The legacy of Orkney's ancestors can be seen across the islands. Its Neolithic origins, stretching back some 10,000 years, are evident in a breathtaking landscape of ceremonial stone circles, tombs, prehistoric villages and many other ancient monuments.
It is said that Orkney has more ancient sites than anywhere else in Europe and with new discoveries still being unearthed it holds a special attraction for archaeologists. Indeed, Orkney continues to rewrite history and the discovery in 2002 of a vast Neolithic site at the Ness of Brodgar made worldwide news such was its significance. Annual excavations at the site reveal new and exciting finds leading experts to conclude that Orkney was an important centre of trade, worship and pilgrimage thousands of years ago.
The Ness of Brodgar can be found in the West Mainland, home to other archaeological gems including the mystical giant standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar, a 5,000 year old chambered tomb at Maeshowe and the famous prehistoric village of Skara Brae, one of Orkney's most popular attractions. Not surprisingly, the area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site - The Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
Across the Mainland and the islands, there are a staggering number of major archaeological sites. In fact, many visitors plan their stay to accommodate a busy itinerary of visits! Such is the interest that specialist companies now arrange archaeology holidays, Historic Scotland's rangers run guided tours and the Orkney Archaeology Society hosts lectures. Historic Scotland, Visit Scotland and Orkney Islands Council all publish useful reference books.