Ring of Brodgar, Stromness

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.

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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.

Getting There

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

Site Information
Names:Ring of Brodgar · Ring of Brogar
Country:Scotland
Categories:World Heritage Sites; stone circles; henges
Dates:c. 2500 BCE
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:59.001567° N, 3.229637° W
Address:Stenness
Stromness, Scotland
KW17
Phone:01856 841815
Website:www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Hours:Open during daylight hours
Lodging:View hotels near the Ring of Brodgar
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (October 2, 2010).
  2. Anna and Graham Ritchie, Scotland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 1998), 187, 189.
  3. 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.
  4. Elspeth and Michael Wills, Blue Guide Scotland, 12th ed. (London: A&C Black, 2001), 550.
  5. Heart of Neolithic Orkney - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  6. Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge - Historic Scotland
  7. The Ring o' Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney - Orkneyjar
  8. Ring of Brodgar - ScotlandsPlaces
  9. Ring of Brodgar - Stone Pages
  10. Ring of Brodgar, Orkney - Stones of Wonder

More Information

Southeast part of the circle, with the Loch of Harray in the background, viewed from southwest. Stones 16-14... © Holly Hayes
Standing stones on the south side of the circle, viewed from northeast. Prominent in the foreground is stone... © Holly Hayes
Stones 7-10 on the east side of the circle, with the Loch of Harray in the background. Viewed from southwest.... © David Joyal
Exterior view of stones 11 (right) and 12 (left) on the southeast side of the circle, viewed from east. Ring... © Holly Hayes
Stones 20-23 on the southwest side of the circle, viewed from southeast. The Loch of Harray can be seen in the... © David Joyal
Detail of stone 12 (with stone 11 in the background) in the Ring of Brodgar, c. 2500 BC, with the Loch of... © David Joyal
The Comet Stone, located just southeast of the Ring of Brodgar, c. 2500 BC. Mainland, Orkney Islands,... © Holly Hayes
View across the Loch of Stenness from the Ring of Brodgar, c. 2500 BC. Mainland, Orkney Islands, Scotland.... © David Joyal
Salt Knowe (c. 2000 BC) and the Loch of Stenness viewed from the Ring of Brodgar (c. 2500 BC) to the east.... © David Joyal
Loch of Harray from the Ring of Brodgar. Mainland, Orkney Islands, Scotland. © David Joyal

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.