Dating from around 2500 BC, the Ring of Brodgar (also spelled Ring of Brogar) is a magnificent stone circle occupying a scenic location between two lakes on the mainland of the Orkney Islands. Measuring nearly 104 m in diameter, it is the third largest stone circle in Britain.
History of the Ring of Brodgar
The Ring of Brodgar was built several hundred years after the nearby Stones of Stenness and was one of the last monuments to be erected in Neolithic Orkney.
Estimated dates of construction for the Ring of Brodgar range from around 2700 BC (Burl, 146) to sometime before 2500 BC (Ritchie, 187) to between 2500 and 2000 BC (Historic Scotland). This places the monument generally in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age period.
The prehistoric settlement at Stenness was abandoned by about 2000 BC and has been little inhabited since. Based on runic carvings found on some of the stones, Viking invaders spent some time here in the mid-12th century.
The first written record of the Ring of Brodgar dates from 1529. In 1694, James Garden described the the rings of Stenness and Brodgar to antiquarian John Aubrey in a letter thus:
The stone circle was one of the first sites in the British Isles to be officially protected; it was designated a national heritage monument in 1882. Today it is administered by Historic Scotland.
What to See at the Ring of Brodgar
The Ring of Brodgar is a magnificent sight. This is partly due to its large dimensions, but even more so to its atmospheric location. The stones stand isolated on a slightly elevated strip of land covered with tall green grass and deep purple scrub between two lakes - the freshwater Loch Harray to the east and the partially saltwater Loch Stenness to the west.
The natural dualities of this beautiful and dramatic location - land and water, freshwater and saltwater, sunrise and sunset - may well have played a role in the choice of the site.
The stones of the Ring of Brodgar are laid out in a perfect circle with a diameter of 103.6 m, surrounded by a henge (earthwork bank and ditch).
The area inside the circle is 8,435 sq m, making it the third-largest in Britain (after Avebury and Stanton Drew). The circle has two entrances: one on the NW side and one on the SE.
About 27 stones remain standing today of the Ring of Brodgar, plus about another 10 stone stumps lying in their original positions.
There may have originally been a total of 60 stones. The surviving stones vary greatly in size (ranging from 2.1 m to 4.7 m in height) and shape, with no evident pairing of similar shapes. The tallest stones are placed at the south (3.8 m) and west (4.7 m) cardinal points.
Around 450 feet outside the circle to the southeast is the so-called Comet Stone, a heavy stone 1.8 m in height. Lying at right angles to it are the remains of two other stones. This feature is unusual and has not yet been satisfactorily interpreted; it might be an unusual form of a Four-Poster or Cove arrangement.
Some of the stones at Brodgar bear runic inscriptions, which were carved by Viking invaders in the 12th century. Clockwise from the NW entrance to the circle, the third stone may bear the name "Bjorn," the fourth has a cross, the eighth an anvil and the ninth an ogham inscription.
The Ring of Brodgar is located next to the B9055 road, about five miles northeast of Stromness and less than a mile north of the Stones of Stenness on the mainland of Orkney. Free parking is available in a small car park across the road to the northeast of the circle. The ground is uneven and proper footwear is recommended.
Quick Facts on the Ring of Brodgar
|Names:||Ring of Brodgar · Ring of Brogar|
|Categories:||World Heritage Sites; stone circles; henges|
|Dates:||c. 2500 BCE|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||59.001567° N, 3.229637° W|
|Hours:||Open during daylight hours|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Ring of Brodgar|
- Personal visit (October 2, 2010).
- Anna and Graham Ritchie, Scotland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 1998), 187, 189.
- Aubrey Burl, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, rev. ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005), 145-47.
- Elspeth and Michael Wills, Blue Guide Scotland, 12th ed. (London: A&C Black, 2001), 550.
- Heart of Neolithic Orkney - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
- Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge - Historic Scotland
- The Ring o' Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney - Orkneyjar
- Ring of Brodgar - ScotlandsPlaces
- Ring of Brodgar - Stone Pages
- Ring of Brodgar, Orkney - Stones of Wonder
Map of the Ring of Brodgar, Stromness
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Ring of Brodgar. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.