We all like the idea of the independent holiday - the kind when you decide what you want to do on the day you’re going to do it. No itineraries, no set plan, no ‘must sees’ – just the open road and maybe a map to guide you on your way.
But sometimes you need a helping hand to fill in the blanks, to point out things you might not notice and to bring an attraction, a building or a special story to life.
In Orkney, that’s where our World Heritage Site Rangers come in. Historic Environment Scotland’s Elaine Clarke and Sandra Miller have been guiding visitors through the Heart of Neolithic Orkney since 2005, showcasing 5000 years of history on their way.
And the 2022 season is set to be even more special than normal. After a pandemic-enforced abscence of two years, Elaine and Sandra will be back hosting their free walks at some of Orkney's most spectacular sites. From Monday 16th May, the duo will lead a group at the Standing Stones of Stenness & Barnhouse village at 10am, with the Ring of Brodgar walk at 1pm.
The Standing Stones of Stenness & Barnhouse village walks will be every weekday throughout the summer, with the Ring of Brodgar walks daily. All you have to do to take part is turn up at the appropriate car park before the scheduled start time and keep your eye out for either Elaine or Sandra and their distinctive yellow jackets. Wander up and you’ll receive a warm welcome before the group grows and you set off on your free one-hour tour.
At the Ring of Brodgar they’ll talk about the history of the stone circle - the largest in Scotland - and also discuss the surrounding landscape, its place in the context of Neolithic Orkney, the wildlife, wildflowers and spectacular scenery of the area, all the things you might not find in your guide book.
Remember to pencil in another Ranger rendezvous at the Standing Stones of Stenness too. You’ll spend an hour being taken around the oldest stone circle in the UK before heading to the lesser-known nearby Neolithic village at Barnhouse.
More than 100,000 people have taken advantage of the excellent service the Rangers offer in Orkney and it's hoped that number will continue to grow as the summer approaches.
Aside from the walks and tours, part of the job of the Rangers over the years has been to help bring Orkney’s cultural and natural heritage to life. They have hosted talks and special activities across the islands, worked with school pupils and taken part in family events, including the open days held at the Ness of Brodgar excavations.
So, if you’re heading to Orkney this summer and you want to hear the secrets of some of our most spectacular sites, keep an eye open for that yellow jacket or the Historic Environment Scotland fleece – our World Heritage Site Rangers will make sure you won’t miss a thing.