MEANWHILE IN ORKNEY
From spectacular wildlife to extraordinary architecture and archaeology, from thriving musical and artistic venues to stunning scenery, Orkney’s visitors are truly spoilt for choice. Courtesy of our visitor experience team, here are some of the sites (and sights!) you simply shouldn’t miss…
Skara Brae (Bay of Skaill, Mainland)
This remarkable Neolithic village, dating back to around 3000BC, was first discovered in 1850 when a great storm battered Orkney, stripping away grass and soil to reveal the outline of a number of stone dwellings. Fully excavated in the late 1920s and now with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Skara Brae offers a fascinating glimpse of island life 5000 years ago.
The Italian Chapel (Lamb Holm)
In 1942, Italian prisoners of war were sent to Orkney to build the Churchill Barriers – a naval defence measure intended to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow. Given permission to build a place of worship, and with only the most limited of resources, they transformed two huts into a Catholic chapel of breathtaking beauty. La Bella Cappella Italiana has a very special place in the heart of the Orcadian community.
St Magnus Cathedral (Kirkwall, Mainland)
A magnificent example of Romanesque architecture, this is Britain’s most northerly cathedral and was built for the Bishops of Orkney during the 12th century, when our islands were under Norse rule. A dark history lies behind its construction and it’s the final resting place of St Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint, as well as a triumphant monument to our Viking heritage.
The dramatic cliffs at Yesnaby, on Orkney’s Atlantic coastline, are the final point on dry land before Greenland and were the inspiration for the fourth expression in our Keystones Series. Yesnaby Castle is a magnificent two-legged sea stack, and the whole area is a paradise for climbers, birdwatchers and nature lovers – it’s also one of the few places where the rare Scottish Primrose grows.
Ring of Brodgar (Stenness)
Described by visitorkney.com as ‘arguably the most iconic symbol of Orkney’s prehistoric past’, this hauntingly beautiful stone circle must be one of Orkney’s most photographed sites. 27 of the original 60 stones survive today and you’ll be transfixed by the quiet majesty of the stones and fascinated by the mystery that surrounds their creation.
Brough of Birsay (Birsay)
A now uninhabited tidal island, Brough of Birsay was once the ancient Orcadian seat of political and religious power and reveals fascinating evidence of both Pictish and Viking settlements. Sea erosion has broken down the tiny strip of land that once connected Brough of Birsay to Orkney’s Mainland and access is restricted to a few hours at low tide.
Our team’s other top recommendations included Brough of Gurness, Bay of Skaill, Wideford Hill, Tomb of the Eagles, Walkmill Beach, and Hoxa Head. For more information, please check out visitorkney.com, orkneyjar.com and visitscotland.com – and don’t forget to come and visit us at the distillery when you’re here!
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