Skara Brae and Skaill House
Skara Brae is a Neolithic fishing and farming village from about 3000 BC. It was buried in sand for centuries, which is probably why it’s so well-preserved, until a huge storm demolished the dunes covering it in 1850. There’s a much swankier visitor centre than when we last visited in 1996, and a replica of one of the houses which I can’t remember seeing before so suspect is also new. You can go inside that, but the real houses can only be viewed from above by walking round the outer walls. Even so, you get a good impression of how people lived with their fireplaces and built-in furniture ingeniously made from stone.
Nearby is Skaill House, home of William Graham Watt (the 7th Laird of Breckness, who unearthed Skara Brae in 1850) and still the current Laird’s family home. The oldest parts of the house date to 1620, but there have been several additions over the years, and in 1996 it was undergoing more renovations. This time we were able to visit – in summer, it’s included in your Skara Brae ticket. Ideas of comfort have, thankfully, moved on since 3000 BC!
Coming next: Stromness and Orphir.