Orkney Archaeology Tours - for your perfect Orkney holiday. All-inclusive small group holidays & private tours led by archaeologists. Friendly, fun & informative tours with a maximum of 8 participants, based at a comfortable seafront hotel.
We specialize in exclusive tours of Orkney, concentrating on the wonderful archaeology but also showing you as much as possible of our beautiful islands. We offer all-inclusive small group holidays and private tours with specialist archaeologist guides, staying at comfortable hotels serving good local food. There are no hidden extras on our tours – simply relax and unwind and let us take care of everything.
The maximum group size for our holidays is just eight people with all tours conducted in our own comfortable executive touring vehicle. With such a small group we can visit sites off the beaten track and you benefit from the personal touch. This makes our ‘Orkney Adventure’ holidays the ideal way to see the best of Orkney with a small party of like-minded travellers.
We use the Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, as the base for all our group holidays. This harbour front hotel has been recently renovated and all rooms are en-suite with a choice of double, twin or large single, with a lift to all floors. You can relax in the evening over a hearty meal prepared using local Orkney produce. On our holidays you are not restricted to the usual basic ‘tour group menu’. You instead have a completely free choice from the hotel’s extensive à la carte menu, with fresh local produce such as hand-dived scallops, crab and salmon or of course a decent steak from one of our wonderful grass fed beef cattle, followed perhaps by Orkney fudge cheesecake.
Orkney has spectacular archaeology: the world famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae, Maeshowe chambered tomb and the amazing henge monuments of Brodgar and Stenness – all part of our World Heritage Site - are just the beginning. There are well over a thousand known archaeological sites, not to mention Orkney's many other attractions: abundant wildlife and birds, wildflowers in profusion, spectacular coastal scenery, tranquil inland lochs, traditional music, history and our unique island culture, with its strong Norse influences.
Since Orkney is a group of islands we don’t restrict our holidays to just the Mainland (the largest island of the group). Some of the islands we visit are linked to each other by the Churchill barriers (originally built to protect the great naval harbour of Scapa Flow) whilst others are reached by modern vehicle and passenger ferries. We take the short ferry ride to the islands of Rousay and Hoy as part of our ‘Orkney Adventure’ holidays - part of the fun of visiting the islands is the ferry ride through our sheltered waters, with opportunities for wildlife spotting from the boats. There are always seabirds and seals, but if you’re exceptionally lucky you might see a porpoise or even an Orca.
There are often ongoing excavations in Orkney, and we include visits to these if any are accessible during your holiday. The most famous is the excavation of the Neolithic site of the Ness of Brodgar, situated between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar in the middle of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. If your chosen ‘Orkney Adventure’ holiday coincides with the dig season we will of course include a visit to the site as an extra in your holiday itinerary.
Subject to funding the 2016 Ness of Brodgar dig dates should be from around the 4th July to the 26th August, but these dates are not finally confirmed until much nearer the time, as fundraising in as ongoing process from year to year. We therefore cannot offer any guarantees that a particular holiday will include a visit to the Ness of Brodgar excavation.
Please note that outside of the excavation season it is not possible to visit the dig site, since it is covered over to protect it until the following year.
The ongoing excavation at the Ness of Brodgar is dependent on support from individual and corporate sponsors (including us), local fundraising, members of the public and a small army of volunteers. The Ness has two charitable bodies, the Ness of Brodgar Trust, a registered Scottish Charity, and the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar, Inc., a US tax-exempt 501 (3) (c) charity, who both exist to help in this fundraising effort.
If you take one of our 7-night ‘Orkney Adventure’ small group holidays you will visit all of the sites and attractions described below - visit our website for full details and our current availability http://www.orkneyarchaeologytours.co.uk
Sites on the Orkney Mainland and linked South Isles
Barony Mill, Birsay: the last working water mill in Orkney – in winter a commercial mill, grinding traditional bere barley, oats and Orkney wheat, from May to September a visitor attraction.
Broch of Gurness: a 2000-year-old Iron Age settlement, the central tower still surrounded by its village.
Brough of Birsay: an island with Pictish & Norse settlement and monastery, accessible only at low tide.
Churchill Barriers: part of Scapa Flow’s Second World War defences, four barriers now with roads linking Mainland Orkney to Burray and South Ronaldsay.
Cuween Chambered Cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic tomb that, when opened in the 19th century, contained the remains of 24 dogs in addition to eight people.
Earl’s Palace, Birsay: the 16th century palace built by Earl Robert Stewart.
Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces, Kirkwall: the 12th century Bishop’s palace, built for the cathedral’s first bishop, and the early 17th century Earl’s Palace.
Earl’s Bu, Orphir: remains of a 12th century Norse farmstead featured in the Orkneyinga Saga as the scene of a great Earl Paul’s yuletide feast, which ended in a notorious murder.
Italian Chapel: the world famous ‘miracle of camp 60’, built with remarkable dedication from scavenged materials by Italian prisoners of war.
Kirbister Farm Museum: the last surviving farmstead in Orkney to retain the traditional ‘firehoose’ with central hearth and fireback.
Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital: the base for all our tours, with a pretty seafront ideal for evening strolls, a wide variety of shops selling local crafts, and a fine museum.
Maeshowe: the finest example of a Neolithic chambered tomb in Britain, complete with the largest collection of Norse runic inscriptions outside Scandinavia.
Mine Howe: where 2000 years ago a mysterious chamber was carved into the heart of a glacial mound, and you descend 29 steps into the underworld.
Rennibister Earth-house: an Iron Age subterranean chamber, discovered by chance in 1926 when a threshing machine fell through its roof.
Round Kirk, Orphir: the remains of an early 12th century round church, featured in the Orkneyinga Saga.
St. Magnus’ Cathedral: a magnificent 12th century sandstone cathedral, built by Earl Rognvald in honour of his martyred uncle St. Magnus.
Scapa Flow: the best natural harbour in Britain and the main base of the Royal Navy in both World Wars.
Skaill House: an early 17th century laird’s house, the home of William Watt, the discoverer of Skara Brae.
Skara Brae: the world famous 5000-year-old Neolithic village on the shores of the Atlantic, uncovered after a great storm, part of Orkney’s World Heritage Site.
Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar: two magnificent 5000-year-old henge monuments, set between the lochs of Harray and Stenness and a major component of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
Stromness: charming small town with winding stone flagged streets, home to the Pier Arts Centre, renowned for its modern art collection, several other art galleries and a museum, together with shops selling a range of local crafts.
The Island of Hoy
Dwarfie Stane: an immense block of sandstone hollowed out using stone tools, possibly Britain’s only rock cut Neolithic tomb.
Lyness Naval Museum & Scapa Flow Visitor Centre: housed in the former Royal Naval pumping station with all the original equipment, this museum houses a fine collection of relics of Orkney’s naval past.
Martello Tower & Hackness Battery: built during the Napoleonic Wars to protect convoys assembling in Longhope Sound from attack by American and French privateers.
The Island of Rousay
Blackhammer Cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic tomb
Midhowe Broch: a fine example of an Iron Age settlement, looking out over Eynhallow Sound.
Midhowe Cairn: known as the great ship of the dead – the largest of Orkney’s Neolithic stalled cairns.
Taversöe Tuick Cairn: an unusual two storey burial mound, discovered in 1898 during the construction of a summer seat for the laird’s wife.
Please visit our website for more information http://www.orkneyarchaeologytours.co.uk