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#Brodgar – Protecting the Path

It’s been several months since we last paid a visit to The Ring of Brodgar. We went on Saturday 11th of February 2023 to see how the protection measures were faring at this World Heritage Site.

The big green wooden gates at what was in Neolithic times the entrance/exit points to the site – although a temporary measure, are still there.

Visually these are not pleasant but they are supposed to protect the path in the inner ring. This has mostly been successful, however, there are still many people who ignore them (including when we were there). Those visitors find their way around the gates by accessing the inner ring via the surrounding ditch, causing a considerable amount of damage in doing so.

There’s a bit of a citizen science project on the go too as Historic Environment Scotland who maintain the site want to know how the protection measures are working . If you are visiting HES ask if you can take photos of two particualr areas and email them to them: MM@hes.scot

So why is the Ring of Brodgar suffering in this way?

Two factors: 1. climate change, an increase in wet weather and 2. a massive increase in the number of visitors to the site due to Orkney’s successful marketing of itself to the Cruise Ship Industry.

125,000+ visitors will be disembarking from the Cruise Ships between the peak months of May to September. They visit just a few sites in Orkney but the Ring of Brodgar is right at the top of their list. And those are just cruise ships passengers, Orkney also welcomes day trippers , tour buses and independent travellers.

This means that with increasingly wet seasons, The Ring of Brodgar never gets a chance to recover. Many areas are extremely muddy. HES has laid plastic pathways where the worst damage has been done and roped off others.

The plastic paths are not nice to walk on but before these were laid that area became riddled with grooves and mud filled holes.

The day we visited was dry, but as the photographs show there is a lot of water gathering in pools.

It’s an incredibly difficult situation to deal with. Huge numbers of visitors, wetter seasons and human action of making their own pathways into the inner ring and adding to the problem .

Despite all this it is still a wonderful place to visit, especially if you can go there when it is quiet and hear the bird song.

Fiona Grahame

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