Basin. These petroleum source rocks crop out in northern Scotland. Nineteen samples were studied using organic petrology, palynology and organic geochemistry in order to characterize kerogen type, depositional environment, thermal maturity and petroleum generation potential. Corg, carbonate and sulphur content as well as hydrogen index (HI) values are quite variable (e.g. HI from 79 to 744 mg HC/g Corg). Based on biomarker data, organic material mainly originates from aquatic organic matter deposited under lacustrine conditions with oxygen-depleted, but not permanently anoxic, bottom waters. Petrography reveals small quantities of vitrinite particles, indicating minor input of terrestrial material. This is supported by biomarker data and the palynofacies, which is characterized by a high amount of oil-prone amorphous organic matter (AOM) and generally few miospores. Maturity of the succession studied in Caithness and Orkney is between immature and oil mature. One-dimensional basin modelling shows that a significant remaining hydrocarbon generation potential exists within the Middle Devonian succession. In contrast to the low hydrocarbon generation in the onshore area, offshore oil generation was significant, especially after deposition of thick Upper Jurassic – Upper Cretaceous sediments. At the end of Cretaceous time, hydrocarbon generation ceased due to uplift. The contribution to known oil fields from the Devonian flagstones is a realistic scenario, including a contribution to the Beatrice oil field in the south of the modelled area.