Tidal island at Birsay
This site is closed, but the grounds are open to visitors. Historic Environment Scotland is working hard to gradually reopen the places you love while making sure the experience is safe for everyone. Find out more about our reopening plans on our website.
The Brough of Birsay is full of history.
It was a place of local and perhaps regional importance. The island hosts the remains of a substantial Pictish settlement, with evidence of Viking buildings visible too. The site of the Norse structures included a ruined Romanesque church that was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
But the history of this unique location is just part of the story.
It's a tidal island so only accessible for around two hours either side of low tide, and it's linked to a headland by a concrete causeway visible only when the sea retreats. As it does, it reveals fantastic rockpools teeming with sealife on either side. The rock formations are eye-catching too.
The Brough's archaeological remains are found as you climb the steps up from the shore. They're looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and are open all year round, with a charge during the summer months.
Make sure you have plenty of time for your visit as you'll definitely want to explore the rest of the island too. The sheer cliffs fall off into the Atlantic Ocean and are full of birdlife - the Brough is one of the best places to see puffins during the summer months. Remember to take care if you're trying to spot these colourful characters and never get too close to the edge of the cliffs.
Perched on the west coast of the island you'll also find a small lighthouse and magnificent rock ledges sloping down to the sea.
Don't leave it too late before returning back across the causeway though - the tide comes in quickly. You can view the tide times on our Today page, at the Visit Scotland Information Centre in Kirkwall or you can contact the visitor centre at Skara Brae on 01856 841 815 for details.
Last admission during the summer months is at 5pm.