This Neolithic village on the shores of the Bay of Skaill in Orkney’s west mainland is one of several stunning archaeological sites within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the same status as held by the pyramids in Egypt and as you walk towards the New Stone Age houses of Skara Brae, a timeline illustrates how much older they are: Skara Brae 3200BC; Pyramids 2700BC.
Skara Brae is one of the earliest prehistoric groups of monuments in Scotland and was preserved through four millennia by a covering of white sand. In 1850 a great storm blew away the sand to reveal the shapes of stone buildings. Laird William Watt of Skaill excavated the site and found the well-preserved ruins of at least ten ancient dwellings featuring stone dressers, fish tanks, stone beds and central hearths. They are linked by a communal covered passage. Objects such as quern stones for grinding corn and cells for storage give more insights into daily life. The dwellings had turf roofs. You can walk through a reconstruction of a Skara Brae House, follow the timeline and view the interior of the original dwellings from above. Historic Scotland has a visitor centre on the site with a café, shop, and a hands-on exhibition. You can have a go at rebuilding a Neolithic pot and stepping back in time through interactive games. Skara Brae is open all year round.
In the summer months the entrance ticket to Skara Brae includes a visit to Skaill House 400 metres away. The house was built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham on the site of a Norse farmstead. Inside you can see rooms with furniture and artefacts belonging to generations of Skaill lairds and see a dinner service used by Captain James Cook on his final voyage.