In the West Mainland, you'll discover a magical prehistoric landscape - The Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hauntingly beautiful, this is an area of ritual, mystery and great archaeological significance.

The West Mainland unveils a civilisation stretching back over 10,000 years and the legacy of Orkney's ancestors can be experienced in three archaeological gems.

The Ring of Brodgar is one of the finest ancient stone circles to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom - get up close and touch these spellbinding giant stones. Nearby, a large grassy mound identifies Maeshowe, a magnificent burial chamber reputed to be over 5,000 years old. Last - and certainly not least - there's Skara Brae. This is Europe's best preserved Stone Age village and one of Orkney's most popular attractions. The West Mainland has many more archaeological surprises and is also an area of breathtaking beauty. The ten-mile coastal path from Black Craig to the historic tidal island the Brough of Birsay is frequently storm-lashed but rewards the walker with views of sea stacks, towering cliffs, sandy beaches and stunning sunsets.

The area can be explored on foot, two wheels and by car with ease. To the south, the ferry pier at Houton is a popular destination taking visitors on the car ferry to Lyness on the island of Hoy. The villages of Orphir, Dounby and Finstown provide a taste of local community life, not least in the many tearooms serving delicious lunches, snacks and high teas. Birsay in the north is well worth a visit, with the ruins of the Earl's Palace nearby and the delightful tidal island Brough of Birsay, which can be accessed on foot via a causeway for just two hours either side of low tide. (Tide times are posted at the site and in visitor information centres)