Scotland islands: Orkney, Shetlands

Skara Brae, Orkney, Shetlands, Scotland, UK

Skara Brae, Orkney, a well-preserved Neolithic village from 3100-2400 BC,  Scotland Islands. Photo by Wknight94.

Visiting northern Scotland Islands: Orkney

Orkney, sometimes known incorrectly as the Orkneys, is a collection of 70 islands about 10 miles (16 kms) north of the Scottish mainland.

Orkney Neolithic sites

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, Shetlands, Scotland, UK

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney island

The group of four Neolithic sites known as ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney‘ compose a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

• Skara Brae is considered by many to be one of the world’s best Neolithic sites as it was superbly preserved by a sudden, massive sandstorm, forcing its inhabitants to flee and leave many possessions behind. It remained buried until exposed by a storm in 1850. It was excavated in 1932. Skara Brae was a village settlement about 5, 000 years ago, with mostly ground-sunk houses probably roofed with driftwood and turf, with a few stone walls. The dwellings were quite sophisticated including drainage, toilets, cupboards, beds and seats.

• Maeshowe is a well-constructed tomb complex of huge stones and turf.

• Standing Stones of Stenness are the remnants of another stone circle less than a mile from Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe. Four of the stones are up to 5m (16ft) high.

• The Ring of Brodgar is a circle of standing stones 104 metres in diameter set amidst other stones and prehistoric tombs. Photo by Chmee2 in summertime. Note the weather conditions!

Visiting northern Scotland Islands: Shetlands

Lerwick town, Shetland island, Scotland, UK

Lerwick town, the largest urban settlement in the north Scottish islands. Photo by swifant.

Puffins in a Shetland colony, Scotland, UK

Puffins in a Shetland colony. Photo by Helene Grenier.

Wildlife – particularly birds – are probably Shetlands biggest attraction, with various colonies that are easily accessible, permitting viewing of tens of thousands of Gannets, Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Great Skuas, as well as many other species that are just passing by.

Jarlshof Neolithic village in Shetland island, Scotland, UK

Jarlshof Neolithic village in Shetland. Photo by Rob Glover.

The Shetland archipelago is home to varied ancient Viking relics and a couple of excellent Neolithic settlements. Jarlshof is very similar to Orkney’s Skara Brae.

Other activities

Shetland also offers good cycling and mountain biking (kit rentable in Lerwick), as well as hiking, sea kayaking, sea or loch fishing (especially trout), three interesting golf courses and many dive sites onto wrecks, caves, natural arches and subterranean passages (summer water temperature around 13C).

Note that north Scotland has very long daylight hours in the summer, even more so in Shetland as light reaches 19 hours per day in midsummer.