Ness of Brodgar

Ness of Brodgar

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney has many Neolithic sites, including the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stone of Stenness. Something to look forward to between these two attractions is the Ness of Brodgar, a massive complex of Neolithic monuments that dates back several centuries.

The Ness of Brodgar dates back to 3000 BCE, one of the oldest sites in the North Atlantic. Best of all, the Ness of Brodgar is an archaeological haven with an ongoing excavation. This means that you can also participate in geophysical surveys and excavations.

 If you’re interested in learning about the Ness of Brodgar, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll cover the site’s history, how to get there, and what you can look forward to on your visit. Let’s jump into it.

History of The Ness of Brodgar


Regarding archaeological discoveries, the Ness of Brodgar is one of the newest to grace the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. It was uncovered in 2003, and Brodgar excavations started properly in 2004. However, the Ness’ history dates back several thousands of centuries.

Archaeology suggests that the Ness of Brodgar dates back to 3000 BCE, which puts it around the same time as other major sites like Skara Brae. It’s theorised that the Ness of Brodgar and Skara Brae were exchanging ideas and rich assemblages of artefacts.

Ness of Brodgar Through the Ages

So far, archaeologists have found five structures at the Ness of Brodgar: Structures 1, 8, 10, 12, 14. What’s curious about these structures is that not all of them were created at the same time. Structure 10 was made several years later than the others, around the same time the Avebury Stones were erected.

Here are some interesting facts about each of the buildings within the Ness of Brodgar to look out for:

Structure 10

Structure 10 was the latest addition to the Ness of Brodgar, likely created around 300- 400 years after the others. Archaeology excavators note that the building looks like a temple, measuring 25 metres by 20 metres, and it likely dominated the skyline of the peninsula.

Another incredibly unique aspect of Structure 10 was its closure. Unlike many Neolithic villages that were slowly abandoned, this temple-like building was ritually destroyed. Accompanying this destruction was a slaughter of 400 cattle and a celebration feast, and archaeologists have found the shin bones of the cattle as well as whole carcasses of red deer.

Structure 1

The purpose of Structure 1 is still largely debated, but the artefacts recovered here show off the evidently vibrant society that once lived at the Ness of Brodgar. The stones used to make this building have paintings of yellows, reds, and oranges – the first evidence of Neolithic art in Britain!

The coloured walls of this structure has changed the understanding that archaeologists have of the culture and artistry of Neolithic humans in the UK.

Structure 8

Structure 8 was constructed right after Structure 1 during the Ness of Brodgar’s peak period and shares similarities to a communal hall or feast. The building has six hearths, ten piers and recesses, which indicates that it was an expansive hub for the Neolithic community.

A notable find at Structure 8 was the extremely refined spatulas (flattened spoons) that showed no wear and tear. The site’s function, as well as the spoons, are unknown, which makes the mystery all the more curious.

Structure 12

Out of the several buildings on the Ness of Brodgar, Structure 12 is located in the southernmost part of the settlement. The building was made from beautifully decorated stone but suffered from structural integrities.

The highlight found by archaeologists at Structure 12 was that several grooved ware pottery pieces were also painted with shades of brown, black, white, and red.

Structure 14

Structure 14 of the domestic settlement was built in tandem with Structures 1, 8, and 12. This building is one of the most mysterious of the Ness of Brodgar, as much of it was used to create other structures around the site. Like the different sites of its time, it was destroyed by 2,600 BCE.

How to Get to the Ness of Brodgar

The Ness of Brodgar sits on the Isle of Orkney, specifically on the main island of Stromness. The Isle of Orkney is pretty difficult to reach, but there are plenty of ways to see the Ness of Brodgar via plane or ferry.

By Car

From Stromness’ largest city, Kirkwall, to the Ness of Brodgar, it only takes about 15 minutes to reach if you can believe it! You’ll be treated to the gorgeous Orcadian coastline and several other Orkney archaeology sites along the way. Here’s how to get to the Ness of Brodgar with a motor vehicle:

  • Exit Kirkwall from the west, taking the A965 towards Finstown. This road will be your main route, so feel comfortable and enjoy the views.
  • Pass through Finstown and continue following the A965 southwest until you see signs for the Heart of Neolithic Orkney and Maeshowe.
  • Take the first right after the Barnstone onto B9055 and continue past the Standing Stones of Stenness.
  • Drive over the two causeways that bridge the Stenness Loch to the Ness of Brodgar.

By Plane

Kirkwall Airport is buzzing with activity for those who want a practical trip to the Ness of Brodgar. Several flights from all over the Scottish Mainland offer direct access to the Orkney Isles within an hour or two.

Scotland’s main cities, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Inverness, have regular flights to Kirkwall. Average flight times are around 55 minutes, but the further you are from the Isle, the longer you can expect to travel. August offers the lowest rates if you’re looking for cheap flights to Kirkwall.

Kirkwall Airport also accommodates flights from Scotland’s northern isles, including Sumburgh, Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay, and more.

By Ferry

North Link Ferries provide transport over the North Sea towards the Orkney Isles from all over Scotland. There are ferries from Aberdeen, Scrabster, and Lerwick. There is also a direct link to Stromness, which offers a closer port of call to the Ness of Brodgar.

Ferries run regularly and can provide passage for both cars and people! Taking a ferry is the way to go if you want to enjoy a scenic drive through Stromness. 

Prices for ferries to Kirkwall vary throughout the year, but you can expect to pay between £19.45 – £22.65 per passenger and £63 – £70 per car. Motorhomes and other large vehicles are costlier. Find out more about prices and fares from Northlink Ferries.

Best Time to Visit the Ness of Brodgar

The best time to visit the Ness of Brodgar is undoubtedly during the Scottish summer, specifically between June and August. Not only can you indulge in the best weather that Scotland offers, but the Ness of Brodgar excavation is open to the public throughout these months.

The site is not open all day or every day, so be sure to check out the Ness of Brodgar website for the visitor hours that best suit your holiday. 

Top Things to Do at the Ness of Brodgar

The Ness of Brodgar is filled with excellent attractions for visitors to see. Here are the top things to do at the Ness of Brodgar during your visit:

Watch an Excavation

Watch an Excavation

That’s right! Since the Ness of Brodgar excavation site is one of the newest excavation sites that you can see in Scotland, there are ongoing excavations that you can watch in real-time. There are even daily excavation tours during the dig season.

These take place on weekdays, from 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm, from June 26 to August 16. The 2024 excavation season is also the final season where excavations will occur, so please ensure that you attend this research project when you can.

The large complex is surrounded by a massive stone wall, which gives you a gorgeous view of the two sites undertaken by the archaeologists.

See the Dwarfie Stane

Dwarfie Stane

Hop over to the Isle of Hoy on Orkney, and you’ll see a one-of-a-kind chambered cairn. While the Scottish islands have several impressive chambered cairns for you to see, none of them are created from prehistoric rock like the Dwarfie Stane.

The rock was thought to be deposited some time during the end of the last Ice Age, after which Neolithic people undertook the task of carving into the rock using stone tools. The result of this remarkable feat is a 

Explore the Ness of Brodgar Site

Even if you can’t make it to the ongoing excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, you can still explore the Neolithic site to your heart’s content. You partake in daily tours, which last about an hour, and dive into the unique history of the Ness of Brodgar.

Take on the Ness Neolithic Trail

Ring of Brodgar

The Ness of Brodgar isn’t the only fantastic site you can look forward to seeing in Orkney. The Ness Neolithic Trail takes on the other sites that dot the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is a massive collection of standing stones that form one of the largest stone circles in Scotland, measuring nearly 60 metres in diameter. While only 27 of the original structures remain on site, it’s still an extremely impressive artefact of the Neolithic world that sits in the centre of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO Heritage site.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Arguably the most famous attraction at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney heritage site, the Standing Stones of Stenness, are the oldest monuments created by Neolithic people on the island. These giant megaliths tower six metres into the sky, creating a beautiful view of the horizon at sunrise and sunset.

Like the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness is only a few minutes walk from the Ness of Brodgar, making it a superb attraction to see while in the area.

Skara Brae

If you’re enjoying the Ness of Brodgar, you’ll want to visit Skara Brae – a Neolithic village built over 5000 years ago. Skara Brae and the Ness of Brodgar were built around the same period (around 3100 – 3500 BCE), which could mean they were connected somehow.

Dive into Everything Ness of Brodgar

If you’ve fallen in love with the Ness of Brodgar like we have, then there are plenty of ways you can continue supplying your historical fascinations.

You can see the Ness of Brodgar in print with the “Ness of Brodgar: As It Stands”. It’s a 27-chapter book that’s fully illustrated and dives into the various excavations that archaeologists have undertaken since the site was discovered.

Various podcasts discuss the Ness of Brodgar and the attractions at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Heritage Site. You can find them on the Ness of Brodgar Podcasts page.

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