In the summer season, (April-October) to get here, takes a 90 minute ferry from the mainland of Northern Scotland at Scrabster to Stromness in the Orkneys (one of 3 sailings a day). Buses regularly serve your route to Skara Brae about a mile away: to the Bay o Skail in the parish of Sandwick. Admission presently is £5.50 for concession tickets in the summer, although you can buy a multi explorer pass where you can view other historic sites for a reduced fee eg Stromness museum: The Ring of Brodgar (stone circle)
After many radiocarbon datings, it is said the neolithic village dates from around 2500BC and was unknown until 1850 when a storm uncovered this beautiful site. It is a series of 8 interconnected passages preserved with original wall stone structures, amazingly preserved by the sand. As the sand drifted over the settlement throughout time, this has led to a world famous discovery of how life was 5000 years ago.
When there, you can see the circular houses and 'furniture' the villagers had: For example, a dresser made from flag stones, with storage space; hearths where food was cooked and hung to preserve; and bed-boxes made for each member out of 3 stone slabs. One of the first thing which you notice is how small the beds were (we forget the human race has grown on average over time).
There is evidence that they had ornaments placed above the beds which shows they placed a high regard to their personal belongings. They even stored water in a Limpet Box which was lined with clay to save carrying from afar. You really get a feel for the history of the time and can imagine the close knit community who may have lived here.
There is a suggestion also that males and females worked separately in their homes and showing staus of the males in a community. However they lived, this is a very well structured village with all the necessary amenities you'd need today to survive in the Orkney climate. The villagers all had their roles and all with the backdrop of the sounds of seagulls and the bay. It really is very moving to imagine how our ancestors fared in such a winter climate like Orkney.
Why they left is not known, but it was probably because of the eroding coastline and fierce weather conditions which forced them to move. It could have been because, like today, there was no land for the young people to work on so they left and so eventually, the village became abandoned. Unfortunately, the coastal erosion is still an ongoing problem as the bay attempts to reclaim its lost heritage.
It is wondrous site to behold and has all the comforts of any historic tourist site; a cafe with home-made goodies and an excellent gift shop with a wide variety of locally made gifts for all ages (and prices). It really is a good two hours visit and helps you to appreciate our ancestry. I thoroughly recommend it for all ages.
There is wheelchair access and the toilets are spacious and clean. Only the groundfloor is fully accessible. If you need a wheelchair although staff are very helpful and will help if you are a little infirm on your feet. In total, about half the site is suitable for wheelchair users and you should be accompanied.
You cannot put a price on an historic site such as this because it really is a MUST for everyone; even those without Scottish ancestors, and one I would re-visit when I next go to the Orkneys.