5,000 years of Orkney history retold in 90 stories

03 May 2022
Skara Brae House 3D scan
Discover the stories of the Orkney Isles with a new digital tour featuring drone footage and 3D scans, alongside tales from 5,000 years of history.

Members of the public can now explore 35 sites across Orkney, including those that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage site, and discover the stories that shaped them, from wherever they are, with a new digital tour from Historic Environment Scotland (HES).  

Featuring over 90 different stories from the finding of the Orkney Venus to the infamous killing of St Magnus, the guide is designed to help place a spotlight on the islands’ rich heritage, and the people, places and stories that have helped shape it. 

Thanks to new progressive web app (PWA) technology, the guide can be downloaded and then used on devices without mobile signal or data; meaning those exploring the islands in-person will still be able to enjoy the audio and video tours, even in the most remote locations.  


From Neolithic houses, standing stones and chambered burial cairns, to churches, military installations, and a 19th-century mill, users will be able to discover the unique history of 35 of the Historic Scotland sites across 10 islands.  

These include drone footage for renowned attractions like the Neolithic settlement Skara Brae and Maeshowe chambered cairn, whilst with the help of 3D digital models, the public will be able to journey inside some of the less accessible sites across the islands like the Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn and Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn.

Content continues after advertisements

Holm of Papa Westray  

The two main narrators of the guide are Orcadians Dave Gray and Helen Foulis, who both have extensive broadcasting experience at BBC Orkney.  

However, with 90 different stories to tell, the guide also features a range of guest presenters, including guided tours narrated by site staff and interviews with leading historians and archaeologists, a stonemason, and a broch builder. Users discovering Dounby Click Mill can also enjoy an interview with a bere barley baker or learn more about the finding of the Orkney Venus or Westray Wife, the earliest known depiction of a human face, while exploring the Links of Noltland on Westray.  

The guide also includes several literary extracts, such as the description of the infamous killing of St Magnus, or from storytellers and yarnspinners, ranging from the Norse saga writers, Orkney’s own George Mackay Brown and the likes of Sir Walter Scott.  

The digital tour is currently available as a purchase option when buying an online ticket to one of Historic Environment Scotland's staffed properties in Orkney.  


(report and images courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland)