Ring of Brodgar

When you first step into the Ring of Brodgar, there’s something magical in the atmosphere that immediately becomes apparent.

These giant megaliths on the Isle of Orkney are one of the most popular attractions for visitors and form part of a large prehistoric structure called the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. Although only 27 of the 60 original sockets have stone behemoths in them, this world heritage site is enormously impressive amongst the surrounding landscape.

If you’re planning to spend some time in the far-flung Orcadian archipelago during your holiday, then this attraction is one to add to your to-do list. We’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about the Ring of Brodgar, from it’s history, folklore, how to get there, and things to look forward to.

The Ring of Brodgar’s History

Ring of Brdgar, Orkney

The Ring of Brodgar is one of the finest stone circles of the British Isles, but its history is surprisingly unknown. The site was rarely excavated, but historians speculate that the massive Ring of Brodgar was created around 2700 BCE. Later, burial mounds and a setting sunstone were added between 2500 and 1500 BCE.

What’s quite fascinating about the Ring of Brogar is its size. The stone circle measures 104 metres in diameter, and the Brodgar stones range between 2 – 4 metres. In addition, the rock-cut ditch that surrounds the Ring of Brodgar, which measures 136 metres, makes it one of the largest stone circles in the United Kingdom! Of the 60 stones that originally made up the Ring of Brodgar, only 27 of those survive to this day.

The name Brodgar comes from Old Norse, meaning bridge farm. Historians aren’t sure about the exact method of the Ring of Brodgar’s creation, but this ceremonial centre likely required immense strength to carry the quarried stones into this formation.

The first record of the Ring of Brodgar was sometime in the 16th century when enigmatic author Jo Ben wrote the following about the site:

“There at the lake are stones high and broad, in height equal to a spear, 

and in an equal circle of half a mile”

Over the next centuries, several of the erected stones had fallen over. By 1848, there were only 13 stones that stood upright, with several stones lying prone. Thankfully, by 1906, the Ring of Brodgar was taken into state by Historic Scotland, and several of the fallen stones were placed back into the sockets.

The Ring is far from a perfect circle, but the illusion that the stones cast today stokes the imagination to think how beautiful the site would’ve been in its prime. Since then, a few of the stones have suffered lightning strikes

When the Ring of Brodgar was finally excavated in 2008, archaeological evidence found something interesting about the stones: they were dug surprisingly, swallowing the ground. Two stones only had holes about 30 centimetres deep, which would be very shallow for quarried standing stones that towered around 3 metres tall.

Historians believe that this means that this natural amphitheatre of stones was not meant to be an eternal structure by its builders. If they had known that it would survive for over 6000 years, they would probably be quite shocked! For such a long-lasting structure, it’s incredible to believe that it was built by Neolithic people with nothing more than antler picks, stone tools, and determination.

Perhaps that’s why visitors to the Ring of Brodgar today experience an immense sense of wonder and mysticism. A feeling that ancient wisdom knew something we don’t, something almost magical and legendary.

Ring of Brodgar Legends

These stone circles have fantasy and legends surrounding them, as you’d expect for a circular late Neolithic site. The Ring of Brodgar is often called “Orkney’s Legendary Dancing Giants”. It’s easy to see why the towering standing stones were likened to giants, and as you approach the site it’s easy to become intimidated by the foreboding stones.

The massive stone circle isn’t the only magical thing about the Ring of Brodgar. It makes up a greater Neolithic compound that includes the likes of Skara Brae, Comet Stone, and Standing Stones of Stenness.

Each of these prehistoric standing stones and cairns are interlinked, and we can only imagine the ancient wisdom that they hold in unison.

How You Can Reach Ring of Brodgar

Reaching the Ring of Brodgar isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s located on Stromness, the main isle of the Orkney archipelago that sits north of the Scottish Mainland.

Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to reach the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney via land, air, or sea.

By Car

From Stromness’ largest city, Kirkwall, to the Ring of Brodgar, it only takes about 15 minutes to reach if you can believe it! Along the way, you’ll be treated to the gorgeous Orcadian coastline and several other Orkney archaeology sites. Here’s how to get to the Ring 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 free to get comfortable and enjoy the views.
  • Pass through Finstown and continue following the A965 south west until you begin to 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 over the Stenness Loch, past the Ness of Brodgar, and the Ring of Brodgar will be on your left.

By Plane

Kirkwall Airport is buzzing with activity for those who want an expedient trip to the Ring of Brodgar. There are several flights from all over the Scottish Mainland and offer direct access to the Orkney Isles with an hour or two.

Scotland’s main cities of 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. If you’re looking for cheap flights to Kirkwall, then August offers the lowest rates.

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 Ring of Brodgar.

Ferries run fairly regularly and can provide passage for both cars and people! If you want to enjoy a scenic drive through Stromness, then taking a trip via ferry is the way to go.

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.

When Should You Visit The Ring of Brodgar?

The Ring of Brodgar is open year-round, making it ideal for attractions to check out on the Isle of Orkney no matter when you visit. May to September is the ideal time to visit this historic site, not only because the summer months offer a considerable amount of sunshine for you to take advantage of but also the other attractions.

In the winter months, the Ring of Brodgar is also quite fun to visit. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to witness the Northern Lights too!

During the summer months, you can also enjoy the abundant wildlife of Orkney, including seals, orcas, puffins, and ospreys. One of the most famous animals on Orkney is the seaweed-eating sheep of North Ronaldsay, which are bountiful during the summer months.

Things to Do at the Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is an amazing destination, with enigmatic stones that are generally thought to have been erected over 4,000 years ago. And as part of the greater Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, you’ve got so much to look forward to on your visit.

We’ve outlined the top attractions that you can look forward to in and around the Ring of Brodgar, so you don’t leave them out of your to-do list.

Learn about the Nordic Rites

Nordic Rites

After the Ring of Brodgar was created by Neolithic humans, it was adopted by the Nordic settlers of Orkney. The stone ring continued as a site of rituals for the Norse gods. The Ring of Brodgar was called the Temple of the Sun, while the nearby Standing Stones of Stenness were called the Temple of the Moon.

Worshippers would move from one stone setting to another for various rites, including when new couples would be betrothed. The Odin Stone served as the place where a couple’s unions would be complete, but the stone was knocked down in the 19th century.

The stone ring of Brodgar stills maintains a few Nordic rune carvings, including the name “Bjorn”, an anvil, and a cross.

Take Photos of the Towering Standing Stones

Photo of Standing Stones

While the Ring of Brodgar isn’t as old as the Stones of Stenness, they’re one of the most photogenic stone circles has to offer. Their sheer diameter and scale make any shot of the monuments extremely impressive, and posing with them offers an even better sense of their scale.

The best time to capture a memento with the Ring of Brodgar is during sunset or sunrise. As the sun begins to pass over the horizon, the shadows cast by Orkney’s Ring of Brodgar are absolutely magical. Tall behemoths draped in shadow and set against the sun’s glare, there really isn’t quite a sight like it.

Check out Nearby Standing Stones


It’s not only the Brodgar Ring that offers a look into the prehistoric British Isles but the rest of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney as well! As we’ve mentioned before, this ring of rocks sits in close proximity to other sites of archaeological interest.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae allows you to enjoy a timeline from 4,000 years ago to the 16th century, all in one location. The site includes Iron Age and Bronze Age homes, a Nordic farmhouse, and even a Laird’s home from the 16th century. Skara Brae is an amazing place for history lovers, and should be on the top of your to-do list while in Stromness.

Stones of Stenness

As the oldest surviving account of a stone circle in the British Isles, the Standing Stones of Stenness are the great-grandfather of Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The site predates Stonehenge by several centuries and is considered by many to be the true henge of the United Kingdom.

Standing in the Stones of Stenness’ centre is a magical moment that shouldn’t be missed.


Maeshowe Chambered Cairn is a Neolithic tomb on the Isle of Stromness and is one of the largest tombs on the island, standing about 7 metres tall. To enter the fascinating site requires booking in advance since the site becomes extremely busy, so be sure to book ahead if you want to take a peak into these burial mounds.

The cairn dates back to 2800 BCE and is set in a unique style of cairn that is limited to Orkney.

Stop by the Ever-Watchful Comet Stone

Comet Stone

Just south east of the Ring of Brodgar stands a solitary stone nestled amongst flowers and grassland. This is the Comet Stone, a 1.75-metre stone that is said to patiently watch over the Ness of Brodgar.

The purpose of this standing stone is still unknown, but historians speculate that it may have acted as a processional avenue between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.

It’s theorised that people would walk from one site to another, demonstrating a transition from the Temple of the Sun to the Temple of the Moon (at least for Nordic worshippers).

Make sure to grab a picture with this adorable standing stone when you can!

Support this Blog 💙

My Voyage Scotland is an independently owned website. If you find the information on this website helpful, please consider booking your next trip using the links below. We make a (very small) commission on anything booked via the below map, and it doesn’t cost our readers more.