Five thousand years ago, the then residents of Orkney began constructing some extraordinary monuments out of stone.
They built a series of domestic and ritual monuments which include a beautifully-preserved domestic settlement at Skara Brae, the chambered tomb at Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness circle and henge, and the Ring of Brodgar - a great stone circle, 130 metres across.
These important monuments are now collectively known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney (HONO) and represent one of the richest surviving Neolithic landscapes in western Europe.
Since 1999 they have been an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a designation for places that are “of outstanding universal value to humanity”, and includes places as diverse and unique as the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Acropolis in Greece.
Representatives from Historic Scotland, Orkney Island Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have now launched the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Management Plan 2014-19, which sets out how they aim to protect, conserve, and enhance the site.
The plan is the result of consultation with the various interested organisations and members of the community, which took place last year.
Part of the plan states: “An emerging issue of concern for the cultural heritage sector is the impact of climate change on the management of the archaeological resource.
“This is a global issue and one that UNESCO is concerned about for its effects on the world heritage site (WHS).
“HONO WHS is at significant risk from a variety of climate-related factors including: increases in storminess and sea level rise and consequent increases in coastal erosion; torrential rain and flooding; changes to wetting and drying cycles; changes to the water table; and changes to flora and fauna.
“The growth of renewable energy also has the potential to impact on the setting of the monument.”
In welcoming the launch of the new plan, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “Five millennia after they were built, these beautifully-preserved monuments offer us an invaluable insight into the society, skills and spiritual beliefs of the people who constructed them.
“The successful management of the site has depended on the close working relationship between the Partners, who have drawn on the experience, as well as consulting with stakeholders and members of the public, to produce this new, improved Management Plan.”
Gavin Barr, Orkney Islands Council’s Executive Director of Development and Infrastructure said: Orkney’s heritage plays an important role in life on the Islands today, by providing cultural, spiritual, economic and educational benefits.
“I’m delighted that the new Management Plan will ensure an appropriate policy context for ensuring the Sites remain relevant to modern day challenges, recognising their role in the wider sustainability of Orkney’s environment and economy.”
The site is managed and cared for by Historic Scotland who work in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in its wider management.