The Standing Stones Hotel
is the ideal base for exploring all of Orkney.
Orkney Tourist Board
delighted to provide comprehensive tourist information before and during
Many of Orkney's monuments are in the care of
works in collaboration with the
Orkney Archaeological Society
We hope you enjoy exploring Orkney. Here
are some ideas of places to visit and things to do.
The monuments of Orkney, dating back to 3000 - 2000 BC, are outstanding
testimony to the cultural achievements of the Neolithic peoples of northern
Let the Standing Stones Hotel be your gateway to an exploration of the heart
of Neolithic Orkney.
- This ancient burial mound is recognised as one of the finest
achievements of prehistoric Europe. It is awe-inspiring, inside and out.
Inside the 7 metre high, 35 metre diameter mound is a square, finely
constructed chamber big enough for several people to stand in comfortably.
The stonework is corbelled, giving the structure great strength and grace,
and off the chamber there are three cells within the walls, each sealed in
the past by stone blocks. Maeshowe dates from about 2750 BC, making it
contemporary with the Standing Stones and the settlement at Skara Brae some
distance away. Although distant, Skara Brae is part of the World Heritage
Site and is a "must see" for anyone interested in Orkney's prehistoric
riches. At the midwinter solstice the setting sun shines down the entrance
passageway at Maeshowe, illuminating the interior. To see it is to come as
close as we probably ever will to understanding our ancestors. Their world
was very different from ours. The landscape we see around the Standing
Stones Hotel is the product of thousands of years of human settlement but it
has retained its character. There is a quiet magic to it. A sense of place.
We hope that you take the time to enjoy it, and share our appreciation of
- An excellent late example of a Scottish
water wheel that was probably built in the 1880's, and the mechanisms have
been preserved as a museum. Because of the buildings close proximity to
Maeshowe, the building is used as the ticket office and gift shop of
Maeshowe. While visitors wait for Maeshowe, via the timed ticket tours, they
can explore and look at the museum at Tormiston Mill. The mill also has some
exhibits about the mill and the area. Website...
Standing Stones of Stenness
- Near the Ring of Brodgar,
just a short walk along what may have been a ceremonial route, lies a
smaller ring, originally of 12 stones surrounded by a rock-cut ditch. In its
way it is just as impressive a monument as its larger neighbour, though its
true purpose remains a mystery. Website...
- In recent years, detailed archaeological
exploration in a field adjacent to the Stenness stones revealed a
settlement, very likely occupied by people who built or worshiped at the
ceremonial rings. The orientation of the hall-like structure at Barnhouse is
the same as the ring's, and other similarities have led to speculation that
the hall may also have served a ritual or ceremonial purpose. Was it,
perhaps, a religious settlement, home to the priests or shamen who led the
rituals at Stenness and Brodgar. We do not know, so can only imagine. As we
see it today, Barnhouse is a partial reconstruction carried out by Orkney
Islands Council. Visitors have been known to wonder aloud about the skill of
our Neolithic ancestors in cutting the stones so cleanly, but the truth is
that the cuts were made by modern machinery and not by ancient hands. Website...
Ring of Brodgar
- We will never know what was in the hearts
and minds of the builders who worked together to create the spectacular
henge monument known as the Ring of Brodgar. 125 megalithic yards in
diameter, the ring of 60 stones, only 27 of which remain standing today, is
set out in a perfect circle with the stones some 6 degrees or so apart. It
may have an astronomical purpose, a temple to the moon or the sun perhaps.
Whatever its purpose it represents a huge achievement for a community of
people using the simplest of technologies. In the third millennium BC they
excavated 4,700 cubic metres of rock to create a ditch more than 10 metres
across and 3 metres deep, surrounding the stone ring. But the only way to
truly appreciate the monument is to be there. Not for a five minute photo
stop but a longer visit, taking time to get a real sense of the drama of the
landscape and the vision of the builders.
Fishing in Lochs of Harray and Stenness. Website...
- Towering over the isthmus between the twin
lochs of Harray and Stenness, the 5.5 metre high monolith known as the Watch
Stone probably helped mark the ceremonial pathway between Brodgar and
Stenness. Other stones have been lost in the millennia since they were
erected but the Watch Stone remains. Website...
- is a Neolithic chambered cairn located on
Mainland, Orkney. The tomb was built on a promontory that extends into the
Loch of Stenness near the settlement of Howe and the town of Stromness.
Unstan is notable as an atypical hybrid of the two main types of chambered
cairn found on Orkney, and as the location of the first discovery of a type
of pottery that now bears the name of the tomb. The site is in the care of
Historic Scotland. Website...
Corrigall Farm Museum
- Opened to the public in 1980,
Corrigall Farm Museum is a traditional ‘but and ben’ house. It portrays a
typical Orkney farmhouse and steading in Victorian times (late 19th
Century). The working barn and grain kiln, horse-drawn machinery and
livestock make for an interesting visit for children and adults. Website...
- is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement,
located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney. It consists of
ten clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly
BC. It is Europe's most complete Neolithic village and because of its
age (older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids)
and the high level of preservation, it has gained
UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and has been called the
"Scottish Pompeii". Website...
- Skaill House is the finest mansion in
Orkney steeped in 5000 years of history. It stands imposingly on the
Atlantic coast of Orkney and just 200m from the world famous Neolithic
village of Skara Brae. The house is surrounded by spacious lawned gardens in
a beautiful secluded spot between the sea and the Loch of Skaill. Website...
Stromness Golf Course
- It was probably around 1870
that golf began to be played in Stromness on a nine hole course at Wharbeth.
It was a natural links course. There were no fairways, as we know them
today. The grass over the whole course was cropped short by rabbits. The
game became very popular with both men and women, in spite of the long walk
they had to take to get there, before they could start to play
St Magnus Cathedral
- Britain’s most northerly Cathedral.
St Magnus Cathedral known as the ‘Light in the North’ was founded in 1137 by
the Viking, Earl Rognvald, in order of his uncle St Magnus. The Cathedral
belongs to the people of Orkney and its doors are open to all. The
Cathedral, set in the heart of Kirkwall, the capital city of the Orkney
Islands, off the north coast of Scotland, is a place of stillness, of
serenity, of warmth, of the presence of God. Website...
Kirkwall Golf Course
- Orkney Golf Club, also known as
Kirkwall, is the archetypal friendly Scottish golf club - very welcoming,
not too expensive and boasting a course that you wish you could play every
day for the rest of your life. Indeed, if ever a golf course were designed
for visitors then this is surely it. There are wonderful views of the North
Isles and the village of Kirkwall can be seen from all parts of the course.
Although the course is fairly flat and easy on the legs it still poses a
distinct challenge at all times to players of all abilities. Website...
Orkney Craft Trail
Visit craft shops - there are many individual craft industries nearby. Visit
Orkney Designer Crafts
for more details.
(by ferry) -
Orkney Ferries - Rousay...
(by ferry) -
Orkney Ferries - Hoy...
The North Isles
(by ferry) -
The Islands of Orkney
BIRDS AND FLOWERS
Mid-May to mid-July is the best time to see birds in Orkney. Over 300
species of birds have been recorded here. Visits to outer island bird
reserves can be arranged.
Wild flowers are at their best between May and June. You may be fortunate
and find the tiny rare Primula Scotica.
OUTDOOR AND SPORTING PURSUITS
Squash Sub aqua.
The wrecks of Scapa Flow offer challenging diving in sheltered waters and
attract divers from all over the world.
If your time is limited or this is your first visit to Orkney, a guided tour
may be the best way to explore. Michael Hartley of
informative tours daily. Pickup can be arranged from the hotel.