Orkney travel guide - prehistoric sites to visit
A personal travel guide and photo gallery of the Orkney Islands, with attractions, walks, accommodation, and heritage highlights.
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Scotland
Stones of Stenness


Orkney Stone Circles and other Ancient Sites

Covering Stone circles, chambered cairns, brochs, deserted villages, and more

Overview
Orkney is a paradise of the past. There are probably more ancient sites in Orkney than anywhere else in the UK, many are free entry, and most are uncrowded. Several of the most famous sites are clustered together near Loch Harray and form the Heart of Orkney World Heritage Site.

 

 Barnhouse Settlement
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Barnhouse Settlement A Neolithic village located on the shores of Loch Harray beside the Stones of Stennes circle and just a short distance from the Ring of Brogar. The village was inhabited from about 3200 BCE, suggesting that this may posssibly have been where the builders of Maes Howe, Brogar, and Stenness lived. There are several different sizes of hut, but nothing beyond the foundations remain.
Stenness, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: Park at the Stones of Stenness on the B9055 and follow a short path to the settlement.
Website: Barnhouse Settlement
Historic Scotland
OS HY307127

Photo Credit: David Ross
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Blackhammer Chambered Tomb
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Blackhammer Chambered Tomb A Neolithic chambered cairn dating to approximately 2500 BCE. Entry to the interior reveals an elongated corbeled chamber with upright partitions. The interior is unusuallly well lit due to plexiglass skylights inserted in the roof.
Tratland, Rousay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: On the B9064 1 mile west of the Trumland ferry landing. Signposted. Free entry.
Website: Blackhammer Chambered Tomb
Historic Scotland
OS HY414276

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Broch of Gurness
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Broch of Gurness One of the finest brochs in Scotland, Gurness stands on the shore looking across to Rousay. The very extensive remains include striking earth ramparts and the remains of several Iron Age buildings.
Aikerness, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: NW Kirkwall, off the A966
Website: Broch of Gurness
Phone: 0831 579478
Historic Scotland
Details of Broch of Gurness
OS HY 381268

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Brough of Birsay
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences We took some photos of this location that we'd like to share with you  

Brough of Birsay Birsay is a tidal island joined to the mainland by a causeway. On the island are extensive remains of both Pictish and Norse settlements, including a 12th century Norse cathedral. A small museum displays artefacts found during excavations. The location is superb, and the remains of buildings quite impressive..
Brough Head, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: Tidal island offshore from northwestern point of Mainland, Orkney. Reached at low tide by walking across a causeway. (Ask at local TIC in Stromness or Kirkwall for tide times, or at the village shop in Birsay.)
Website: Brough of Birsay
Historic Scotland
Details of Brough of Birsay - Photos of Brough of Birsay
OS HY239284

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn A Neolithic chambered tomb with four cells-once contained bones of men, dogs and oxen. Access on hands and knees.
Finstown, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: on A965
Website: Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY 364 128

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Dwarfie Stane
  

Dwarfie Stane The Dwarfie Stane is a fascinating 5000 year old block of red sandstone which has been cut to create a burial chamber. The stane lies in a valley near the northern tip of Hoy, between Rackwick and Quoyness. The stane is possibly the only British example of a rock-cut tomb.
Hoy, Quoyness, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: Near the north end of Hoy, between Quoyness and Rackwick

Website: Dwarfie Stane
Phone: 01856 811 397
Historic Scotland
OS HY244005

Photo Credit: Catherine Morgan, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Grain Earth-House
  

Grain Earth-House Iron Age earth-house with underground chamber supported on stone pillars.
Kirkwall, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 1 m (1.6 km) NW Kirkwall, A965
Website: Grain Earth-House
Historic Scotland
OS HY442117

Photo Credit: David Wyatt, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn
  

Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn Massive tomb. Long narrow chamber with 14 cells and wall engravings.
Holm of Papa Westray, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Website: Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY509518

Photo Credit: Adam Ward, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Knap of Howar
  

Knap of Howar Two Neolithic standing stone houses with stone cupboards and stalls.
Papa Westray, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Website: Knap of Howar
Historic Scotland
OS HY483518

Photo Credit: Hayley Green, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Knowe Of Yarso Chambered Cairn
  

Knowe Of Yarso Chambered Cairn Knowe of Yarso is a Neolithic chambered cairn on the south coast of Rousay island, facing across the straits to the Broch of Gurness on Orkney Mainland. The oval cairn is made up of concentric walls around a central chamber divided into three separate compartments.
Rousay, Frotoft, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 3 miles west of the Rousay ferry terminal, on the north side of the B9064. Take the regular Tingwall ferry service to Rousay from Orkney Mainland.

Website: Knowe Of Yarso Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY404279

Photo Credit: Colin Smith, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Links of Noltland
  

The Links of Noltland is an an area of sand dunes at the north end of Westray, within which are a rich array of prehistoric sites. The sand has helped to preserve the archaeological remains, which are only now being carefully excavated and catalogued.
Westray, Pierowall, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: On the north coast of the island of Westray. Take the regular ferry service from Kirkwall

Website: Links of Noltland
Historic Scotland
OS HY429494

Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Maes Howe Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Maes Howe Chambered Cairn The finest megalithic tomb in the British Isles, consisting of a large Neolithic mound, 26ft high, 115ft in diameter, encircled by a ditch, covering a stone-built 39 ft passage leading to large burial chamber with 2 cells. The tomb contains the richest collection of Viking runes in the UK.
Finstown, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 9 miles west of Kirkwall, on the A965
Website: Maes Howe Chambered Cairn
Phone: 01856 761 606
Historic Scotland
Details of Maes Howe Chambered Cairn
OS HY318128

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Midhowe Broch
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Midhowe Broch One of the finest Iron Age brochs in Scotland, located in a superb coastal location directly beside the chambered cairn of Midhowe. The central building measures 30 feet in diameter, with walls still standing to a height of 14 feet. This is easily one ofg the most impressive sites on Orkney, and well worth the journey to Rousay. A signposted path leads from the broch to Midhowe Chambered Cairn and past numerous other historic buildings along the shore.
Westness, Rousay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: Parking on the B9064 coastal road a few miles west of the ferry terminal. Well signposted, and easily visible from the parking lot. Walk downhill 5 minutes - good footwear advised. Free entry.
Website: Midhowe Broch
Historic Scotland
OS HY372306

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Midhowe Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Midhowe Chambered Cairn A huge Neolithic chambered tomb in an oval mound with 25 stalls. Midhowe is protected by a modern building, which has walkways over the tomb, proviing excellent views down into the chambers.
Rousay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Website: Midhowe Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY372304

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Mine Howe
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Mine Howe Access by steep stone steps to underground chamber, then another set of steps to a further underground chamber. Archaeologists date it from 200BC to 500AD. Its use is uncertain but thought to be religious. Bones, pottery and other artifacts were found in the chamber.
Tankerness, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: off A960 on minor road
Website: Mine Howe
OS HY512058

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Quoyness Chambered Cairn
  

Quoyness Chambered Cairn Megalithic tomb with retaining walls, passage, main chamber and cells. Neolithic.
Sandsay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Website: Quoyness Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY676378

Photo Credit: Callum Black, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Rennibister Earth-House
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Rennibister Earth-House Access by trap door and ladder down into a chamber that has 5 wall recesses and an entrance passage. Human bones were found here. The earth house is thought to be of Iron Age date, and bears a close resemblance to nearby Grain Earth House.
Finstown, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: On the A965, western Mainland, situated behind a farmhouse
Website: Rennibister Earth-House
Historic Scotland
OS HY397127

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Ring of Brodgar
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences We took some photos of this location that we'd like to share with you  

Ring of Brodgar One of the most beautifully situated prehistoric monuments in Britain, the stone circle of Brodgar stands on a low rise beside Loch Harray on Orkney Mainland. The Ring daes to about 2500 BC. There are 27 stones still standing, though it is estimated that there were originally up to 60 stones. The circle is set within a high earthen bank which gives across the loch to the circular burial mound of Maes Howe. A short distance away are the Stones of Stenness, and recent excavations have revealed a huge ceremonial complex of buildings near the circle.
Stenness, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 5 miles east of Stromness, on the B9055
Website: Ring of Brodgar
Historic Scotland
Details of Ring of Brodgar - Photos of Ring of Brodgar
OS HY294134

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Skara Brae Prehistoric Village
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences We took some photos of this location that we'd like to share with you  

Skara Brae Prehistoric Village Skara Brae is the best preserved group of Stone Age (main periods of settlement between 3100-2500BC) houses in western Europe. Long covered by sand, they were uncovered by a storm in 1850. The stone houses, linked by covered passageways, contain stone furniture. There is a modern museum explaining the history of the site and showing whjat life was like for the inhabitants 5,000 years ago.
Skaill, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: on B9056 NW Kirkwall
Website: Skara Brae Prehistoric Village
Phone: 01856 841 815
Historic Scotland
Details of Skara Brae Prehistoric Village - Photos of Skara Brae Prehistoric Village
OS HY231187

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Stones of Stenness Circle and Henge
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Stones of Stenness Circle and Henge The dramatic remains of a stone circle surrounded by remains of a circular earthwork. There are several extremely tall and slender stones, with several small and squat stones. Stenness is sited in a beautiful loch-side location, a short walk from the Ring of Brodgar.
Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 5 m (8 km) NE Stromness
Website: Stones of Stenness Circle and Henge
Historic Scotland
Details of Stones of Stenness Circle and Henge
OS HY306126

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Taversoe Tuick Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Taversoe Tuick Chambered Cairn Neolithic chambered mound with two burial chambers.
Rousay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Historic Scotland
OS HY426276

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Tomb of the Eagles
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences We took some photos of this location that we'd like to share with you  

Tomb of the Eagles Two attractions in one; the Tomb is a chambered cairn dating to approximately 3000 BCE. When excavated it was found to contain the bones of over 340 people, and the remains of sea eagles, pottery, bead, and stone tools. These artefacts can be viewed - and handled - in the modern visitor centre. The Bronze Age Burnt Mound (also known as Liddle Burnt Mound) consists of a burnt stone and refuse mound with an associated dwelling. The dwelling, which had a form of running water, may have been used as a kind of ceremonial sweat lodge. The Tomb of the Eagles is also known as Isbister Chambered Cairn.
Burwick, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: In the south east corner of South Ronaldsay, 7 miles south of St Margaret's Hope. Signposted off the A961. Access to the tomb is an adventure; you lie on a wheeled dolly and pull yourself along the short passage with a rope.
Website: Tomb of the Eagles
Email: info@tomboftheeagles.co.uk
Phone: 01856 831 339
Details of Tomb of the Eagles
OS ND470846

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Unstan Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Unstan Chambered Cairn A Neolithic mound in a lochside setting, the mound at Unstan covers a communal stone burial chamber divided into 5 compartments. Pottery was found in the chamber, and the design of the pottery was so unique that it gave its name 'Unstan ware' to similar finds elsewhere.
Stromness, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 3.5 m northeast of Stromness, on a farm road off A965. The road is signposted from the A965, but nevertheless it is easy to miss, so keep your eyes open!
Website: Unstan Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
Details of Unstan Chambered Cairn
OS HY282117

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn A chambered Neolithic (3500-2500BC) tomb in a cairn with 3 concentric walls and a burial chamber. There are excellent views from the hillside.
Kirkwall, Mainland, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: 2 m (3 km) W Kirkwall, then 1 m on foot from the road; access by trap door and ladder
Website: Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn
Historic Scotland
OS HY409121

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 Yetnasteen Standing Stone
We had the pleasure of visiting here, and our information is based on our personal experiences  

Yetnasteen Standing Stone A solitary standing stone measuring over 7 feet in height. Unusually, the stone stands at the bottom of a hill, rather than in an exposed, elevated position where it might more easily be seen. Legend tells that on New Years Day the stone walks down to the nearby loch to drink. The name of the stone derives from Old Norse 'Jotunna-steinn', meaning 'Giant Stone', and when you see Yetnasteen it is easy to see why it was so named.
Yetnasteen, Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Attraction Type: Prehistoric
Location: Parking for several cars at the end of the minor road at Faraclett. Signposted path from the parking area. Good footwear advised. Accessible at any time.
OS HY447327

Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Accommodation: nearest hotels - nearest Self catering


 

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Featured Orkney Accommodation

Merkister Hotel
Situated on the shores of Harray Loch, the Merkister hotel stands in its own grounds in the most wonderful location, commanding impressive views of this famous loch and its surroundings. We are in the perfect location for your visit, 15 minute drive from the main towns of Kirkwall and Stromness, … more >>