Gain insight into the rich Neolithic heritage of the Orkney Islands at this ancient monument, which consists of a circle of megaliths.
Discover ancient history at the Standing Stones of Stenness. This collection of monoliths forms one of the oldest henge sites in the British Isles and is an ideal starting point to explore the prehistoric legacy of the Orkney Islands. The stunning landscape and diverse wildlife provide additional appeal to this iconic Orcadian landmark.
The stones of Stenness were raised about 5,400 years ago in a henge formation, with a ditch forming an ellipse around the site. Like many similar stone circles in the U.K., the origin and exact purpose of the monument is shrouded in mystery, although most experts suggest it was likely used for religious observances or early astronomy.
Take a guided tour of the site, led by one of Historic Scotland's rangers. The tour leads visitors to Stenness and the neighboring Ring of Brodgar, as well as through the surrounding nature reserve. Watch for otters, hares and several different bird species which inhabit this area. The tours run every day in June, July and August in the early afternoon.
Look for the impressive Watchstone monolith, which stands separately from the ring. The 19-foot (5.6-meter) stone marks the entrance to the strip of land between two lochs, where the Ring of Brodgar sits. Visit this famous Neolithic henge, where 27 stones form a perfect circle.
Walk north of the stone circle to reach the Barnhouse Settlement, an archaeological excavation of a Neolithic village. Inspect the remains of 15 ancient buildings, the biggest of which is believed to have been a meeting room. Enjoy the wild, windswept landscape and admire views across Loch Stenness and out onto the hills of Hoy in the distance.
The stones at Stenness and Brodgar are part of the UNESCO-listed site, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, which also includes the excavated burial mound at Maeshowe and the prehistoric village of Skara Brae. For a more comprehensive understanding of Orkney’s Neolithic heritage, be sure to see all four monuments. The Standing Stones of Stenness are less than 10 minutes away from Stromness by car. Use the site’s available parking.