The Ring of Brodgar

When writing about Skara Brae last week, I mentioned an archaeological site – The Ring of Brodgar. Today we will take a look at this site.

Orkney – Ring of Brodgar

   The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge, a stone circle that is found in the West Mainland parish of Stenness in Orkney, Scotland. (Like Stonehenge, the term ‘henge’ refers to it being a large prehistoric earthwork, often circular, made of earth, wood, or stone. The Ring of Brodgar is made of the latter material) The Ring of Brodgar is a fascinating site, and some Archaeologists have suggested it is easily as impressive as Stonehenge. Situated on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray, it is one of the Northernmost Stone circles in Britain. A priest, Jo Ben, who lived in Orkney in 1529 described it like this….

   “[In Stenness] beside the lake are stones high and broad, in height equal to a spear, and in an equal circle of half a mile.

   There are no noticeable standing stones inside the circle, but interestingly, there haven’t been any proper excavations carried out by Archaeologists at the Ring of Brodgar, so it is possible that there are remains of wooden structures inside the Stone Circle, long since rotted away. (If you ever become an Archaeologist, and excavate inside the Ring, be sure to let me know the results!)


   The Ring is 104 meters in diameter, the third largest in the British Isles. Originally, there were 60 stones, but only 27 remain.  The tallest stones are on the west and east sides, and they are set in a circular ditch 3 meters deep, 9 meters wide, and 380 meters in circumference. It was carved out of the sandstone bedrock by the people who built it, which was an impressive feat, considering the tools they used. It appears to have been built in several sections, and the Stones were possibly actually added at a later date.

   So why was it built? Nobody would lug huge great stones to the site just for a nice decoration! Like Stonehenge, the Ring of Brodgar remains shrouded in mystery. It could well have been used as a giant calendar, or as a ritual site.

   Finally, a word from the Nomination of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney for inclusion in the World Heritage List….

 “The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring and a later expression of the spirit which gave rise to Maeshowe, Stenness and Skara Brae.”

Until next time, Stay Curious!