Explore ancient Skara Brae from Brown’s Hostel and Houses.

“Skara Brae proclaim(s) the triumph of the human spirit in early ages and isolated places.”

You might know Brown’s Hostel and holiday cottages by their reputation for homely hospitality, and their location in the huddled harbour town of Stromness is picturesque and charming. But what else might bring you to Orkney?

While I was researching the area, the name of Skara Brae jumped out at me. It is a village of nine stone houses right on the beach overlooking the west coast of Mainland. It is the time period that first gives you pause for thought. 5000 years ago, about the time that writing was being invented in the first towns of Sumer; as naked lads were vaulting over bulls in ancient Crete; long before the pyramids were built or Stonehenge was  thought of; before even the mammoth became extinct, Skara Brae was a thriving village. 

The next romantic thought is that in 1950 an extraordinarily severe storm ripped up the earth and revealed the village from under a hillock, surprising everyone including the locals.

You can see it today in almost Pompeii-like perfection of preservation. Handcrafted stone walls topped with a furry layer of sea grass. Narrow doorways to shelter out the worst of the weather. Fitted shelves and benches for furniture. If, like me, you are prone to dreamy reveries in historic places then a visit here is a must. 

 The visitors centre has a thoroughly convincing recreation of one of the houses which you can explore and marvel at the sophistication of the ancient inhabitants – see their dice, jewellery, and tools. Together with a  further collection of rich pre-historic sites on Orkney, it has been given UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The statement of its significance begins, “The monuments at the heart of Neolithic Orkney and Skara Brae proclaim the triumphs of the human spirit in early ages and isolated places.” I couldn’t agree more.


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