Outside the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site with its world-class and world renowned monuments (Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe and Skara Brae and the more recently discovered Ness of Brodgar), there are a staggering number of other major archaeological sites across Orkney. There are so many remains it is impossible to mention all the sites in Orkney whose rich legacy spans more than 5500 years. Historic Scotland, Visit Orkney and Orkney Islands Council produce leaflets detailing many of the sites of interest, as do isles publications and there are many books detailing the county’s fascinating history. There appear to be more visible remains in Orkney’s landscape than elsewhere in the UK and scratch the surface, as archaeologists do every year, and there are new finds.
The Ness of Brodgar which is open for excavation for a six week period beginning in July each year, throws up new and exciting finds regularly, and its scale and sophistication suggest that Orkney may have been the cultural centre of this country thousands of years ago.
Recent discoveries at the Ness of Brodgar include the earliest known examples of grooved ware pottery and walls painted with colour. Elsewhere, the Orkney Venus, or Westray Wife, was found at the Links of Noltland in Westray. She is the oldest found representation of a human figure in Scotland. A Stone Age tomb, containing a 5000-year-old skull was discovered in a garden at Banks in South Ronaldsay in October 2010.
Archaeologists carry out annual digs in the summer at several important sites including the Ness of Brodgar, Links of Noltland, Wyre and Windwick, South Ronaldsay. And marine archaeology projects investigating underwater sites are ongoing. There are many specialists in Orkney offering commercial archaeology services and archaeology holidays and Orkney Archaeological Society, a charity which hosts guided walks and talks.
Important sites to visit in Orkney not mentioned on other orkney.com web pages include:
- Ness of Brodgar (guided tours twice daily during excavation period)
- Wideford Hill Cairn, near Kirkwall, Neolithic tomb
- Isbister Stalled Cairn, South Ronaldsay, Neolithic tomb
- Tomb of the Eagles, South Ronaldsay, Neolithic tomb and visitor centre
- Liddle Burnt Mound, South Ronaldsay, Bronze Age trough, hearth and mound
- Broch of Gurness, Evie, Iron Age broch tower, Pictish houses
- Broch of Burrian, North Ronaldsay, Iron Age broch tower
- Rennibister Earth House, Firth, Iron Age
- Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces, Kirkwall and Earl’s Palace, Birsay. Medieval and Renaissance.
- St Nicholas Church, Orphir. Circular medieval church.
- St Mary’s Church, Wyre, 12th century