Orkney is an ideal destination for unscripted travel, especially with curious and history-minded young people. The distances are small, and digs ongoing. Going without substantial archeological background can be confusing. Research it later, photos and pamphlets in hand: then see what emerges later to bring it all together. Research rapture. NYT nail on head: see http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/rapturous-research/, article by Sean Pidgeon.
The neolithic sites in Orkney are also the topic in Archeology Magazine. See the January-February 2013 issue of Archeology (from the Archeological Institute of America, see http://www.archaeology.org/issues for Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart, article by Kate Ravilious at page 39 ff.
The Ness of Brodgar is a ceremonial complex of differing buildings, and was a dry passage between the standing stones of the old Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stennis, and communities in the area. Were they clans coming together in a new sense of cohesion, or were some buildings for group identity, or religious purposes. It became separated by water that rose because of other geological activity.. The Ness is between 2 lakes and is revealing a number of Neolithic stone buildings, a large community. Orkney complex consists of some 70 islands, and these are10 miles off Scotland's northeast coast. Once connected, the archipelago was once connected to the now-mainland: Neolithic stone circles, Standing Stones of Stenness; and the Ring of Brodgar (also Neolithic) get most of the archeological attention. Look up the village of Skara Brae, another community, and the farming community at Barnhouse, a less extensive but well delineated site.
Carbon dating set the Ness of Brodgar area as most active from 3300 to 2300 BCE. Hunter gatherer groups to villages to stone tool development to farming. Find similar progressions elsewhere in Britain and Ireland. The sites at Orkney are more visible and lasted longer because the reliance was not on wood for building materials, as had been the case elsewhere. Stone was used. Stone lasts.
With the new farming community life, came increased spirituality, apparently, and elaborate burial customs with stone circles and lasting tombs. And artwork. And tinted pots. Painted decorations, red, black, white. We had a sense of family in descending stone steps to half-subfield homes, with stone slabs for beds along the side, and a fire pit. Now we know why. These were. Families. Or similar attachment groups. Nap time.