Free Tours of Neolithic Settlement, Links of Noltland, Orkney

by Asako Maruoka /
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Aug 10, 2009 / 0 comments



Visitors are invited to an open day to see this year’s excavations at the prehistoric settlement at the Links of Noltland on the island of Westray.

Free tours will be provided by the Historic Scotland ranger service on Sunday, 16 August between noon and 4pm.

This year’s excavation aims to fully uncover a carefully-built multi-cellular Neolithic building which still survives to five courses high, and the nearby field system.

Elaine Clarke, one of the rangers, said: “The open day is a chance to see archaeology in action at one of the most important sites on Orkney.

“Everyone is welcome to come along and have a free tour and look back thousands of years to how our Neolithic ancestors lived and farmed.”

The Links of Noltland is among Orkney’s richest and most threatened sites.

Severe wind erosion is causing the collapse of the dune system which has protected the archaeology for thousands of years.

It is an important area because extensive evidence has survived about the people who lived there over a long period of time from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

In recent years emergency excavations have been carried out in parts of the site where the archaeology has been uncovered, then rapidly blown away by the wind.

The surface levels now exposed are those of around 3,000BC and Historic Scotland is keen to learn everything possible about society at that time before the evidence is lost.

The Links of Noltland settlement shows parallels to Skara Brae, where multi-cellular  structures were built by revetting the walls against midden, piled up to provide stability and to keep out the elements.

The settlement at Links of Noltland displays a greater depth of time and excellent preservation, allowing modern archaeological techniques to be used to recover the maximum amount of information from the site.

EASE Archaeology is conducting the excavation on behalf of Historic Scotland, which cares for the Links of Noltland.


● Links of Noltland lies behind Grobust Bay on the north coast of the island of Westray, Orkney, Scotland.

● The site was first recorded in the 19th century by antiquarian George Petrie. Archaeological excavations were carried out between 1978 and 1981 led by Dr Clarke from the National Museums of Scotland.

● The site was taken into care by Historic Scotland in 1984.

● Monitoring of the site since 2000 by Historic Scotland revealed deterioration of the dune system and remains were exposed due to wind erosion. This led Historic Scotland to commission an emergency assessment of the area in October 2006 . The findings caused such concern that a first phase of rescue excavation took place in early 2007. Further work was undertaken in 2007 and 2008.

● The results of the this year’s archaeological work will be fully published, along with the results from all the recent investigations on the site, once post-excavation work is complete.

● Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

● Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.


● Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.