Find the nearest History & Heritage in Orkney Islands
Our History and Heritage category brings all Coast Radar’s Orkney Islands listings related to looking for something to do or a place to visit together where they offer some form of historic or heritage based activity.
Finding the best things to see and do on a Orkney Islands day out with your family or friends is easy – simply explore the historic and heritage links below, hit the jump to my location button or use the search bar to plan your next Orkney Islands activity.
- The Westray Heritage Centre is a museum, archive and information centre located in the island’s main village of Pierowall. The centre is also the home of the 5,000-year-old ‘Westray Wife’ found at the Links of Noltland, and the Westray Stone a large decorated stone with Neolithic carving thought to be to be 4000 – 5000 years old. The centre is Open May – September.
- Balfour Castle is located on Shapinsay, one of the Orkney Islands, the current castle was built in 1847, commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and designed by Edinburgh architect David Bryce. The castle is built around an older structure that dates from at least the early 18th century. The castle has large grounds extending to the shore of Shapinsay and into the large wooded area to the north. In the woods you will find two acres of walled gardens.
- The Links of Noltland Neolithic and Bronze Age site near Grobust Bay on the north coast of Westray in the Orkney Islands contains the remains of both a Neolithic village and later Bronze Age dwellings. As well as the buildings the ‘Westray Wife’ was discovered, a lozenge-shaped figurine that is believed to be the earliest representation of a human face ever found in Scotland. The face has two dots for eyes, heavy brows and an oblong nose and a pattern of hatches on the body could represent clothing. The figurine can be seen in the Westray Heritage Centre. The site sits within the sand dunes and is under constant threat from coastal erosion.
- Noltland Castle is a 16th century heavily fortified castle. Built from local, grey sandstone, the castle follows as a typical “Z” plan layout, with a rectangular central structure with a square tower position at diagonally opposite corners. The castle has 7 ft thick walls and the lower floors have no accessible windows. Today, access to the castle is via this courtyard, the arched entrance of which remains today. On the right hand side of the arch, and barely visible, is inscribed the cryptic message: “When I see the blood I will pass over you in the night.”
- Cubbie Roos’ Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, built around 1150. This now ruined castle took its name from Kolbein Hruga, a Norse chieftain who is said to have lived in the castle. Cubbie Roo’s Castle would originally have been a simple stone tower with a ditch, earthworks and a stone wall as outer defences. Now the thick stone wall survives only to a height of 1.2 metres and you will see some of the ground floors of structures.
- At the same time as St Magnus Cathedral was being constructed, the Bishop’s Palace was built nearby for William the Old, with a large rectangular hall above vaulted storerooms. The palace fell into ruins, but after 1540 was restored by Bishop Robert Reid who added a round tower, the “Moosie Toor”. He presided at St. Magnus from 1541 to 1558.
- The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in the Orkney Islands with a total length of 1.5 miles (2.3 km). They link the Orkney Mainland in the north to the island of South Ronaldsay via Burray and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm. The barriers were built in the 1940s primarily as naval defences to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow but now serve as road links between Kirkwall to Burwick.
- Broch of Burrian is an Iron Age broch located on the southern tip of North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands. The broch has solid walls and an external diameter of 18 metres with the entrance being a passage on the southeast side, there is a small room on the northeast side. The broch is surrounded by outer defences consisting of the remains of four concentric ramparts on the landward side.
- St Magnus Cathedral is situated in the town of Kirkwall, the main town of the Orkney Islands. This magnificent cathedral, a fine example of Romanesque architecture, dominates the skyline of the town. Founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, the cathedral was added to over the following 300 years and even has its own dungeon! It is known for being the most northerly cathedral in the British Isles and is a parish church of the Church of Scotland. Open all year round to the public.
- St Mary’s Chapel is a twelfth-century roofless, but largely complete chapel in the centre of Wyre in the Orkney islands. The Chapel architecture is Romanesque and demonstrates that the Norsemen, best known for their Viking raids, also had a cosmopolitan cultural influence.