Orkney is an archipelago of around 70 islands (20 inhabited) about ten miles off the northern tip of Scotland. The islands are historically and visually stunning; think unspoilt idyllic beaches, calm blue seas (and wilder ones!), uninhabited islands to explore, vibrant towns and villages, ancient, Stone Age monuments and an abundance of wildlife.
The huge natural harbour of Scapa Flow is one of Orkneys biggest attractions. The crystal clear waters attract divers from all over the world who want to explore the ghostly underwater wrecks of the German High Seas fleet, sunk in 1919. The marine life is also abundant - Porpoise and Orca have been sighted here, not to mention some of the best shellfish in the UK (more for eating than wildlife spotting presumably). This is also home to the Churchill Barriers - and some stunning beaches surround these.
There are several iconic landmarks on the islands. The Old Man of Hoy - a 137 metre high, thin sea stack of red standstone - is situated on the west coast of the island and looks like it might topple at any minute! It can be climbed by the very experienced, but can be fully appreciated by taking one of the the wonderful cliff walks alongside it. If you park at the spectacular Rackwick Bay (also worth a visit) you can follow the path along the cliff to get here.
In Stenness, explore the Ring of Brodgar - an extraordinary circle of ancient stones, some up to 15 feet high. Originally it was thought to have contained approximately 60 stones, but now around twenty seven are now remaining. The stone ring was build in a circle almost 104 metres wide. These are not to be confused with the gigantic Standing Stones of Stenness, about a mile away. These are up to 6 metres high and date back to around 3100 BC, making them one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. These sites are just some of those which represent Orkneys ancient heritage.
Children will love a visit to Skara-Braw on the west coast of the mainland in the Bay of Skaill. Here you can visit what is thought to be Europes most complete Stone Age village, comprised of nine houses and dated around 3180 BC - older than both Stonehenge and Egypts pyramids. This Neolithic site is beautifully preserved and you can explore around the village, look at the "fitted furniture" like stone dressers, and see artefacts including 5000 year old dice, tools and jewellery which are on display at the visitor centre.
The Orkney Islands are a fantastic holiday destination for families - offering stunning natural landscapes, fascinating history and many fun activities.
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