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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Burroughston Broch is an Iron Age broch located on the island of Shapinsay in the Orkney Islands. The brock has an external diameter of around 18 metres, and an internal diameter of around 10 metres, whilst the drystone walls are up to four metres thick in some parts and there is a complete chamber intact off the entrance passage. Some remains of stone fittings are evident in the interior.
- Earl’s Palace is a ruined palace close to St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney. Described as a fine example of French Renaissance architecture in Scotland, the palace was built by Patrick Stewart, the 2nd Earl of Orkney, in the early 1600s after he decided that the Bishop’s Palace accommodation wasn’t adequate for his needs. The palace fell into ruin in the 18th century and visitors can still see much of the stonework, which gives a glimpse of its former splendour. Open from April to October.
- Barony Mill, also known as the Boardhouse Mill, is a 19th century water-powered mill still in operation located near Stringburn Twatt on the north of the Orkney mainland. Little has changed since Barony Mill first opened in 1873. The mill mainly grinds bere, an ancient form of barley. All grinding is done during the winter, and in the summer it throws open its doors to the public when demonstrations of the machinery are given by the miller.
- 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.
- 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.