A five-year blueprint to look after and promote Orkney’s world-famous archeological sites was unveiled yesterday.
Islanders started constructing a series of extraordinary stone monuments and villages 5,000 years ago.
They include the fully-preserved domestic settlement of Skara Brae, the chambered tomb at Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness, and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle more than 450ft across. Collectively they represent one of the richest surviving Neolithic landscapes in western Europe.
In 1999 Unesco designated them a World Heritage Site, ranking them alongside the Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Giza and the Acropolis in Greece.
Representatives from Historic Scotland, Orkney Island Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB gathered at Skara Brae yesterday to launch their five-year vision for the sites. The 74-page document is the result of extensive consultation with interested parties and members of the community over the past year.
Gavin Barr, Orkney Islands Council infrastructure director, said: “Orkney’s heritage plays an important role in life on the islands today, by providing cultural, spiritual, economic and educational benefits. I’m delighted the new management plan will ensure an appropriate policy context for ensuring the sites remain relevant to modern-day challenges, recognising their role in the wider sustainability of Orkney’s environment and economy.”
Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Five millennia after they were built, these beautifully-preserved monuments offer us an invaluable insight into the society, skills and spiritual beliefs of the people who constructed them.
“Since it was inscribed in 1999, the successful management of the site has depended on the close working relationship between the partners, as well as consulting with stakeholders and the public, to produce this new, improved management plan.”