Enhancing the schedule of monuments for Orkney

Midhowe Broch, Rousay

The Midhowe Broch, in Rousay – a fine example of a well-preserved Iron Age broch typical of Orkney, with the remains of later buildings around it. The scheduling team will be assessing over 30 broch sites during the project.

In May, Historic Scotland’s Scheduling, Marine and Battlefields Team will be visiting over 250 monuments in Orkney as part of the team’s work to enhance the schedule (list) of monuments of national importance across Scotland.

Orkney is exceptionally rich in history and archaeology – and home to some of Scotland’s finest archaeological sites. Around 8,500 sites have been recorded in Orkney to date. Over 350 of these are already scheduled, which means they are legally protected.

Orkney’s impressive archaeological remains were recognised from an early date and most of its scheduled monuments have been protected since before the 1950s.

As a result, the maps and legal documents for many sites are now very old and can be hard to use. The team will reassess the sites and update the mapping and documentation where necessary – so that the monuments can continue to be protected.

Olwyn Owen, head of Scheduling, Marine and Battlefields at Historic Scotland, said: “Orkney has a wealth of prehistoric monuments of course, including some of the most impressive and important Neolithic sites in Western Europe.

“These include the dramatic standing stones at Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, and the incredibly well-preserved sites at Skara Brae and Ness of Brodgar. But Orkney’s archaeology is not limited to Neolithic remains: the islands are littered with Bronze Age barrows and its coastline is dotted with settlements and defensive sites from Iron Age brochs and promontory forts to Pictish and Norse houses.

“These archaeological sites are part of our national and local identity. They contribute to our understanding of who we are and where we came from, as well as offering an irreplaceable resource for education and tourism. It is these aspects of our culture that designation can help to protect.”

Working closely with the county archaeologist, Julie Gibson, and her colleagues, the team will also assess some sites that may be scheduled for the first time.

Over 50 currently un-designated sites will be visited, from prehistoric monuments to the remains of 19th-century kelp harvesting and sites relating to Orkney’s significant military and naval heritage from the First and Second World Wars.

Although most of the work will be focused on land, the team will also be looking at underwater heritage and considering the case for designation of an Historic Marine Protected Area in Scapa Flow.

While in Orkney, the scheduling team will be meeting with landowners and holding two public talks to tell people about their work.

The first will focus on military and naval heritage in Orkney and the role of Historic Scotland in its protection; the second will cover the work of the scheduling team in Orkney and the Schedule Enhancement Programme more generally.

The public talks, open to all, are hosted by Orkney Archaeology Society at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, on the following dates.

  • Wednesday, May 8 – No One Cares for Bloody Us – Orkney’s military and naval heritage
  • Wednesday, May 15 – A Career in Ruins – The work of Historic Scotland’s Scheduling Team in Orkney

All are welcome to attend the talks, which start at 7.30pm.

For more information on the work of the Scheduling, Marine and Battlefields Team, email hs.schedulingteam@scotland.gsi.gov.uk .

For details about the archaeological sites and monuments in Orkney which are open to the public and cared for by Historic Scotland, see www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places.htm

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