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Skara Brae, Orkney, Scotland


In the winter of 1850, a huge storm hit Scotland causing around 200 deaths. The next day, in the Orkney Isles, villagers discovered the tempest had dislodged part of a cliff and uncovered a hidden settlement with stone roofless houses. The local laird (or estate owner), William Watt, excavated four of the houses. When the village was threatened again by storm the following century, it was decided the site needed preserving.



Tests showed the site dated from 3200 to 2200 BC and was inhabited for 600 years. It consisted of 10 round stone houses with a central hearth and beds by the wall. The roofs were probably made of whalebone and peat and roofed passages meant you could go from house to house out of the weather. The standardized design suggests there was no hierarchy but a community of sophisticated people living peacefully as farmers, herdsmen and traders.



The village is on the Bay of Skaill, the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Isles, and the ferry takes you there from John O’Groats. The site is quite small but the houses are remarkably well preserved by centuries of sand and soil. However, they are still delicate and can be viewed from the pathway, while a replica house offers a fuller picture of Neolithic life on the island. Skara Brae became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. 

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Travel Gallery: Skara Brae, Orkney, Scotland
Skara Brae, Orkney, Scotland
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