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Top Sights in Orkney

Top Sights in Orkney

You won’t struggle to find plenty of things to do in Orkney.

Whether you’re here for a romantic getaway, solo trip, or a family holiday, you’ll find things to see in Orkney to tickle a wide range of interests.

Neolithic and WWII history? Tick.

Incredible nature? Tick.

Local food and drink for the grown-ups? Double tick.

Here’s our guide on the things you must see whilst visiting Orkney.

Remember, many of these sights are mostly outdoor so you’ll want to dress for the elements.

So grab your walking boots and waterproof, and let’s get going!

Keep up-to-date with all things Orkney and subscribe to our newsletter.

Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Orkney is full of ancient monuments and buildings. For all you stone-age buffs, you won’t want to miss the stretch of sites known as the heart of Neolithic Orkney. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boasts an impressive collection of stone age remains.

Here are some of the most popular Neolithic sites that you won’t want to miss!

Handy tip - These can get very busy during the summer - understandably they’re very popular! If you’re heading to Orkney during the sunnier months and want to visit these Neolithic sites, plan to get there early.


Maeshowe was built over 5,000 years ago and is a large, Neolithic chambered tomb (you might see it be referred to as a cairn). From the outside, it’s an impressive mound covered in grass, but what’s inside is even more special - a fantastic feat of ancient stonework engineering.

Keep an eye out for the runic graffiti left inside, notably the Maeshowe Dragon. This was left by Viking warriors who were waiting out a storm.

If you’re visiting during the summer or winter months, stick around for the solstice. The setting sun lines up with the tomb’s entrance passageway. A spectacle of golden light reflecting off the back wall awaits!

Handy tip - access to Maeshowe is by guided tour only, so be sure to book before you arrive.

Ring of Brodgar and Stenness Stones

These are two of the main ancient standing stone circles that can be found in Orkney. Brodgar is the bigger of the two. Not all the original stones are standing at each site - 36 of the first, 6 of the second - but their imposing presence is something to behold.

In fact, these huge ceremonial stone circles can seen from miles around the landscape - that’s how big they are!

Want to take a piece of Neolithic history home? The stones themselves are off-limits (and we certainly don’t recommend trying to pack one in your day bag), our Standing Stones Collection is inspired by these stunning ancient monoliths.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a prehistoric settlement nestled along the west coast of mainland Orkney. It was unveiled in the 1850s following a fierce storm that stripped away the protective sand dunes that hid it for so many years.

This neolithic site comprises nine well-preserved houses that date back over 5,000 years. Pretty impressive stuff!

Italian Chapel

The Orkney Islands held strategic significance during the First and Second World Wars. This historical legacy is notably evident at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm.

It was constructed by Italian prisoners of war during WWII inside a former military Nissen hut.

Led by the artist Domenico Chiocchetti, the chapel's interior features intricate decorations and paintings, including vaulted ceilings, buttresses, and frescoes depicting angels, Mary and Jesus. Beyond its beauty, the Italian Chapel symbolises love and hope during times of war.

The testament to the human spirit transcends the walls of the chapel. Our Heart of the Chapel and Italian Chapel collections are both inspired by this very special place. It’s near our workshop and gallery too - you can see the chapel across the Churchill barriers.

St Magnus Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral - known as the ‘light of the north’ - encapsulates Orkney's Norse and Viking heritage like nothing else.

Constructed in 1137 from red sandstone, this magnificent cathedral was named after the patron saint of Orkney. During renovations, a remarkable discovery was made - the skeletal remains of St Magnus himself were found within one of the cathedral's pillars.

It’s hard not to be inspired by such a magnificent building. Our Rose Window collection is based on the namesake window found in the cathedral.

Broch of Birsay

Situated on the opposite side of mainland Orkney, the Broch of Birsay is a tidal island that boasts incredible history, wildlife, and coastal views. You may catch sight of puffins during the summer, go rock-pooling, or explore the castle ruins of Earl's Palace. However, it's accessible only during low tide, so must time your visit carefully to avoid being stranded! 

Looking for a local souvenir or two? Be sure not to miss out on the honesty box managed by JP Orkney on the island. This little yellow hut is filled with homemade treats, including jams, chutneys, and delicious baked goods.


Orkney has some great places to enjoy a tipple or two. Whatever your drink of choice is, here are our top suggestions for places to visit:


  • Highland Park are best known for their single malt scotch.
  • Scapa Distillery also specialise in single malt scotch, inspired by the extreme weather experienced in Orkney.


  • Orkney Gin Company is a family business whose gin is inspired by the folklore and local history of the islands.
  • Deerness Distillery handcrafts their gin and liqueurs in their self-built distillery. They’re also in the process of making whisky!
  • Kirkjuvar has a lovely drinking place called ‘Oot the Back’ - literally out the back!


  • J Gow Rum, named after an infamous pirate, has the most delicious rum! It’s also next to the Italian Chapel so you can combine both into one trip.


What is the best month to visit Orkney?

There isn't truly a bad month, though winters can be more challenging weather-wise. The best months are from April through September.

How many days do you need in Orkney?

You can cover most things in a few days. But truly get into what Orkney is about, we'd recommend staying for at least a week.

Do you need a car to explore Orkney?

It’s not absolutely essential to have a car to explore the best of what Orkney has to offer. Most of the places listed in this article can be accessed by bus.

Want to learn more about the latest news, updates, and the comings and goings of Orkney? Subscribe to our newsletter! We’ll also include news on our workshop, cafe, and new collection launches.