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Orkney – 10 Memorable places to see

© ShutterstockYesnaby
Yesnaby, Orkney.

Rich in greenery and packed with historic wonder, the Orkney Isles are some of the most visited scenic Scottish Isles.

Seeing what all the fuss about, here are 10 memorable places across Orkney to consider experiencing firsthand.

1. Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar © Shutterstock
Ring of Brodgar.

The Orkney Isles’ most popular attraction, the famed Ring of Brodgar is also one of the most eye-catching sights in Scotland.

Part of a vast ritual complex, one of many locations dotted around the Orkneys, this ring of Standing Stones are UNESCO-listed.

Believed to date back to around 2500 BC, the exact age of the Ring of Brodgar remains a mystery.

This is in part due to the fact that any excavation in the area could have dangerous repercussions to the condition of the Stone circle.

Once featuring over 60 stones, fewer than 30 remain that formed part of the original stone circle.

2. The Italian Chapel

The Italian Chapel. © Shutterstock
The Italian Chapel.

A modern landmark compared other notable Orcadian highlights, Orkney’s Italian Chapel was constructed by prisoners of war during WWII.

Charged with constructing the famous Churchill Barriers after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak following a U-Boat attack, Italian prisoners also built the chapel to serve as a place of worship during their time on the island.

Constructed from two temporary structures, skilled prisoners transformed the building into a beautifully decorated place of worship still standing to this day.

A testament to their craftsmanship, the chapel attracts thousands of visitors each year.

3. Skara Brae

Skara Brae © Shutterstock
Skara Brae.

Dating back to the Neolithic period, visiting Skara Brae really is like taking a step back in time.

A hugely significant historical site that went undetected for centuries, a violent storm unearthed Skara Brae in the mid 19th century.

After the initial discovery, further excavation work was carried out, exposing more of the settlement.

As you walk around this prehistoric village, you will be able to gain a sense of how village inhabitants once lived.

4. Standing Stones of Stenness

Standing Stones of Stenness. © Shutterstock
Standing Stones of Stenness.

Another Neolithic landmark, the Standing Stones of Stenness, much like the Ring of Brodgar, date back thousands of years.

This site is actually believed to be older than the Ring of Brodgar!From the site, you will be looking out across both the Loch of Stenness and Loch of Harray.

Only two minutes away, readers can combine visits to both Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar quite easily.

5. Yesnaby

Yesnaby. © Shutterstock

Yesnaby, found to the west of the mainland, is one of the most spectacular sights in Scotland.

Here, the iconic cliffs can be viewed if you wander along a coastal path, hearing and seeing crashing waves against rock throughout the journey.

Inspired? Browse our full range of holidays to Orkney today

Take care visiting the area as paths can become unpredictable due to changing weather and their cliff-edge position.

6. Brough of Birsay

Brough of Birsay © Shutterstock
Brough of Birsay.

Visiting the Brough of Birsay sees readers follow in the footsteps of the Picts.

A tidal island, the former settlement hosted Picts before accommodating Norsemen hundreds of years later.

A serene location, visitors can explore the remains of the village or wander along to the island’s lighthouse depending on the tide.

Set high on cliffs looking out across the Atlantic, this is an excellent photography opportunity.

7. Old Man of Hoy

Old Man of Hoy. © Shutterstock
Old Man of Hoy.

One of the most photographed places across the collective Orkney Isles, the impressive ‘Old Man of Hoy’ sea stack is up there amongst the great Scottish sights.

Rising over an incredible 400 metres, the sea stack, shaped by the elements and crashing waves, is one of the tallest sea stacks in the entire British Isles!

8. Bishop’s and Earls’ Palaces

Earl's Palace © Shutterstock
Earl’s Palace.

Standing in the Orkney capital, Kirkwall, the ruins of these famous palaces date back several centuries.

Built before Orkney joined Scotland, the Bishop’s Palace connects Orkney to its Viking past with Earl’s Palace constructed in the 17th century.

Close by, historic St Magnus Cathedral also makes our list.

9. St Magnus Cathedral

Earl's Palace. © Shutterstock
Earl’s Palace.

One of the main landmarks in Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral is a wonderful Orcadian highlight.

This Romanesque Cathedral, with its mild red brickwork exterior, is a beautiful building.

The main entrance is complete with a lovely round window letting sunlight reach the interior.

Inside, you will be met with huge pillars and pews skirting the main route to the altar that have bore witness to many events and occasions.

10. Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow © Shutterstock
Scapa Flow

Once home to the British Royal Navy, Scapa Flow is where the German Fleet was scuttled at the conclusion of WWI.

The site is also the final resting place of some British Naval ships.

This natural stretch of water provided shelter from the wild North Sea and North Atlantic.

Today, readers can spot some of the sunken vessels as they jut out of the water, their rusting remains clearly visible at some points, giving a small indication of the size of the huge ships that once ruled the waves and fought in the historic Great War.


Browse our full range of holidays to Orkney today.