The ancient standing stones and Neolithic settlements of Orkney have earned it the title of Scotland’s Best Island, according to a survey by Which?
Readers were asked to rate 14 of the largest of the hundreds of islands in Scottish waters, 10 of them receiving an impressive visitor score of 80% or more.
In the first place, Orkney – which is in fact made up of around 70 islands of which about 20 are inhabited – was the only one to receive five stars for its tourist attractions. Visitors were particularly drawn to its prehistoric sites, which are among the most beautiful and best-preserved in the British Isles.
They include the Stone Age settlement of Skara Brae; the spectacular ring of menhirs known as the Ring of Brodgar; and the chambered burial cairn at Maeshowe. All three are part of the Unesco World Heritage Site known as the Heart of the Neolithic Orkney Islands. The island has also been praised for its spectacular scenery and secluded sandy beaches.
The second place of the investigation was occupied by Shetland, neighbors to the north of Orkney, another archipelago composed, in this case, of a hundred islands of which only 16 are inhabited. The Shetlands were also popular for their peaceful landscapes and remoteness. The Shetlands are actually closer to the Arctic Circle than to London.
Like Orkney, it is blessed with some of the most beautiful prehistoric sites in the British Isles. Among these is the Stone Age village of Jarlshof which contains remains that date from 2500 BC until the 17th century, as well as the remarkable Broch de Mousa, the only intact example of mysterious rounds of the Iron Age – called brochs – which were built around the coast of Scotland around the early centuries BC and AD.
At the following spots, Harris, Islay and Mull each received an 85% visitors score, with Arran, Barra, Lewis, Skye and Iona making up the remaining top 10 spots.