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Britain’s Treasures

Beyond the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland lies a miraculously preserved 5,000-year-old settlement – the most complete Neolithic village in northern Europe
BLEAK HOUSES The stone village of Skara Brae was built 5,000 years ago – and then buried under sand for a further four millennia


The wild storm that lashed Orkney in the winter of 1850 wasn’t unusual in itself. Bad weather is a fact of life in these isolated Scottish islands, after all. But when William Graham Watt, the 7th Laird of Skaill, went to investigate the damage to his lands on the west coast of Orkney Mainland, he discovered something unexpected. The powerful winds had scoured away the sand covering the mound known locally as Styerrabrae and exposed the remains of very old stone houses – though quite how old, Watt had no idea. Curious, he began an amateur excavation of the site, removing the artefacts he found to his nearby home, Skaill House, where he displayed them in a little museum.

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