Highlights of Orkney
Surrounded by an endless sky and a powerful sea, over the centuries the ancient farming communities on the Orkney Islands constructed huge monuments which now litter the landscape. The four monuments that make up the heart of Neolithic Orkney are unquestionably some of the most important in Europe - the 5000 year old village of Skara Brae; the giant chambered grave of Maeshowe; the atmospheric Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle, a mysterious wide circle of standing stones some over 5m tall, and the Stones of Stenness, four huge megaliths that once formed an elliptical circle of 12 stones. Our tour visits all of these sites and will also include a special visit to the Ness of Brodgar to coincide with the seasonal excavations taking place.
Please note: It is possible to link this tour with our Shetland tour meeting in Lerwick on 21st July. Ferry and overnight accommodation can be arranged – please contact us for details.
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Day 1 - Kirkwall
We meet at our hotel in Kirkwall for an introductory lecture and dinner taken together as a group.
|Hotel||Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney|
Day 2 - Skara Brae & Gurness Broch
We start our explorations on the island at Skara Brae, the amazingly well-preserved Neolithic village occupied for over 600 years. On the southern shore of the Bay of Skaill, buried for thousands of years of years beneath the sand, the stone buildings of Skara Brae were gradually exposed by storms until a sea wall was built to preserve them. Eight stone dwellings survive and their interior fittings give a unique glimpse of life as it was in Neolithic Orkney. After lunch, we visit the Brough of Birsay, a small island that can be reached on foot by causeway at low tide. Birsay has been settled continuously since Neolithic times and was once a centre of Viking power. The remains of a Norse settlement can be found at the top of the ramp leading onto the island as well as the ruins of a 12th century Romanesque church. We end the day at Gurness Broch where we explore the remains of the 8-metre tower. Built between 200 and 100 BCE, the broch was a tall, easily defended tower surrounded by a series of small stone dwellings. These in turn wee circled by outer defences comprising of three ramparts and three ditches.
Day 3 - Scapa Flow & Kirkwall
Driving south we cross Scapa Flow where 52 German warships were scuttled just one week before the Peace Treaty was signed ending WW1. During the 1920s and 30s many of the ships were lifted by commercial contractors but the 7 wrecks that remain are classed as a nationally important archaeological site. We continue to the Italian Chapel erected by Italian prisoners of war during WWII, constructed from Nissen huts but highly decorated within. It has been restored and cared for with almost as much care as the elaborate medieval churches it sought to emulate. Mass is still held here. We end the morning at the Tomb of the Eagles on a clifftop at Isbister, South Ronaldsay. This stalled cairn built before 3000 BCE was so named because of the remains of white-tailed sea eagles which were found here alongside the remains of perhaps 30 people buried over a period of 800 years. Entrance to the tomb is along a shaft on hands and knees or on a board mounted with wheels. Returning to Kirkwall in the afternoon we spend time in town visiting the Orkney Museum; St Magnus’ Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace.
Day 4 - Maeshowe & Ring of Brodgar
Today we explore Stenness in Orkney’s West Mainland and home to some of the best-known ancient monuments. We start at Maeshowe the largest and most impressive of Orkney’s chambered cairns. A zenith in European prehistoric architecture and accomplishment, this chambered tomb has been a distinctive presence in the landscape for millennia. During midwinter when the sun dips below the horizon, it shines directly through the entrance passage to illuminate the rear wall of the central chamber. After we visit the Stones of Stennes and the Ring of Brodgar, two stone circles – henge monuments – each occupying an opposing promontory between lochs. With seasonal excavations underway, we will also visit the Ness of Brodgar where for over a decade, archaeological excavations have uncovered an astonishing array of Neolithic structures including monumental buildings and hundreds of examples or prehistoric artwork.
Day 5 - Kirkwall
Today we depart Kirkwall and make our respective journeys home.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Professional Tour Manager
- Local travel aboard a private air-conditioned coach
- Meals as per the itinerary, wine and tea or coffee with dinner
- Entries to all sites as per the itinerary
- All taxes & gratuities
- Field notes
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single Supp.||Offer||Availability|
|21 July 2021||AORK210721||21 July 2021 (Wednesday)||25 July 2021 (Sunday)||Peter Yeoman||£1,380