Warm welcome for World Heritage Day
Today marks World Heritage Day, and, as usual, Orkney’s very own World Heritage Site will be welcoming visitors from around the globe.
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the islands. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 1999, and is one of five World Heritage Sites in Scotland.
So, here are five very special reasons to make the Site a must see during your trip to Orkney.
5000 years of history
In Orkney, the past is never far away. When you travel though the World Heritage Site, you visit a landscape thousands of years old. Towering megaliths, intricate chambered tombs and a prehistoric village - all individual locations with a very real connection.
The Ring of Brodgar is one of the largest stone circles in the UK, with Skara Brae showcasing life in Neolithic times on a scale unmatched in Northern Europe. The Standing Stones of Stenness mark the remains of an ancient stone circle, and Maeshowe is one of the finest chambered tombs in Europe.
But the past is still being rewritten. The excavation work at the Ness of Brodgar – in the centre of the World Heritage Site - is still adding to the story of the ancient society.
Since 2005, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney has had its very own Ranger Service, guiding visitors through the last five thousand years. Elaine Clarke and Sandra Miller help bring Orkney’s cultural and natural heritage to life, with free walks, talks and family events. To date, more than thirty five thousand people have enjoyed interacting with the Rangers – and this year will be no exception.
Secrets from the past
It’s not all about what the eye can see. Did you know, for example, that sound could have played a major part in life at the Standing Stones of Stenness, with very special acoustics at the site?
And did you know that what you can see today could have been very different, if one tenant farmer, armed with gunpowder, could have had his way?
And you have to be eagle eyed to see some of the messages left by Viking raiders in Maeshowe, when they sought shelter in the tomb during stormy weather.
Wildlife in the World Heritage Site
The thin peninsula where the main part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney sits, in-between the Harray and Stenness Lochs, is a haven for wildlife. You can see seals and swans, alongside skylarks, otters and thousands of migrating birds. The land surrounding the Ring of Brodgar is also an RSPB Nature Reserve, and a closer look reveals many important species of wild flowers and insects. It’s not all about history you know!
Pride of place
The site is an important place in Orkney. It not only attracts visitors in their thousands, but it provides a strong and tangible connection to the past and the people that came before. Local folk are proud to see tourists enjoying the sites and soaking up five thousand years of Orcadian history.
So make sure you take advantage of all the Heart of Neolithic Orkney has to offer during your time here. To book a trip, have a look at the Visit Orkney website. During World Heritage Day itself, there will be an exhibition of historical guide books relating to the site at the Skara Brae Visitor Centre. The Rangers will be there to answer questions. You can also find out more about the services they offer on 01856 841 732.