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Orkney Highlights

We caught the ferry from Shetland in the late afternoon of Day Three, had dinner on board, and disembarked in Orkney at around 11pm, getting to our hotel just before midnight. But we were all up bright and early the next day for the first of two days exploring the highlights of the Orkney Islands. For me, the main reason for the trip was to visit Skara Brae, part of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” World Heritage Site.

Skara Brae – a Neolithic house

Skara Brae is a village of inter-connected houses, dating from the neolithic age, and was inhabited between approx 3000-2500BC making it older than the pyramids. Because there is so little wood on the islands, the inhabitants had to build in stone, leading to the stunning preservation you can see above. In the centre of the picture is a rectangular hearth. Above is a stone-built “dresser” with a further storage cubby-hole to the right. On the left and far-right are stone-built box-beds. In the far top-left of the picture you can just about see the sea. The site is right on the coast, and was preserved through being buried in sand dunes until it was exposed by a particularly bad winter storm in 1850.

In comparison to Jarlshof on Shetland, visitors are not allowed to walk through the original houses, but have to keep to the paths and platforms above the houses, looking down into them. So, in order to give an idea of what it would have been like, a full-scale reconstruction of House 7 has been built next to the Visitor Centre (where, incidentally, they do a rather tasty Ploughman’s lunch, with Orkney cheese).

Replica neolithic house and Visitor Centre at Skara Brae

The replica is almost but not quite an exact reconstruction of the original. In order to comply with modern Health and Safety standards, let alone the larger bulk of some of the visiting tourists, the entrance is much higher and wider than the original neolithic building. Otherwise I suspect that some of the more obese modern visitors might get stuck!