The new cutting edge tour of Orkney that takes users headfirst into 5,000 years of history

Visitors to the Orkney Isles can now immerse themselves in more than 5,000 years of history on a digital tour that takes them deep into the story of the islands and the people and stories that shaped them.

The fascinating past of islands is being retold for the digital age with an app that combines drone footage and 3D scans with tales of the historic events that create the island’s mesmerising timeline.

Interviews with the archaeologists who have helped illuminate millennia of human activity in the far north are also included.

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Users can explore 35 sites scattered over 10 islands on the new digital tour, which takes visitors to Neolithic houses at Skara Brae, standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar and several chambered burial cairns, including Maeshowe. Churches, military installations, and a 19th Century mill also feature.

The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is a highlight of any trip to Orkney. PIC: HES.

Harder to reach historic sites, such as the Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn, are included on the tour and can be explored in 3D form, with the app designed for use in places with no mobile signal.

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Andrew Burnet, Interpretation Manager at Historic Environment Scotland said: “We are delighted to be able to share this new Orkney audio guide app which will enable the public to explore a host of famous sites across Orkney.

"With cutting edge PWA technology, not only does the app combine audio narration with high quality drone and 3D scan videos, but once loaded it also enables users to enjoy the guide without being reliant on mobile service, making it more accessible.

A 3D scan of the chambered cairn at Holm of Papa Westray, one of the smallest of the Orkney Isles. PIC: HES.

Written through the app will be 90 stories from Orkney’s past. They include the discovery of the Orkney Venus, a sandstone figurine made 5,000 years ago which is the earliest-known representation of the human body in Scotland.

Visitors can also go headfirst into the infamous killing of St Magnus, the former Earl of Orkney who was killed, killed around 1115, by his cousin and co-ruler Hakon.

Magnus later achieved sainthood and was commemorated by the building of St Magnus Cathedral, which was founded in 1137 by Viking Earl Rognvald in honour of his uncle.

The guide is mainly narrated by broadcasters Dave Gray and Helen Foulis and features appearances from an array of archaeologists, including Dr Alison Sheridan, former Principal Curator of Early Prehistory at National Museums Scotland; Nick Card, Director of Excavations at the Ness of Brodgar and the late Caroline Wickham Jones.

“In Scotland’s Year of Stories, this new digital tour, which brings to life the rich heritage of the islands in 90 stories, is a fantastic opportunity to present more of the islands’ rich archaeological and cultural history, told by a range of presenters, including Orcadian voices, our own site staff and leading specialists, to create a truly immerse way to explore the stories behind one of Scotland’s world heritage sites.”

The guide also includes several literary extracts, such as the description of the infamous killing of St Magnus, or from storytellers and yarnspinners, ranging from the Norse saga writers, Orkney’s own George Mackay Brown and the likes of Sir Walter Scott.

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “As an Orcadian, I couldn’t be more thrilled that people will be able to enjoy such a comprehensive digital tour of the spectacular heritage sites on the islands."

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