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Brough of Birsay

Find Scotland Tours that feature the Brough of Birsay.

Address: Bay of Birsay, West Mainland, Orkney, IV63 6XJ,
Operated by: Historic Environment Scotland
Opening Hours: Mid-June to 30 September 30: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm - Access subject to Tidalpadding-top: -20px;
Admission: Adult £ 5.00, Senior £ 4.00, Child £ 3.00
Parking: Yes - there is a rough car parking area near to the start of the tidal causeway
Languages: Information boards in English
Accessibility: The walk to the island involves a bit of a scramble over a rocky beach. Not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.
Toilets: No
Shop: Yes, but it is very small with just a limited range on offer.
Cafe/Restaurant: No


The name Brough (pronounced "Broch") is one that you see in several places around the Orkney Islands. It is derived from Norse and means a defendable piece of land. We mention this in case you head to the Brough of Birsay thinking that you are going to see an Iron Age structure such as the Broch of Gurness or the Broch of Midhowe. These are rather different things.

The Brough of Birsay that you see today is a collection of Viking buildings that date from the 10th century when the Vikings ruled Orkney. We found it a bit disappointing as the remaining structures are just walls that stand a few feet high. However, there are some interesting features such as a sauna (well you know how those Scandinavians love their saunas) and the remains of an underfloor heating system. We're not sure how the archaeologists came to the conclusion that they had evidence of underfloor heating, maybe they found an old receipt from IKEA in the rubble?

In summary, if you have enough time and have already bought a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass, then you might wish to explore the Brough of Birsay and take a walk round to the island's lighthouse. BUT, if you are on a tight schedule, the Brough of Birsay is something that you can miss as there are other more interesting places on Orkney.

PLEASE NOTE: The island is connected to the mainland via a tidal causeway so you need to check the tide times before visiting. High / Low tide times are displayed in the Kirkwall Tourist Information Office and at the nearby Skara Brae Visitor Centre.

Read our Travel Blog for more information on the best things to do in Orkney.

Brough of Birsay Brough of Birsay - Norse settlement Brough of Birsay - Saltire


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