In the Bay of Skaill on the north-west coast of the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Islands sat a large mound known then as Skerrabra. A storm in 1850 washed part of the mound away, revealing part of village that was inhabited 5 000 years ago. A local by the name of William Watt began an amateur excavation of the site, which was abandoned in 1868. After another storm, in which some of the site was lost to the weather, earnest excavation and preservation began in 1925.
It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of four sites that make up “The Neolithic Heart of Orkney”. And my goodness is this place beautiful!
Inhabited in the Neolithic (literally, the “new stone age”) the village, which has since been renamed Skara Brae, is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It is a fantastic example of the sophistication of the Stone Age inhabitants of the island of Britain, replete with stone furniture and even toilets!
Tolkien fans will be pleased to note that the dwellings of Skara Brae were dug into the ground and covered over with earth and sod. These were the original hobbit holes!
The site is a brilliant playground for both learning and fun, boasting not only the ruins of the village which you can wander around, but also a visitor’s centre (with games!), a café and a gift shop with locally made souvenirs.
If you’re an archaeology or prehistoric anthropology nerd like I am, Skara Brae and the entire Heart of Neolithic Orkney should definitely be on your must-see destination list.
For more information on Skara Brae and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, see http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_244 and don’t forget to book with Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel for a trip full of magic, wonder and learning!
This article brought to you by our guest author S.M. Carrière. She is a local Ottawa speculative fiction author and prehistory of Britain enthusiast. She has a degree in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies: Ancient Cultures with a Celtic Studies concentration and is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Human, this month.