Orkney – Two Day Tour – Neolithic Orkney & Skara Brae – Itinerary
Our Orkney Two Day Tour, Neolithic Orkney & Skara Brae – begins with the stunning coastal drive north from Inverness. We make a lunchtime crossing on the Orkney ferry and as a result have the afternoon to enjoy Orkney. We drive round the beautiful body of water, Scapa Flow, and have time to visit to several places of interest. Kirkwall is our overnight base, and day two takes us to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. We visit all of the core sites of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, we cross back to the mainland and return to Inverness.
Our Neolithic Orkney Tour takes you to many amazing places including the Stones of Stenness, Maes Howe and Skara Brae. We describe these sites more fully below. We may shuffle the order in which we visit attractions, or which ferries we recommend using, because of weather and other factors.
Scapa Flow and the Churchill Barriers
Many of the Orkney Islands, together, nearly encircle an area of sea called Scapa Flow. It was the home of the British Navy in both World Wars, and has a chequered history. Scapa is one of the most popular cold water diving centres in the world because of the scuttling of 52 ships of the German High Seas Fleet in 1919. The sinking of the Royal Oak in WWII led Winston Churchill to question the security of Scapa Flow, and the Churchill Barriers were built as a result.
The Italian Chapel
Winston Churchill tasked Italian prisoners of war with building the Churchill Barriers in 1942. These causeways between the islands protected Scapa from attack, but also resulted in improved communications. Those prisoners created the Italian Chapel as a place of worship within their camp. Given what they managed to build from two Nissan huts and the everyday materials they had to hand is truly amazing. As a result, locals often refer to the chapel as “the miracle of Camp 60.
Kirkwall (meaning Church Bay) is Orkney’s main settlement. This small but attractive city has many attractions, including an award-winning library and great museum. The main street has many 16th century buildings and a range of attractive local shops. The bustling harbour, too, is a great place to spend time.
The Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces
The Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces are a complex of ruined historical buildings in the centre of Kirkwall. The Vikings built the Bishop’s Palace in the 1100’s. Patrick, known as “Wicked Earl of Orkney” was the tyrant responsible for building the Earl’s Palace in the 1600’s. It surprises us that despite his tyranny and cruelty, Patrick was responsible for the building of “possibly the most mature and accomplished piece of Renaissance architecture left in Scotland”
St Magnus Cathedral
The Vikings began the mammoth rask of constructing St Magnus Cathedral in 1137. It is a stunning building, containing many items of interest and a wealth of stories. It belongs to the people of Kirkwall and Orkney and so has played host (even in modern times) to the services of different denominations as required.
The Stones of Stenness
The Stones of Stenness (at about 5,200 years old) is thought to be the oldest stone circle in the country (1,000 years older than Stonehenge). This was an ancient ceremonial site which originally had a circle of 12 stones. Only 4 still remain upright, but the tallest still stands over 16 feet tall.
Maeshowe Chambered Cairn
Maeshowe (around 4,800 years old) is the largest of Orkney’s chambered cairns and is aligned on the midwinter setting sun. The passage to the central chamber is nearly 50 feet long. That chamber has the largest collection of Viking runes outside of Scandinavia due to the carving skills of some bored and snowbound Vikings in 1153.
The Ring of Brodgar
The Ring of Brodgar (around 4,500 years old) is a massive stone circle, about 340 feet across. Originally having 60 stones, 36 now survive (along with over a dozen prehistoric burial mounds). Although mystery still surrounds its original purpose, there is no denying the significance of its location, on a rise surrounded by land and water, under big skies and an ever-changing island light.
Skara Brae has been called Western Europe’s most complete Neolithic village. Preserved beneath the sands of a large sand dune for millennia, until uncovered by a storm in 1850, this cluster of 5,000 year old houses is remarkable. The village street, the drains, the furniture and even the artifacts of everyday life are all there, thus helping us understand how our distant ancestors lived.
The Broch of Gurness
The Broch of Gurness is one of about 100 brochs in Orkney. You may have time to visit it depending on which ferry choice has been made for your return. Brochs are iron-age round towers unique to Scotland. Gurness is a fine example, where it is easy to make out the remnants of the large central tower and also the detail of the surrounding settlement. This location, inhabited from Pictish and Norse times is also a good place from which to see seals, otters, seabirds and even occasional orcas.
Orkney – Two Day Tour- Heart of Neolithic Orkney and Skara Brae – Price
£1120 for the tour. Ferry tickets are separate online purchases for you. The ferry tickets price may vary slightly as a result of the number of people in your party, and there will be a guide lodgings supplement of £130 for 2022.
Orkney – Two Day Tour- Heart of Neolithic Orkney and Skara Brae – Departure
Collection from anywhere within 16 Miles of Inverness included in price.