About Skara Brae
Skara Brae is an incredibly well-preserved Neolithic village in the Orkney Isles off the coast of mainland Scotland.
History of Skara Brae
Characterised by sturdy stone slab structures insulated and protected by the clay and household waste which holds them together, Skara Brae is a stunning example of the high quality of Neolithic workmanship and is a phenomenal example of a Neolithic village.
Skara Brae was inhabited between 3200 and 2500 BC, although it was only discovered again in 1850 AD after a storm battered the Bay of Skaill on which it sits and unearthed the village. Subsequent excavation uncovered a series of organised houses, each containing what can only be described as “fitted furniture” including a dresser, a central hearth, box beds and a tank which is believed to have be used to house fishing bait.
The inhabitants of Skara Brae built their community on a dichotomy of community life and family privacy, as portrayed by the combination of closely built, homogenous homes compared with the strong doors behind which they conducted their private lives. This sense of a structured community, coupled with the fact that no weapons have been found at the site, sets Skara Brae apart from other Neolithic communities and suggests that this farming community was both tight-knit and peaceful.
Visitors to Skara Brae can tour these original magnificent homes as well as a reconstructed version which really conveys the realities of Neolithic life.
Skara Brae today
The site is open year round, with slightly shorter hours during the winter – it’s rarely heaving, but outside of peak summer months you’ve every chance of having the site to yourself. During the summer, the entry ticket also covers entrance to the 17th century bishop’s mansion, Skaill House, which has a rather contrasting 1950s style interior.
The interactive exhibit and visitors centre is worth spending some time in, providing a good grounding in Neolithic histor and showcasing some of the artefacts found on the site. The guidebook is worth picking up if you’re interested in the history of the site. Be warned, it’s a bleak spot and can be quite exposed, so come prepared for all types of weather.
Getting to Skara Brae
Skara Brae is about 9 miles north of Stromness, Orkney’s second biggest town – your best bet is to drive up here, but failing that, you could walk, cycle, hitch or get a taxi. Public transport is pretty limited, and there aren’t any bus routes which are of actual use on this stretch of the journey.