Not far from the stones of Stenness, forming a straight line, on top of the tallest hill in the zone is The Ring of Brodgar ("Ring of Brodgar"), a circle of Neolithic stones in which only some are damaged by merely natural causes. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the prehistoric monument is known as the center of Neolithic Orkney. Almost all features are applied to Stenness stones, but in this case we have a bigger monument and somewhat higher status. Experts do not hesitate to assert both locations were linked and their status online, along with other Neolithic sites found in the zone, even as Maeshowe Skara Brae. Ocean and more exposed to the elements of nature, it must have an explanation, but I don´t know what it is yet.
About 10 kilometres north of the town of Stromness, there are some of the most rugged and attractive landscapes on the islands - the Cliffs of Yesnaby. This is the western part of the island that faces America. With sunshine or cloudy weather, there's always a feeling of fog, but it's really just the water produced by the waves breaking against the shore abruptly. The site is beautiful, remote and very quiet, with recommended sunsets and evenings. It's a great pleasure to be there sitting and watching the sea and listening the waves, and some birds. Honestly, there's nothing else there but what I have described above, but you can spend hours there just relaxing among wonderful nature.
Birsay is an area of Orkney, in the north of the island where there is a bit of everything. It's a village, a ruined palace, a beach, a lighthouse and cliffs, and I may be forgetting something. However, it's really a very picturesque place, you can enjoy the many possibilities offered by the site in good weather. It's a particularly quiet place with beautiful coastal walks that are most of the time along cliffs, so you should proceed with a bit of caution (or rather common sense, you can see many crazy people who make you think a little). There are three areas recommended for visiting, which include the palace ruins, the Island or Birsay "Brough", accessible only when the tide is low to the remains of previous civilizations and the old lighthouse, and finally, the Skiba Geo (next review), where a whale bone marks one of the most important references (some time ago) and spectacular views. It's one of the places that you shouldn't miss while visiting the Mainland in Orkney.
Once out of the urban centres in Mainland, there's a series of archaeological sites of great value and in very good condition. Many of them are of great antiquity, between 3000 and 5000 years old, all in choosen strategic locations. In many cases, the people tried to favour the gods. This is the case with "Stones of Stenness Straight" in the village of Stenness, on a mound just south of a lake that shares its name with the town. There's a perfect circle (of about 44 meter radius) of vertical and irregular stones of an average of 5 meters tall. This monument belongs to the Neolithic period and its function is believed to be purely religious, especially during sunset. Close by, there's another circle of larger stones, the Ring of Brodgar, which indicates that the location wasn't chosen at random. Certainly, we're talking about the centre of the island and always at an elevated position near the water (with stunning views), especially with sunsets and the full moon. Similarly, even on calm days, the winds seem to play an important role. This marked the beginning of a series of prehistoric corners, all recognized as World Heritage Sites.
Once you're in Birsay there's a sign that indicates the spectacular eastward trail that'll take you to the whale's tail, in Skiba Geo, a place of worship for fishermen since ancient times because of its elevated position and the fact that it's directly overlooking the sea. During the walk, especially close to sunset, you never stop having beautiful views. We passed a haven for fishermen in storms, the most traditional kind, as well as colonies of birds that were nesting on the cliffs. In early spring, the sun sets right behind the small island of Birsay, which much like Skiba Geo, produces very good lighting. Once there, it's best to relax and enjoy the scenery, the sound of the sea, and everything this place has to offer.
In terms of both size and importance, Stromness is the second city in the Orkney Islands. Its importance lies in its harbor, located on the southwest coast of the Mainland Island. Seu Hamnavoe, meaning "safe haven", was once a Viking settlement. It's a small city without a lot to do besides the Navy and Harbour and Victoria Street, which is the main street. Here you will find some shops, a maritime museum, post office, bars and hotels. One interesting thing to do is just take a stroll down this street and look at the unusual local architecture, such as corners designed to look like keels of boats, and whalebones. These bones are in fact located throughout the island, reflecting the tradition of whaling in the area. The Vikings believed that these bones functioned as a kind of omen, to keep whales and fish visiting the area.
Between Stromness and Finstown is Maeshowe, an ancient burial site in a circular mound with an outer ditch. It's about 4,500 years old, and is preserved in amazing condition (unfortuntely photos inside are forbidden). Inside we can find the mound with a stone door or gate, and you have to dig down about 6 meters. It's fascinating to discover that all parts of the structures - the walls, ceiling and floor - are made of stone 6m long. Even more interesting is the fact that when the sun sets on the island, its rays filter through the entrance hallway horizontally, focusing on the crypt within. Once inside, we went to the crypt room, where we found four niches for depositing mortuary remains. About two thousand lines of messages were written in runes, and remain fully readable to this day. Maeshowe is considered the best preserved burial mound of Northern Europe.
The "Brochs" are buildings in Scotland, mainly on the north and west coasts. A broch was usually a high-rise tower, built of stone, that marked important locations, especially for boaters who used them as a reference. In some of them fires were lit at nigh.. They usually have a life of about 2500 years (approximately). In Orkney, interestingly, the brochs were not isolated buildings. They were surrounded by houses, indicating that they were considered important sites. The Broch of Gurness is located on the north coast, facing another Broch (Midhowe) that can be found in another of the islands that make up the Orkney Islands Rousay, suggesting that the passage between the two islands was controlled by both Brochs and commercial communication existed between the two populations. From a cultural-historical perspective the constructions seem very interesting, because different customs reveal different known (or assumed) cultures. I remember being at the top of a Broch, the best preserved of Scotland (Mousa, Shetland Islands). The views and position indicate that its construction isn't random at all.
Skara Brae is one of the best-preserved Neolithic villages in Northern Europe. More than 5,000 years old, it is a fascinating place. I had never seen anything like it before. Located on the coast and flanked by cliffs, Skara Brae was discovered in 1850 after a storm shifted the sands on the beach. You can see beds, cabinets, ceilings, doors, boxes and other decorative elements made of stone. The village is complete and still stands in amazing condition, and you can visit the central market area, the streets, and see examples of ventilation in the houses. The entrances to the houses are very low, but not because the people who lived there were short...rather, they entered in a squatting position to keep warm and avoid exposure to the natural elements. In fact, a study has shown that the population had an average height of 1.70m. Stone and whale bone tools show that the main activities here were based on fishing and raising cattle. It is assumed that the settlement was abandoned because of a sandstorm, like the one that revealed it thousands of years later. Definitely an archaeological gem worth visiting.