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The Round Kirk at the Earl's Bu
Orphir, Orkney

Orkney Archaeology Tours - Private Day Tours

Price on Request

Departure days

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September — April

Private day tours led by archaeologists. Available from mid-September to late April. From May - September we offer all-inclusive small group holidays, please see our website for details.

Our private day tours are suitable for guests with limited time in Orkney or who may prefer to arrange their own accommodation. We do not offer shared group day tours, neither do we add people to an existing booking, so your tour will be for your party only, up to a maximum of eight people. This allows us to offer you a high-quality tour tailored to your exact requirements, guided for the day by your own personal archaeologist guide.

We also offer private all-inclusive tours of any length which can be customised to your exact requirements. Our 4-night, 3-day 'Orkney Insights' archaeology tour shows you the best of the Orkney Mainland, and the linked South Isles including the Churchill Barriers. Our 6-night, 5-day 'Orkney Experience' archaeology tour includes full day excursions to the neighbouring islands of Rousay and Hoy.

Itinerary: - we would be happy to suggest an itinerary for your tour, but please let us know if you have any particular preferences. If you just have one day in Orkney then we would suggest around Scapa Flow to the Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and Maeshowe chambered tomb. 

Summary of some of Orkney’s sites and attractions

Please note that Rousay and Hoy are separate islands reached by a short ferry crossing and require a full day each to visit. Some of the sites are only accessible by those who are reasonably mobile - please let us know if you have any health issues when you book your tour.

Broch of Gurness: a 2000-year-old Iron Age settlement, the central tower still surrounded by its village, situated dramatically on the edge of Eynhallow Sound.

Brough of Birsay: an island with a Norse settlement and monastery - the original heart of the Norse Earldom of Orkney. (N. B. This is a tidal island and access cannot be guaranteed).

Churchill Barriers: built during the Second World War to protect Scapa Flow from submarine attack.

Corrigall Farm Museum: (Closed November – March) a traditional 18th century Orcadian farmstead, complete with peat fire, box beds and livestock.

Cuween chambered cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic burial mound that, when opened in the 19th century, contained the remains of 24 dogs in addition to eight people.

Dwarfie Stane, Hoy: an immense block of sandstone, hollowed out 5000 years ago to form Britain’s only rock cut tomb.

The Earl’s Palace, Birsay: the 16th century palace built by Earl Robert Stewart.

The Earl’s and Bishop’s Palaces, Kirkwall: (Closed October – March) the 12th century Bishop’s palace, built for the cathedral’s first bishop, and the 17th century Earl’s Palace, described by the Royal Commission as ‘possibly the most mature and accomplished piece of Renaissance architecture left in Scotland’.

Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk: remains of a 12th century Norse farmstead mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga as the scene of a great Christmas feast and notorious murder. Adjacent are the remains of the Round Kirk, the chapel of the Earl’s Bu.

Kirbister Farm Museum: (Closed November – March) a traditional farmstead with the last surviving example of a central hearth and fire back.

Italian Chapel: the ‘miracle of camp 60’, built with remarkable dedication from scavenged materials by Italian prisoners of war.

Lyness Naval Museum, Hoy: (Closed November – March) a fine collection of relics of Orkney’s naval past.

Maeshowe: the finest example of a Neolithic chambered tomb in Britain, part of the World Heritage Site – entered through a long passageway into a huge central chamber, complete with the largest collection of Norse runic inscriptions outside Scandinavia.

Martello Tower and Hackness Battery, Hoy: (Closed October – March) built during the Napoleonic Wars to protect convoys assembling in Scapa Flow from attack by American and French privateers.

Midhowe broch, Rousay: a fine example of an Iron Age settlement, looking out over the ferocious tidal race of Eynhallow Sound, with the ruins of other brochs on either side.

Midhowe cairn, Rousay: known as the great ship of the dead – the largest and best preserved of the Neolithic stalled cairns.

Rennibister Earth-house: an Iron Age subterranean chamber, discovered by chance in 1926 when a threshing machine fell through the roof.

St. Magnus’ Cathedral: the magnificent 12th century sandstone cathedral, a legacy of Orkney’s days as a Norse Earldom, which dominates the centre of Kirkwall. N.B. St. Magnus’ Cathedral is a working cathedral and as such is used for weddings and funerals in addition to worship – these activities take priority over visitor access.

Scapa Flow: the best natural harbour in Britain and the main base of the Royal Navy in both World Wars, notorious for the Grand Scuttle of the German Fleet in 1919, and the Royal Oak disaster in 1939.

Skaill House: (Closed November – March) an early 17th century laird’s house, the home of William Watt, the 19th century discoverer of Skara Brae.

Skara Brae: the world-famous Neolithic village on the shores of the Atlantic - another part of our World Heritage Site. Here you can imagine life 5000 years ago exactly as it was – the village is not a reconstruction but completely original.

Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar: two magnificent 5000-year-old henge monuments – stone circles surrounded by a bank and a ditch – a type of monument unique to Britain, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

Taversöe Tuick cairn, Rousay: an unusual two storey burial mound, discovered in 1898 during the construction of a summer seat.

Unstan cairn: a 5000-year-old Neolithic burial mound - it gave its name to the ‘Unstan ware’ pottery type.

About Us

Tour leader Dr Caz Mamwell BSc MA PhD FSA Scot is a professional archaeologist who has worked in archaeology since graduating from the University of Bradford in 1985. She gained her MA (with distinction) in Archaeological Practice from University of the Highlands and Islands. Her PhD research on the Orcadian Bronze Age was undertaken through the University of Edinburgh, resulting in a thesis entitled 'It rained a lot and nothing much happened: Settlement and Society in Bronze Age Orkney'.  

Tour leader Dr Dave Lawrence BSc MSc PhD FSA Scot is a professional archaeologist who has worked in archaeology since graduating from the University of Bradford in 1985, where he returned to complete an MSc (with distinction) in Human Osteology and Palaeopathology (he also has an MSc in Marine Resource Management from Heriot Watt University). His PhD, also with the University of Bradford, was entitled 'Orkney’s First Farmers: Reconstructing biographies from osteological analysis to gain insights into life and society in a Neolithic community on the edge of Atlantic Europe'. Dave is also the osteoarchaeologist for ORCA – the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology.

Please visit our website for more information

Contact details

Orkney Archaeology Tours
Bayview
Birsay
Orkney
Scotland
KW17 2LR
Starting
Kirkwall Orkney Stromness
Length
Bespoke
Transport
Driver guide
Type
Bespoke Private
Languages
English
Themes
Archaeology History Island Hopping

Attractions

Tour company information

Orkney Archaeology Tours

We are the only tour company in Orkney to be run by archaeologists, who live and work here all year round and have in depth understanding of Orkney’s archaeology, cultural traditions and history. 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, 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.

Opening times

All year

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