The Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney are one of the most fascinating attractions in Scotland.
They are one of the earliest stone circles in Britain!
It is not difficult to imagine how significant the site must have been 5000 years ago!
Below is my guide to plan your visit - tips, maps, photos...
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Why visit the Standing Stones of Stenness on mainland Orkney?
The Standing Stones of Stenness are a must-visit if you are on Orkney:
- They are one of the earliest stone circles in Britain: over 5000 years old!
- They feel gigantic - the tallest of the 4 remaining stone is 5.7m high (18.7 ft)
- It is part of the Unesco World Heritage "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" with the Ring of Brodgar, the Skara Brae neolithic settlement and Maeshowe
Have a look:
Below is a short video to give you an idea of what you could experience:
You can understand why I listed them as one of the top attractions in Scotland, can't you?
More photos after the planning tips.
PLANNING TIPS & Map - Standing Stones of Stenness Orkney
How to get to the Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney - Map
- In the heart of the Mainland Orkney island, North of Scotland - the Ferry to Orkney takes 2 hours / 2h30 from Scrabster.
- It is located on Mainland Orkney (the main island)
- On the South West part of the island
- Stromness to the Ring of Brodgar = 10 min drive via A965
- Kirkwall to the Ring of Brodgar = under 20 min drive via A965
- Carpark is well indicated
- Below is map where you can locate the ring as #4
The GPS coordinates and location on a practical map are available on the Travel Guide eBook: The Road Trip Guide Scotland
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- Stones of Stenness price - Free access
- Opening hours - Open anytime
- Walking path - Close to the carpark - Easy to explore but walk on grass to reach the stones
- No facilities
- Like the Ring of Brodgar, it is a great place for both sunrise and sunset
- Not far is also the neolithic Barnhouse settlement, but if you are limited in time, I recommend visiting Skara Brae.
Where to stay on Mainland Orkney
Most Orkney accommodations are in the main towns:
- Stromness is small, close to the ferry and charming - Check out the accommodations in Stromness
- Kirkwall is bigger and more lively - Check out the accommodations in Kirkwall
- But you can also find accommodation more isolated in guesthouses and farms if you want a more peaceful experience - check out all accommodations on the Orkney islands
The Stenness Watch Stone
Before sharing pictures of the Standing Stones of Stenness, if you are driving from the Ring of Brodgar, you will see a single stone standing near the bridge.
This monolith is the Watch stone.
It is 5.6m tall (18ft).
Digging indicates that a second stone use to be there (a stump has been found in 1930)
Standing Stone of Stenness walk & location
Located between Loch Stenness and Loch Harray, the sight of the Standing Stones of Stenness is quite different from the Ring of Brodgar.
The area is more flat and only 4 tall stones are still standing.
You can see them from far away which makes them very impressive.
One on the land, the walk to the stones is on grass. Be careful, if wet, it can be slippery.
The Standing Stones of Stenness - Facts & History
Want to understand better what you are looking at. Here are a few facts you should know:
- This is one of the earliest stone circles in Britain.
- The stones were raised about 5000 years ago (3100 BC) - estimation by radiocarbon
- Originally the circle consisted of 11 or 12 stones surrounded by a wide ditch and crossed by a single causeway (it it theorized that the circle was to be with 12 stones but at least one was never erected
- They were laid out in an ellipse.
- As you can see on the pictures the stones have sharp angles at the top.
The stones in numbers
- The tallest stone reaches 5.7 meters in height (19ft)
- The approximate diameter of the circle is 144ft (44m)
- It had just one entrance on the North side
- At the center is a large stone hearth
Photos of the Stenness standing Stones
I must admit that even though there are only few of them and not a circle like the Ring of Brodgar, I was more fascinated by the Stones of Stenness.
It is mostly due to their shapes, thickness and size.
It is very impressive to get close to them.
There is no fence keeping the sheep so you can sometimes see them walking around. They had just left when I arrived. So I missed the shot...
And just for the pleasure, here a a few more pictures where I tried playing with the sun.
Want to see more? Here are other amazing things to do on the Orkneys:
- The fascinating Ring of Brodgar - read article
- The pink St Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall - read article
- The Earl's and Bishop palaces - read article
- The Broch of Gurness by the sea - read article
- The ancient village of Skara Brae - read article
- The beautiful Yesnaby Cliffs - read article
- Or enjoy my complete article about the best things to do in Orkney
Want to see more of SCOTLAND?
Discover more things to do & places to see in my Travel Scotland Destination Guide.
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