Pre-historic Orkney And Beyond Tour

6 nights starting from
£2175

  • Skara Brae Neolithic Village

  • The Standing Stones of Stenness

  • Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe

  • The Ring and Ness of Brodgar

  • Accompanied by Dr David Saunders throughout with daily commentary and two evening lectures

The island of Orkney is covered with archaeological remains of the people, who first came here over 5000 years ago and many of their remains survive.  New archaeological sites are discovered every year and offer a fascinating insight into the lives of our forebears, especially when explored in the company of Dr David Saunders, whose knowledge of pre-history is matched only by his love for it and his enthusiasm to share his insight. Highlights include Skara Brae, Italian Chapel, Maeshowe; the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe, the Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness and Ness of Brodgar, where excavation is due to end in 2024, so this tour represents a last chance to visit the site.

Available Departures

From

28 - July - 2024 Sold Out Travel Info On Request

Provisional Timings

04 - May - 2025 £ 2349.00 Travel Info Book Now

Provisional Timings

ITINERARY

Day 1: Arrive independently at the Best Western Palace Hotel & Spa in Inverness. Evening welcome drink, lecture , ‘Prehistoric Orkney’ with Dr David Saunders and dinner with wine.

Day 2: Travel from Inverness to Kirkwall. Dinner at the hotel. 
Travel by coach from Inverness to Scrabster for the foot passenger crossing to Orkney with Northlink Ferries, which takes about 90 minutes, so time for a leisurely lunch on board (at own expense). On arrival transfer to Orkney’s largest town, Kirkwall for check in to our hotel for four nights in the heart of town. This afternoon a short orientation walk around the town (time permitting) will give your bearings – Kirkwall is a bustling town, with an historic centre full of character, focussed on its magnificent St Magnus Cathedral. This evening we will have dinner with wine at the hotel.

Day 3: Full day Skara Brae, Skaill House and the Broch of Gurness.
Our foray into pre-history starts with the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, which lies on the southern shore of the Bay o' Skaill, in the West Mainland parish of Sandwick. It is one of Orkney's most-visited ancient sites and regarded by many as the most remarkable pre-historic monument in Europe. In the winter of 1850, when yet another storm battered Orkney, the combination of wind and extremely high tides stripped the grass from a large mound, then known as "Skerrabra" which revealed the outline of numerous stone buildings. The local laird, William Watt, of Skaill, was intrigued and embarked on an excavation of the site, unearthing the remains of four ancient houses in 1868. However, the settlement was to then remain undisturbed until 1925, when another storm damaged some of the previously excavated structures. Further excavations followed between 1928 and 1930, when the dwellings we see today were revealed from their protective cocoons. The settlement has been dated to the late Neolithic period and appears to have been inhabited for approximately 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC. Today eight of the dwellings, which are linked together by a series of low, covered passages survive at Skara Brae as it has become known. The sand that covered the settlement for over 4,000 years, also preserved both the buildings and their contents. Not only are the walls of the structures still standing, but the alleyways are still roofed with their original stone slabs where the interior fittings of each house give a glimpse of life in Neolithic Orkney.  But the elements that exposed Skara Brae to the world are also its greatest threat. The village remains under constant threat by coastal erosion and the onslaught of both sand and sea, but for now it is undoubtedly one of the key sights on Orkney. Leaping forward some 5,000 years, our next visit is to Skaill House, the finest 17th Century mansion in Orkney, overlooking the spectacular Bay of Skaill. It was the home of William Graham Watt, the 7th Laird of Breckness, who unearthed the World-famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae in 1850. Originally built by Bishop George Graham in 1620, it has been added to by successive generations over the centuries, by 12 successive related Lairds, who have each added their contribution to the house and its fascinating contents – from Neolithic and Iron Age finds, to Captain Cook’s dinner service, the Bishop’s bed, and Stanley Cursiter paintings. Our last visit of the day is to the Broch of Gurness one of the most outstanding surviving examples of an Iron Age settlement that is unique to northern Scotland.  Archaeological excavations in the early 20th century date the village to about 500-200BC and comprises an entrance causeway, a circular broch tower and a settlement of small stone houses, with attached yards and sheds. Sometime after AD 100 the broch appears to have been abandoned where the site thereafter continues as a single farmstead until around the 8th century.  

Day 4: Full day Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, the Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe. Evening lecture and dinner at the hotel. Our first visit today is to the mysterious Stones of Stenness. Thought to date to at least 3100BC, the complex is one of the earliest stone circles throughout Britain, reaching a maximum height of six metres. Although only four of the ring's stones remain standing, the scale of the megaliths ensures the monument is visible for miles around. From here we head to the Ring of Brodgar, dating to 2000-2500 BC, where 36 stones remain of the original 60 stones that formed a perfect circle 104 metres in diameter.  Nearby excavation since 2002 revealed a complex of Neolithic buildings on the thin strip of land – the Ness of Brodgar – that separates the lochs of Harray and Stenness. We will visit the dig site and have a guided tour with Dr David Saunders (please note direct access to the excavation is not possible). 2024 will be the final season of excavation at the Ness of Brodgar. Finally, to Maeshowe, a chambered tomb that was built sometime before 2700BC. It is recognised as one of the most spectacular Neolithic buildings throughout Britain and one of the finest chambered tombs in Europe. During the Winter Solstice, the setting sun shines down the entrance passage (12m long) illuminating the central chamber. It also reveals the largest collection of runic inscriptions anywhere in the world, having been raided by Vikings in the mid-12th Century, who left their mark forever.  Evening lecture ‘Living in Neolithic Orkney’ with Dr David Saunders and dinner with wine at the hotel. 

Day 5: Scapa Flow, Italian Chapel and Kirkwall.
Moving away from the pre-historic today, we travel along the defences of Scapa Flow that Winston Churchill approved through the building of ‘causeways’ to link the southern isles to Mainland Orkney, thereby closing off the eastern approaches to enemy submarines. This relatively recent historic route takes us to visit the Italian Chapel, a beautiful Roman Catholic chapel in Lamb Holm, which was constructed by Italian POWs during the Second World War. We return to the charming town of Kirkwall, where time is free for a farewell lunch (at own expense) and free time to explore – options include the Orkney Museum, Cathedral or the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palace. 

Day 6: Ferry and travel back to Inverness.
Alas, it is time to head back to the mainland, transferring first to the pretty town of Stromness where we will board as foot passengers on the Northlink ferry to Scrabster.  On arrival we will enjoy a farewell lunch at a local restaurant, before continuing to Inverness for overnight stay.  This evening is at leisure for dinner at own expense.

Day 7: Depart at leisure after breakfast.

NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour managers discretion

Please note this tour has been classed as ‘Demanding’. This is due to the amount of walking at the sites visited, drop off points of the coach to the entrances and the uneven ground at the sites included on the tour.

Please note the maximum group size is 23 passengers.

Day 4 in 2025:

Excavation will be finishing at Ness of Brodgar in 2024, so for 2025 a guided, virtual tour will take place on the site at the Dig HQ. There will be a walking tour around the site and with the aid of photographs, all aspects of the discovery and excavation of the site will be explained as will its place in the wider context of other Neolithic sites and the surrounding World Heritage Area. A selection of some of the amazing artifacts discovered over the past 20 years will also be on show.  There will be time for Q&A and the opportunity to buy books and other Ness related material and book signings. The tour will last approximately an hour and will be led by Nick Card, director of project, or a senior team member.

INCLUDED

  • Return ferry from Scrabster to Stromness as foot passengers
  • Two nights’ accommodation at the Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness on bed and breakfast basis, based on shared occupancy of a twin room
  • Four nights’ at the Albert Hotel Kirkwall, on bed and breakfast basis, based on shared occupancy of a twin room
  • Three dinners at the hotels
  • One lunch on day 6
  • Transfers, tours and entrance fees as detailed  
  • David Saunders and tour manager throughout

NOT INCLUDED

  • Transport to the hotel is not included
  • Hotel Car Parking
  • Twin room and double for sole use supplements
  • Extra nights on bed and breakfast basis
  • Holiday insurance
  • Meals other than those stated
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc
  • Porterage and gratuities

HOTELS

Best Western Palace Hotel and Spa, Inverness – 2 nights

Recently renovated landmark the four-star hotel located near the centre of town with restaurant, bar, spa and indoor swimming pool. Bedrooms are individually styled and comfortable with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, free wifi, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities.

Please note if you choose to travel to Inverness by car, the hotel does not have car parking space to leave your vehicle for the duration of the tour. It is recommended by the hotel to park at the Cathedral Car Park which offers long stay parking from £5 per 24 hours payable directly at the car park.  

Hotel Website

Albert Hotel, Kirkwall – 4 nights

Four-star hotel with boutique-style rooms in the centre of town with restaurant and popular local “Bothy” bar. Bedrooms are comfortable with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV telephone, wifi, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities.

Hotel Website

The Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
The Kingsmills has a rich history dating back to the 18th century. A lovely four-star hotel located near the centre of town with two restaurants, bar, spa and indoor swimming pool. Bedrooms are individually styled and comfortable with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, free wifi, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities.

Hotel Website

MORE INFO - Please click here to see full details of this tour

 

Your Lecturer - David Saunders

David has an interest in all areas pre-historic. He undertakes archaeological excavations at Stonehenge and Marden Henge and has lectured throughout the UK. He has just published a book on animal movement across the Stonehenge landscape, “The Cursus Enigma.” He has led several tours for Travel Editions in recent years which have been extremely well received.

Please note that all our UK tours start and finish at the relevant hotel.  

You can normally check in from 3pm onwards but hotels will always be happy to store your luggage if you arrive earlier in the day. 

For full details of how to get to the hotel, directions and the nearest train station, please click on the hotel website or call our office for details. These will also be sent automatically with your confirmation. 

The welcome reception and first evening dinner / talk will commence at about 7pm - full details will be sent with your joining instructions about 10 days prior to the arrival date.

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