Orkney is a group of islands located off the north coast of Scotland. It is known for its natural beauty, rich history, and ancient monuments with a strong Viking heritage and local culture influenced by both Scottish and Norse traditions.
Orkney has some of the best archaeology in the world. The many sites to visit include, Skara Brae – a 5,000 year old Neolithic Village, the Ring of Brodgar -Britain’s third largest ring of standing stones, the Standing Stones of Stenness – some of Orkney’s tallest standing stones and Maeshowe Burial Tomb is the finest example of a chambered tomb in Europe.
In July and August you can visit the fascinating excavation of the Ness of Brodgar, where every year there are more fascinating finds. Tomb of the Otters or Banks Tomb is very interesting down at the south end of South Ronaldsay.
The Iron age site of the Broch of Gurness includes the remains of the village around the Broch, dating back to between 200 and 100 BC.
The earth houses in Orkney, Rennibister and Grain Earth House, are mysterious underground buildings resembling burial tombs but some think may have been for storage.
Days of the Lairds
The days of the Lairds in Orkney gave us the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall, an example of renaissance architecture. Skaill House, near Skara Brae, originally dating from the 17th Century, was the home of William Watt in 1850, when he uncovered the nearby Neolithic village. Kirkwall has a wealth of history from the same era, including the Girnel that was used as a grain store, and Tankerness House – the town house of the Baikie Lairds from Tankerness, this is now our Orkney Museum.
The outer islands in Orkney also have a wealth of history and many archaeological sites.
Rousay has the Midhowe neolithic tomb and Broch site, and Taversoe Tuick and Blackhammar neolithic tombs.
Hoy is home to the Naval Museum and Cemetery, also the neolithic Dwarfie Stane, a rock cut tomb and Hackness Battery and Martello Tower. All of the islands have something to offer.
WW1 & WW2
During the first and second world war the great natural harbour of Scapa Flow was home to the British Naval Fleet and was also where the German High Seas Fleet was interned, and scuttled at the end of the First World War.
The legacy of these eras is present all around the islands, from coastal gun batteries, the Churchill Barriers and the remains of blockships to the beautiful Italian Chapel, built by Italian POWs
Food & Drink
Orkney is well known for it’s food and drink. The Islands have whisky distilleries – Scapa Whisky Distillery and Highland Park. We also have two Breweries in Orkney, the Orkney Brewery and Swanney Brewery – both winning many awards for their ales. Let’s not forget Orkney Wine – also an award winning drink where they also make spiced John Gow Rum. Now we have Gin Distilleries who make fabulous Gin.
We have some of the best beef in Britain with the lovely Aberdeen Angus at the top of the list. Why not try our North Ronaldsay Lamb with it unique taste – the sheep live on the seashore, eating seaweed.
Folklore & Crafts
Folklore is also a huge part of life in Orkney with many stories from the Norse period told around the fireside. From tales like Assipattle and the Stour Worm to Press Gangs hunting down men to fight for King and country.
Crafts are a part of modern day life in Orkney. Making Orkney Chairs is an age old craft, Knitting with North Ronaldsay Wool, Jewellery making, Wood Turning, Embroidery, Sewing, Printing and many more.
Nature is in abundance throughout the islands. The highlights include:
Birds of prey
What my clients have said about my Orkney tours
“Jean met six of us at Stromness and delivered us safely back to St Margaret’s Hope four days later. She gave us a wonderful three and a half days of touring, was indefatigable, patient and extremely knowledgeable throughout, and showed us sights large and small with grace and friendliness. We all had a wonderful time – Orkney never disappoints but this was the best trip I have been on. Well worth while.”