They comprise the Maes Howe
chambered tomb, the Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar ceremonial stone circles and prehistoric settlements including Skara Brae.
Prehistoric Orkney: The Ring of Brodgar and Stenness standing stones are intriguing, and there are various internationally significant prehistoric sites including Maes Howe
and Skara Brae.
This was Maes Howe
, the 5,000-year-old burial chamber on Orkney, famous in itself, but almost equally important for containing the largest surviving collection of Viking runic inscriptions.
Take the Viking runes at the Neolithic burial chamber Maes Howe
that was already an ancient site when the Norsemen carved their graffiti onto the sandstone slabs in the 12th Century as they travelled to and from the crusades.
But the beauty of Maes Howe
for people who prefer not to sit in the sun is that it has no windows and is usually quite cool - between 12-14C (53-57F).
From this base, visitors are a stone's throw from spectacular archaeological attractions such as the prehistoric tomb of Maes Howe
, with its signs of visitation by Vikings, the stunning standing stones called the Ring of Brodgar and the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, built more than 5000 years ago, before the Egyptians constructed their pyramids, and buried for centuries beneath the sands.
Partly for reasons of convenience, most tourists are drawn to four monuments on the western part of the Mainland (which despite its name is actually the largest of the Orkney Islands): Skara Brae; the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, megalithic henge monuments that date back as many as 5,000 years; and Maes Howe
, one of Europe's greatest chambered tombs.
, Orkney: Europe's best-preserved neolithic chambered cairn also contains fine examples of Viking runic inscriptions and drawings.
Yet Skara Brae and Maes Howe
seem to have been in the vanguard of progress some 5,000 years ago.
Tombs built before 2700BC were unearthed at Maes Howe
As far as mounds go, the huge burial chamber of Maes Howe
is unmissable, and it was certainly explored during the thousands of years that followed its creation around 3000BC.
Geometric incisions on the inside of Maes Howe
on Orkney were only found when a team of archaeologists examined every inch of stone by shining torchlight on to it at different angles.