Feel the Beating Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Mermaid by Orkney artist Bryce Wilson, Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland - as seen in Tom Muir's The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney Folk Tales

It was a chilly autumn evening in the heart of Neolithic Orkney.

I sat quietly at the Ring of Brodgar stone circle with a few others, waiting for sunset and reflecting on mysteries of the ancient past.

Awed by the splendor of this ancient ceremonial valley nestled in Orkney’s West Mainland, imagination flowed. Barefoot, I soaked up the earth’s comforting strength.

Time paused, as it will do in liminal places.

At last, the moment arrived. In unspoken camaraderie, we blissful watchers photographed the sun setting behind the Ring of Brodgar.

Then we all settled down and waited for the full moon to rise. 

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - https://www.orkneyology.com

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Giants among us

Orkney folklore has it that these standing stones were once giants. 

It is said that one night, forgetful of the time as they reveled in their ring dance, the giants were caught unaware by the rising sun and turned to stone.

And here they must stand forever.

The moon rose.

As silently as possible, we took our photos. Then one by one, the other visitors to this sacred place dribbled away.

I was left alone among the stilled giants standing forever in the heart of Orkney.

Mist came sliding into the valley .... 

Ring of Brodgar by moonlight. Orkney Islands, Scotland https://www.orkneyology.com

Who are you calling remote?

Forget what you hear about the Orkney Islands being "far-flung" and "remote." In Neolithic times, Orkney was the place to be, attracting pilgrims from at least as far as the south of what we now call England.

In addition to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney sites, an enormous number of other archaeological sites litter the landscape of these islands.

With an estimated three archaeological sites per mile, it's likely that many more historical treasures still lie undetected beneath the fertile landscape.

And so the story of Orkney's mysteries continues to unfold.

Valley surrounding Orkney's Ring of Brodgar stone circle, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

What is the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney?"

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site refers collectively to four of Orkney's most impressive Neolithic sites - masterpieces of the Neolithic world that were given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999.

These sites are:

  • The Ring of Brodgar
  • The Stones of Stenness 
  • Skara Brae and
  • Maeshowe

A vast ceremonial complex

These are not isolated individual monuments. 

The Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe, individual standing stones and mounds containing Neolithic tombs and Bronze Age burial mounds all rest together in the same valley. The amazing Ness of Brodgar ceremonial complex is placed purposefully in their midst. 

Many of Orkney's Neolithic sites seem to be interconnected for reasons that we can only guess.

So go ahead and let your imagination roam ....

The valley near the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, Stenness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK. https://www.orkneyology.com


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World Heritage Neolithic sites, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

More Orkney Must Sees 

  • St Magnus Cathedral - Orkney's Light in the North

    St Magnus Cathedral - Orkney's 'light in the north' for almost 900 years. Built by Vikings, the glowing edifice that dominates Kirkwall today has stood witness to human struggles and triumphs since 1137. The atmosphere feels sacred and quiet with history. Come and feel it.

  • Ring of Brodgar - Orkney's Dancing Giants

    Orkney's Ring of Brodgar lies in a mysterious valley filled with Neolithic masterpieces. Here's why you must visit the legendary standing stones of Brodgar.

  • Skara Brae - Beautiful Neolithic Orkney Islands Village

    Skara Brae - part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The village is older than Stonehenge and the pyramids, yet it was snug and comfortable for its inhabitants.

Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!

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