Departing quayside Kirkwall, we enjoy a panoramic drive along the scenic North Sea coastline to Orkney’s West Mainland, location of the remarkable Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site. Awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1999, the site comprises a collection of monuments which provide unparalleled insight into the way of life in the remote archipelago in the far north of Scotland 5,000 years ago and are unquestionably among the most important Neolithic finds in Western Europe.
Our first highlight is the imposing Standing Stones of Stenness where we have a slow drive by for views of one of the earliest stone circles in Britain before visiting the great ceremonial standing stone circle known as Ring of Brodgar. Originally comprising more than 60 megaliths and spanning an area of 8,435 square metres, the Ring is the third largest stone circle in Britain.
We then continue to Skara Brae, the most exciting and best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. The remains of this 5,000 year-old Neolithic village are beautifully preserved and interpreted in a modern visitor centre. Lying beside the pretty, sandy crescent of the Bay of Skaill, this Stone Age settlement was completely buried under sand for thousands of years, until suddenly revealed during a fierce storm in 1850. Amongst the fascinating relics found here are tools, beads, pottery, and whalebone artefacts, spanning a period of approximately 600 years, all based on the maritime economy. Looking across the village, it gives us a good idea of how it looked all those centuries ago, and close inspection of the houses gives a unique insight into how our ancient ancestors lived.
The hardship of life in Skara Brae can be directly contrasted to Orkney's finest manor house, Skaill House, which is located nearby and constitutes the next stop of our journey through ancient Orkney. A powerful bishop built this residence on an ancient graveyard in 1620.
Finally we return to Kirkwall via Historic Scapa Flow, pausing to take photos from the coach. We hear stories of dramatic wartime experiences that make this one of the most renowned stretches of water in world.
- Duration: 4 hours
- Language: English
- Requirements: Comfortable walking shoes are recommended
- Walking information: Walking distance to visit Skara Brae and Skaill House is approximately 1 kilometre
- Not suitable for wheelchair users