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Visiting the Orkney Islands was the highlight of our trip. The Orkneys have a character and culture distinct from Scotland. Although the Orkney Islands include seventeen inhabited islands, we only visited the Orkney Mainland. Orkney islanders call themselves Orkadians, rather than Scottish. They also call their largest island the "Mainland." Those are two indicators of the separate Orkney cultural identity from the Scottish mainland. The Orkneys have a rich blend of both Nordic and Scottish heritage.
The Orkney Islands have been inhabited for over 5000 years. Skara Brae is an amazing site of 5000 year old dwellings. Because wood was unavailable on the island at that time, dwellings from that era were made out of stone. The durability of the stone construction of the dwellings and even the furniture, in addition to their having been covered with sand until a huge storm in 1850 revealed them, has allowed the site to be incredibly well preserved. Skara Brae provides one the rare opportunities in the world to see how our ancestors lived millenia ago; even their everyday items were preserved intact and are on display.
We visited Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maes Howe which are Orkney mainland's most famous Neolithic monuments. From the same time period of Skara Brae, these momuments are both fascinating and enigmatic. Pictured below are the Ring of Brodgar and one of the Stones of Steness (lower right).
Tomb of the Eagles
Located on the other side of the Orkney mainland is the Tomb of the Eagles which a chambered burial cairn, perched on a remote seaside cliff. The Tomb is unsual because it is on private land.