Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Five thousand years ago, in the far north of Scotland, the prehistoric people of the Orkney Islands began constructing some extraordinary monuments out of stone. The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a series of important domestic and ritual monuments. They lie in a wider archaeological landscape rich with remains from both the Neolithic and many later periods of Orcadian history.
Individually, the sites are masterpieces of Neolithic design and construction. Collectively, they represent one of the richest surviving Neolithic landscapes in western Europe, and give us exceptional insights into the society, skills and spiritual beliefs of the people who constructed them. Skara Brae
is a domestic settlement whose stone walls, passageways and stone furnishings, such as beds and dressers, survive to the present day. Maeshowe
, a chambered tomb, is an extraordinary example of Neolithic architectural genius. It was designed to allow the setting sun at the winter solstice to shine up the passageway and illuminate the chamber.
The Stones of Stenness
circle and henge is a very early example of this type of monument. The surviving stones are enormous, standing up to 6 metres in height. The Ring of Brodgar
is a great stone circle 130 metres across. Surrounded by a rock cut ditch, it is set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre of lochs and hills.
Inscription and Significance
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney (HONO) was inscribed by UNESCO
in 1999 for the outstanding testimony the monuments bear to the cultural achievements of the Neolithic peoples of northern Europe.
HONO has Outstanding Universal Value as an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble and archaeological landscape which illustrate a significant stage of human history, when the first large ceremonial monuments were built. Individual monuments are technologically ingenious and monumental masterpieces, displaying the highest sophistication in architectural accomplishment.
Read the full Statement of Outstanding Universal Value [pdf, 175kb]
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney lies near Stromness on the island of Mainland, Orkney.
Managing the Site
The Site is managed and cared for by Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers. Orkney Islands Council
, Scottish Natural Heritage
and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
are partners in its wider management. The Management Plan
guides sustainable management to maintain the Outstanding Universal Value. Other supporting documents can be found on the Orkney Islands Council website
In 2013 a new HONO WHS Research Strategy was produced in partnership with Orkney College UHI
. This updates and sits alongside the 2005 HONO WHS Research Agenda (which is available from our Free Publications section
) and can be downloaded below:
Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS Research Strategy 2013-2018 [pdf, 1.3mb]
Visiting the Site
All the monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site can be visited
Images of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney can be viewed on the Scottish Ten website
For further information contact
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Coordinator
c/o Orkney Islands Council
Orkney KW15 1NY