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Brough of Birsay


2024 Update - Re-opening date of the Visitor Centre is not yet announced, but the grounds are still accessible when tides permit (Last updated on 29 January 2024)

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.

Save money on visiting this attraction by buying an Explorer Pass

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


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 Tidal conditions


Adult £ 6.00, Senior £ 4.80, Child £ 3.60




Information boards in English


The walk to the island involves a bit of a scramble over a rocky beach. Not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.







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