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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate Catholic chapel built by Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa during World War II, who were housed on Lamb Holm while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive. It was not completed until after the end of the war and was restored in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. The chapel was constructed from limited materials by the prisoners. Two Nissen huts were joined end-to-end. The corrugated interior was then covered with plasterboard and the altar and altar rail were constructed from concrete left over from work on the barriers. Most of the interior decoration was done by Domenico Chiocchetti, a POW from Moena. He painted the sanctuary end of the chapel and fellow-prisoners decorated the entire interior. They created a front facade out of concrete, concealing the shape of the hut and making the building look like a church. Chiocchetti remained on the island to finish the chapel, even when his fellow prisoners were released shortly before the end of the war.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.