If you walk between Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, you might get the impression that you are following a ceremonial way, possibly even a pilgrims route. What is without doubt is that these sites contain a deep spiritual inter-relationship which is at best only partially understood today.
Some have suggested the Ring and its mounds were a lunar observatory, with three positions from which the moon's movements could be studied. Others have looked at Venusian and other astronomical observations. Was the Ring of Brodgar actually a Stellar observation platform?
A perfect stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar retains 27 of its original 60 stones, erected with mathematical precision some 5000 years ago. They were set six degrees apart, using a standard measure of 2.72 feet, the Megalithic yard. It is estimated that around 150,000 man hours of labour were required to construct this and the nearby Stones of Stenness.
Despite these theories and statistics, it is important to remember that as with all megalithic stone circles created in the neolithic, no one has any true idea of what the purpose or reason behind these awesome structures was.
It is certainly becoming clear that a great deal more was going on in the immediate vicinity of the stone circles than was previously believed.
The discovery in the 1990's of the neolithic village of Barnhouse, just 150m to the Northeast of the Stones of Stenness and the truly exciting discoveries happening today around the brig o' brodgar (the strip of land connecting Stenness to Brodgar between the lochs) clearly indicate that the area was not some little used funery complex or ritual center but rather the core of a vibrant and complex social community.
Perhaps a better understanding of the site would be to consider it like that of a Medieval Cathedral town, a religious iconic and holy place certainly but vibrant with markets, villages and the hurly burly commerce of day to day life.
The view below is that from Heddle overlooking the Lochs of Harray and Stenness and Standing Stones, which are about 10 minutes drive away.