Places to Visit on Orkney -1
Skara Brae - A Neolithic Settlement
Orkney has a rich heritage and is just awash with places to visit. It is so difficult to choose a one to recommend but to start out I have gone for the most famous one. As I live on the West Mainland of Orkney I have visited here time and time again with both friends and family who visit us. I never tire of seeing Skara Brae and I will happily go back anytime.
Skara Brae is Orkney’s most famous archaeological site and is first on most visitors lists of places to see. It is a Neolithic village built from local stone and approximately 5000 years old. It does make me think of the Flintstones when I see the stone beds and the stone dressers. It had lain buried near the shore for centuries until a violent storm in 1850 uncovered part of it. It is now a world famous site of great archaeological importance and part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
There is a visitor centre near by which offers a short video presentation before leading you through to a small display of artefacts found on the site and a children’s educational area. I do like the presentation but feel the museum section could be a better. After this you are directed outside. A replica of the most complete house to be found has been built just outside the centre, along with a replica of the covered passages that linked the houses. You can wander around inside here and get a feel for what life must have been like in those long gone days. The house even has what is hypothesised to be the first inside loo!
At the site itself you only get to view it from above, on a path constructed around the outside. Sadly, much as you would love to, you cannot actually get in among the ruins any more, I assume due to the damage being caused by the constant stream of visitors.
Do be careful if you are taking young children with you (I speak as a paranoid Grandmother here) as there are a few drops into the village that are not very well fenced off. I would also recommend going on a nice day as it is located right on the west coast and the wind can howl in off the Atlantic at quite a rate, this can make it very chilly as well. I must admit that my first visit was in January, in the middle of a gale, with a friend. We were alternately blasted with cold winds, drenched with rain and pelted with hailstones. We even stopped to get the warden to take a photo of us. I think she thought we were mad. They did warm us up with hot chocolate and biscuits when we got back in. even though the café was closed.
The café has been a little hit and miss. I have had some great food and some average food, but nothing horrendous. But at least it is there for a hot drink on a cold day. If it’s a nice day try the Orkney Ice Cream – Lovely! There is gift a shop selling the usual “Scottish” memorabilia, but also some wonderful jewellery and gifts from local crafts people. A selection of Orkney related books are also for sale.
Orkney Guide Book
The site is managed by Historic Scotland and, if you are likely to be visiting some of their other sites on Orkney, it may well be worth enquiring about the Explorer Pass. This would reduce your overall costs considerably especially if you are family or group (you do need to buy one each). The other option, if you either live in, or visit, Scotland on a regular basis, is to join Historic Scotland. You can get a Family membership for a small monthly amount. We do this as we can take our grandchildren in with us for free when we visit any Historic Scotland place.
For more information visit Historic Scotland.
Orkney Islands KW16 3LR, UK