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Rare chance to step back into rare history

31 March 2009

Visitors have a rare chance to step back into prehistory with special guided tours inside the Neolithic houses at Skara Brae.

The need to preserve the 5,000-year-old buildings means visitors can normally see them from paths round the outside of the site.

But this year to mark World Heritage Day on Saturday, 18 April there will be five tours, led by staff at the village, the Orkney Ranger Service and Historic Scotland district architect, Steve Watt.

Ranger Elaine Clarke said: “This is a rare opportunity to go inside the houses which were built by these early farmers, and get close to the fires where they cooked, the beds where they slept and the shelves where they stored their precious items.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to hear about the vital work Steve and his colleagues, have been doing over the years to care for this important part of our heritage.”

The tours, which are included in the normal ticket price, take place at 10am, 11am, 12md, 2pm and 3pm – places are limited and should be booked in advance.

To book or for more information contact Skara Brae visitors centre on 01856 841 815

Notes for Editors

  • Steve Watt will be leading one of the tours but will be providing a talk for all the tour groups to explain the various conservation projects that have been carried out by Historic Scotland.

  • Skara Brae is 19 miles north west of Kirkwall on the B9056. Tel 01856 841 815.

  • Tickets are normally £5.70 for adults, £4.70 concessions and £2.85 for children.

  • The settlement is of great cultural significance and is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • When a wild storm on Orkney in 1850 exposed the ruins of ancient dwellings, Skara Brae, the best preserved prehistoric village in northern Europe, was discovered.

  • The excavated farming settlement dates back 5000 years. Within the stone walls of the dwellings – separated by passages – are stone beds, dressers, seats and boxes for provisions, recesses for personal possessions, and a hearth where dried heather, bracken or seaweed was burned.

  • A replica house has been created next to the site and many original artefacts found at Skara Brae are displayed in the visitor centre, which has a café.

  • Excavations were conducted at Skara Brae from 1928 to 1930 by Gordon Childe, one of the most respected archaeologists of his day.

  • Further work took place in the 1970s when advances in techniques allowed a much more sophisticated understanding of artefacts and organic samples.

  • Pieces of haematite not found on Mainland suggest the people were involved with trading. Ornately carved stones of no obvious practical use have been taken to imply ritual practices.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

  • Historic Scotland’s mission is to safeguard the nation’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871