Orkney’s ancient stone circle faces threat from human waste

Visitors urged to respect the site and use nearby facilities

The Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic stone circle and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Orkney, is facing a serious problem from human waste. Visitors who are caught short at the site are leaving behind traces of urine and faeces, which could damage the stones and the surrounding environment.

The site, which dates back to around 2500 BC, is one of the largest and most impressive stone circles in Britain. It consists of 27 standing stones, some over four metres high, arranged in a circle of 104 metres in diameter. The site is managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which provides information boards and a car park for visitors.

However, there are no toilets at the site, and the nearest public facilities are about three miles away in Stromness. Some visitors, who are unable or unwilling to travel that far, are resorting to relieving themselves behind the stones or in the nearby ditch, which is part of the archaeological landscape.

Human waste poses a risk to the stones and the wildlife

According to HES, human waste can have a negative impact on the site and its surroundings. Urine can cause corrosion and staining of the stones, while faeces can contaminate the soil and water, and attract flies and rodents. This can pose a health risk to other visitors, staff, and wildlife.

The site is home to a variety of plants and animals, including rare orchids, lichens, birds, and insects. Some of these species are protected by law, and could be harmed by human waste. For example, the great yellow bumblebee, which is endangered in the UK, feeds on the flowers that grow around the stone circle.

Orkney’s ancient stone circle faces threat from human waste

HES has also warned that human waste can affect the archaeological research and interpretation of the site. The ditch that surrounds the stone circle contains deposits of organic material, such as pollen and charcoal, that can provide clues about the ancient environment and activities. Human waste can alter the chemical composition and pH of the soil, and introduce modern contaminants that could skew the results of scientific analysis.

HES appeals to visitors to act responsibly and plan ahead

HES has issued an appeal to visitors to respect the site and use the nearby facilities in Stromness, or at the Standing Stones Hotel, which is about a mile away. HES has also advised visitors to plan ahead and check the availability of toilets before travelling to the site, especially during the winter months when some facilities may be closed.

HES has said that it is not feasible to provide toilets at the site, as it would require planning permission, water supply, sewage disposal, and maintenance. HES has also said that toilets could detract from the visual and historical integrity of the site, and create an additional burden on the environment.

HES has thanked the majority of visitors who act responsibly and appreciate the site, and has urged everyone to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which states that human waste should be buried away from water sources, or carried away in a sealed bag.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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