The islands of Orkney have been populated for thousands of years, and West Mainland contains Neolithic relics which are unsurpassed in Europe. The Heart of Neolithic Orkney encompasses the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, the Maeshowe tomb and Skara Brae, along with other local excavated and unexcavated sites.
The stone circles of Brodgar and Stenness are perfect representations of Orkney’s ancient heritage, dating back to 3100 BC and 2500 BC respectively. Although not all of the original stones still stand, you will be in awe of the effort expended in the creation of these vast rings.
Maeshowe was also built using extraordinary Stone Age construction skills, and is the grandest chambered tomb on Orkney. Viking raiders left their mark on Maeshowe in the 12th century, and you can still see their remarkable runic graffiti. The original purpose of these structures is unknown, but it is believed that they could be part of a large ceremonial area. It is thought that the passing of the year may have played an important role in ritual, and if you visit at the summer or winter solstice, the precise alignment of these monuments in relation to the sun may convince you of this theory.
Learn more about Orkney's Viking heritage on a Stromness Heritage Walk. Wander through the island's largest town and discover more about the Orcadians' nordic ancestors alongside the Napoleonic history of Scapa Flow, the islands' whaling industry and their connection to the Hudsons Bay Company in Canada. Experience Orkney's rich storytelling culture and spend an evening gathered around a roasting peat fire at Via House Studio where you'll hear entrancing folk tales and myths that have been passed down through generations of islanders in their native dialect.
Explore Skara Brae, an impressive complex of Neolithic homes constructed around 3000 BC, pre-dating even the Egyptian pyramids! Concealed beneath sand dunes until 1850, these dwellings provide an incomparable insight into life in Orkney at this time and are a must-see on any trip to these islands.
No one can know what life was like for people on these islands thousands of years ago, but thanks to these extraordinary ruins you can get a strong impression of the world of Neolithic Orkney.