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Skara Brae, Orkney (iii)

Just at the beginning of the path from the Visitor Centre to the Skara Brae excavations there is a modern mock up of what the neolithic houses at the site may have looked like.

Entrance to Mock Skara Brae House:-

Entrance to Mock Skara Brae House

Internal Passage:-

Internal Passage Skara Brae Mock Up

I doubt the original houses had the electric light fitting!:-

Skara Brae Mock Up Passage

Mock up bed:-

Skara Brae Mock Up Bed

Mock Up Ceiling:-

Skara Brae Mock Up Ceiling

Mock up, hearth and dresser:-

Skara Brae Mock Up Hearth and Dresser

Skara Brae, Orkney (ii)

General scene of excavated houses – tourist path in background:-

Excavated Houses, Skara Brae, Orkney

Stone dresser:-

Stone Dresser, Skara Brae, Orkney

Excavated path:-

Skara Brae Excavation

More excavations:-

More Excavation Skara Brae

Neolithic Construction Skara Brae

This has no beds nor dresser and so it is believed to be a neolithic workshop, photo taken from west. The beach at Skaill Bay is visible to left (in Skara Brae’s heyday the sea was much further out) Skaill House in background:-

Neolithic Workshop, Skara Brae, from West

Neolithic Workshop from North, Skaill House in background:-

Neolithic Workshop, Skara Brae, from North

Neolithic workshop from East:-

Neolithic Workshop, Skara Brae, from East

Skara Brae, Orkney (i)

After settling in at Stromness for the night, the neolithic village of Skara Brae, on the shores of Skaill Bay (or Bay o’ Skaill,) was the first place we visited on Orkney. Ever since I heard about it Skara Brae was somewhere I always wanted to visit so I was delighted to be able to.

It was mobbed with people though, only to be expected I suppose.

Early houses:-

Skara Brae Early Houses 1

Skara Brae, Early Houses 2

Passage to a house entrance:-

House Entrance, Skara Brae, Orkney

An excavated house, Skara Brae Visitor Centre in left background, modern day Skaill House in right background:-

Neolithic House at Skara Brae,Orkney

Neolithic house with stone dresser:-

Neolithic House with Stone Dresser, Skara Brae, Orkney

Neolithic house entrance:-

House Entrance, Skara Brae

A passage between houses:-

Passage Between Houses, Skara Brae, Orkney

Kitchener Memorial, Marwick Head, Orkney

We were motoring more or less up the west coast of mainland Orkney after visiting Skara Brae and Skaill House (of which more later) when I saw an imposing tower on a hill top overlooking the sea. Then I spotted a brown (site of interest) signpost saying “Kitchener Memorial” pointing off the road towards it. I immediately turned onto the one-track road indicated.

Kitchener made his name at the Battle of Omdurman – machine guns against spears; not an equal contest – during the punitive expedition against the Mahdi after his followers (Dad’s Army‘s “fuzzy-wuzzies”) killed General Gordon at Khartoum. He later took over the conduct of the South African War (the Second Boer War) instituting the measures that made sure the Boers could not live off the land, by taking their supporters/suppliers into the original concentration camps, before becoming head of the army and featuring on the famous Great War recruiting poster.

I knew Kitchener had been drowned at sea when the ship carrying him on a mission to Russia, HMS Hampshire, hit a mine recently laid by a German submarine but hadn’t realised it had been so close to Orkney. I also hadn’t known the memorial was there so this was a serendipitous discovery.

We managed to squeeze into a space at the very small car park and contemplated the long walk up to the memorial. I discovered later that the memorial lies on Marwick Head, the westernmost point of mainland Orkney. This Vickers pattern 31b Recoil Mk 2 gun salvaged from the deck of HMS Hampshire lay at the beginning of the path:-

Deck Gun from HMS Hampshire

Memorial from path at top of cliff:-

Kitchener Memorial, Orkney From Path

Memorial close:-

Kitchener Memorial

Kitchener Memorial Plaque:-

Kitchener Memorial Inscription

Much more recently a memorial wall to those who died on HMS Hampshire has been erected on the site. This shows its proximity to the Kitchener Memorial:-

HMS Hampshire Memorial Wall

Unfortunately the memorialised names do not stand out well in this photo:-

HMS Hampshire Memorial Wall

The HMS Hampshire memorial wall also commemorates the HM Drifter Laurel Crown lost off Marwick Head in June 1916:-

HMS Hampshire + HMS Laurel Crown Memorial

The Ring of Brodgar

“The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring and a later expression of the spirit which gave rise to Maeshowe, Stenness and Skara Brae.”

Earlier this year a BBC TV series called Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney fronted by Neil Oliver argued convincingly that Orkney was an extremely important cultural centre in neolithic times and that the construction of stone circles originated in Orkney, spreading south from there – eventually to produce Stonehenge.

Unfortunately the path directly round the outside of the Ring was undergoing maintenance when we visited so it was not showing its best appearance. And as you can see we were not the only visitors:-

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, From Path 1

I did try to get a photo without other people in it:-

Ring of Brodgar From Path 2

Ring of Brodgar from perimeter:-

Ring of Brodgar From Perimeter

You’re absolutely tripping over ancient man-made structures in the Stenness area. This mound, by the shores of the Loch of Stenness and not far from the Ring (from where this photo was taken) is called Salt Knowe. The hills in the background are on Hoy:-

Salt Knowe from Ring of Brodgar

Ring from perimeter path, Loch of Harray in the background:-

Ring of Brodgar

Single stone, with man to show scale, part of Loch of Harray behind. You can easily see wear to the grass around the stone, emphasising the need for maintenance:-

Ring of Brodgar, Single Stone

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe from Ring of Brodgar. Loch of Harray to left of Ness of Brodgar, Loch of Stenness to right, Maeshowe just to left of middle of photo:-

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe


Stromness (the name is derived from the Norse Straumsnes [headland protruding into the tidal stream]) is Orkney’s second biggest town but that doesn’t mean it’s big. It has just under 2,200 residents.

It has a brilliant Art Gallery called the Pier Arts Centre with several works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Stanley Cursiter among others. Well worth a visit – and it’s free.

Stromness Museum does have an entry charge but the ticket gives you entry for a week. It is also interesting with exhibits covering Stromness’s sailing hostory and from the Grand Scuttle of 1919 but also many examples of stuffed animals etc that may nowadays be frowned upon.

Here’s a view I took of North Stromness from the hills above:-

North Stromness

In this one most of the town is hidden under the brow of the hill but part of the harbour can be seen with Scapa Flow in the background beyond:-

Stromness from North-east

Both in the previous photo and the one below of Stromness from the south the Northlink Ferries ship ferry Hamnavoe can be seen docked at the terminal. (The picture on the link is no longer accurate. The ferry company has a newer livery now.) Quite often when we walked down into the town along by the harbour the Hamnavoe would be there. Hamnavoe is an old name for Stromness, meaning peaceful harbour.

Stromness from South

Looking south from Stromness, Scapa Flow in left distance:-

Looking South from Stromness

The High Street and those leading off it are very narrow. High Street:-

High Street, Stromness

This one is quite cheekily named Khyber Pass:-

Khyber Pass, Stromness

More Barnhouse Village, Orkney

This is what the information board named as structure 8. Looking back towards Stones of Stenness with Hoy in distance to right:-

Barnhouse Village Structure 8

A neolithic house overlooking Loch of Harray:-

Barnhouse Village House

House 6 has very little left bar a few stones:-

Barnhouse Village House 6

Whether this is a standing stone or a remnant of a house I can’t say. Its surroundings don’t seem to have been excavated. Bottom of Loch of Harray behind with Maeshowe in distance above top of stone:-

Standing Stone, Barnhouse Village

View of Barnhouse Village looking south-wast, Stones of Stenness in background with Hoy in right distance:-

View of Barnhouse Village

Stitch of village from south-west. Loch of Harray and Ness of Brodgar behind:-

Barnhouse Village Stitch

Barnhouse Village, Orkney

Barnhouse Village is a neolithic settlement lying about one hundred and fifty metres or so from the Stones of Stenness in Orkney.

Structure in village, Loch of Harray behind:-

Barnhouse Village, Orkney

House with hearth, Ness of Brodgar behind over Loch of Harray:-

Barnhouse Village, Orkney, Showing Hearth

This is the entrance to what the information board called Structure 8:-

Barnhouse Village Structure 8 Entrance

Barnhouse village House:-

Barnhouse Village House

Another house, Loch of Harray behind:-

Barnhouse Village Structure

The board called this one House 2:-

Barnhouse Village House 2

Click on below to take you to video on my Flickr, first looking towards Loch of Harray and Ness of Brodgar then sweeping round to look back towards Stones of Stenness:-

Barnhouse Village Video

More Neolithic Orkney

The piece of land on which the Stones of Stenness lie contains other neolithic remnants.

One is the Watchstone (which used to have a companion Odin Stone which was destroyed in 1814 by the leaseholder of the land.)

The Watchstone from path round Stones of Stenness, Ness of Brodgar behind:-

Watchstone From Path Round Stones of Stenness

The Watchstone and Ness of Brodgar, Loch of Stenness to left, Loch of Harray to right:-

Watchstone and Ness of Brodgar

The Watchstone, looking over the Loch of Stenness, Hoy in distance:-

Watchstone, Hoy in Distance

Two hundred yards or so north east of the Stones of Stenness are the remains of a neolithic settlement called Barnhouse Village – of which more later. This photo taken from the edge of the village over the bottom of the Loch of Harray shows how close Maeshowe is (green mound just to right of centre of picture.)

Towards Maeshowe from Barnhouse Village

Looking northwest over the Loch of Harray from Barnhouse Village you can also easily see the Ring of Brodgar:-

Looking Towards Ring of Brodgar from Barnhouse Village

Closer view of Ring of Brodgar from Barnhouse Village:-

Ring of Brodgar over Loch of Harray from Barnhouse Village

Stones of Stenness, Orkney

A view of part of Orkney for your delectation.

The Stones of Stenness are the remains of a ring of neolithic standing stones – possibly the oldest henge in the British Isles. They stand on a piece of land flanked on one side by the freshwater Loch of Harray and the sea water Loch of Stenness.

Stones of Stenness, Orkney

The taller ones are very tall indeed. I assume the ones no longer there were also as tall. Signs of modern life are visible though. You can just spot electricity poles if you look closely enough above.

Here’s a view from the other side of the stones back in the opposite direction. Note parked cars and people. Shortly after this a bus tour rolled up:-

Stones of Stenness, Orkney Again

What looks like a single stone to the left on the above is actually two stones:-

Stones of Stenness

If you look through the gap in the stones in the other direction then Maeshowe is directly between them in the distance. See sixth photo here.

On the same piece of land as the stones lie the remains of the neolithic Barnhouse village. The Ring of Brodgar is also visible from the site.

At the centre of the Stones of Stenness are the remnants of a hearth:-

Stones of Stenness, Orkney, Central Hearth

Stones of Stenness from site entrance. Unfortunately an electricity pole seems to sprout from the top of a stone in this one:-

Standing Stones on Orkney

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