Eclipse watchers head for Orkney’s stone age sites

Orkney’s archaeology rich landscape is being hailed as the ideal place to witness the spectacle of this month’s once in a lifetime solar eclipse.

A number of tourism businesses in the islands are offering special eclipse related packages for visitors, with some booked up years in advance.

Astronomers say the islands will be one of the best locations in the UK to view the 20 March event, with around 97 per cent coverage of the sun predicted. The eclipse will be the last visible in the UK until 2090.

“Regardless of how much we now understand about the science behind a solar eclipse, compared to our stone-age ancestors, it’ll still be a powerful and awe-inspiring sight to witness,” said Steve Sankey, who runs Orcadian Wildlife tours. “Watching the eclipse unfold in a landscape that’s changed little over thousands of years promises to be a unique experience, particularly given the powers and significance Orkney’s ancient peoples must have attributed to the sun and moon.

“Our guests will be watching the eclipse from a spot right on the southern tip of Orkney, overlooking the Pentland Firth and close to the 5,000 year old Tomb of the Eagles,” he added. “No matter what the weather is like on the day, we expect an atmospheric and thought provoking morning.”

Other local tour guides plan to give visitors the chance to take in the eclipse at several key archaeological sites in the islands.

Pat Stone, from tour company Orkney Aspects, said she was almost fully booked up for the eclipse day, with visitors particularly keen to witness the phenomenon from the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, close to the major Neolithic temple site at the Ness of Brodgar.

“We’ve got several people coming who want to be in the middle of the Ring of Brodgar when the eclipse happens,” she said. “One of my colleagues who runs archaeological tours in Orkney has had an international group of visitors booked in for this day for almost two years. There’s no better place to witness it than the heart of Neolithic Orkney.”

Tourism chiefs in the islands are hoping the eclipse will bring an early season boost for local businesses.

Kirsty Mainland, chair of the Orkney Tourism Group, said: “Orkney’s an easy place to get to, so it’s the perfect choice for anyone wanting to witness as much of the eclipse as possible, without having to venture all the way up to the Arctic Circle. Our big skies, spectacular landscape and unrivalled archaeology provide the ideal backdrop for this not to be missed event. We’re really delighted that visitors are planning to make a weekend of it, staying on to sample our many non-solar attractions.”


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