Find the nearest See & Do in Mainland
Heading to Mainland and looking for something to do or a place to visit nearby. Coast Radar is not just a list of beaches but we bring you the whole Mainland coast including castles, lighthouses, piers, museums, beautiful gardens, seaside towns, National Trust and other heritage properties.
When on an information page you can also use our tools to search for nearby Mainland seaside towns, and the surrounding coast for the best beaches and places to stay and eat.
Finding the best things to see and do on a Mainland day out with your family or friends is easy – simply explore the links below, to find the closest hit the jump to my location compass or use the search bar to plan where your next Mainland activity could be.
- The Standing Stones of Stenness is a Neolithic monument located on a promontory at the south bank of the stream that joins the southern ends of the sea loch Loch of Stenness and the freshwater Loch of Harray. The site is thought to date from at least 3000 BC. The Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe cairn is just over 1 km away suggesting that this area had particular importance. The stones were original elements of a stone circle of 12 stones, about 32 m (104 ft) diameter. The 5.6 m (18 ft) high Stenness Watch Stone stands outside the circle. The Standing Stones of Stenness is at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Skara Brae is a large Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill. The settlement consists of ten clustered houses, dated from the late Neolithic and inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC. The settlement is one of Europe’s most complete Neolithic village and has been called the “Scottish Pompeii” because of its excellent preservation. Because of this protection by the sand that covered the settlement the buildings, and their contents, are well-preserved. Not only can you see the walls of the structures but they are roofed with their original stone slabs, and the interior fittings of each house give a view of life was about. Skara Brae is within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- 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 Stone o’ Quoybune is solitary standing stone of prehistoric origin in Birsay in Orkney. The stone stands at nearly 4m high and is one of the Orcadian standing stones associated with the folklore of the ‘petrified giant’. The myth says that each New Year, the Stone o’ Quoybune goes down to the nearby Boardhouse Loch and takes a drink. If you were to see the stone taking this annual trek, then supposedly you would not live to see another new year.
- 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.
- Mine Howe is a prehistoric subterranean man-made chamber dug 20 feet deep inside a large mound. It is not sure when it was built, some believe it to have been built roughly 2000 years ago during the Iron Age. Some researchers think that it could be as old as 5000 years, which would place it in the Neolithic period. There is some similarity to the well inside the Iron Age Broch of Gurness. The entrance is at the top of the small hill and there are indications of other Iron Age and earlier activity around the site. A flight of stone steps descend to a half-landing where they turn back on themselves and a further steps descend to a chamber. This chamber is only about 1.3 metres in diameter but is over four metres high with a corbelled roof. At the half-landing two subsidiary chambers/passages open out, one above the other.
- The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The site is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception. The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. There are no obvious stones inside the circle, but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that structures may be present. The stone circle is the third largest in the British Isles at some 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter and set within a circular ditch. The ring originally comprised 60 stones, of which less than 30 remain standing. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring.
- 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.
- The Knowe of Queen o’Howe is a turf-covered, artificial mound which probably contains a broch tower. Located in the north of the island of Westray in Orkney, it is mostly made of large stones with a circular hollow on the top, used for burning kelp. The name is derived from Old Norse meaning ‘enclosure’ and ‘mound’. Excavations nearby have uncovered evidence of a settlement which predates Skara Brae so it is likely that Knowe of Queen o’Howe was also a settlement.