Interested in studying archaeology? Orkney is the place to be

Holly excavating at The Cairns in 2015, alongside site director and UHI Archaeology Institute lecturer Martin Carruthers. (Tim Winterburn)

After graduating from the University of the Highlands and Islands with a BA (Hons) in archaeology in 2016, Holly Young returned to the UHI Archaeology Institute in 2019 to undertake a Masters…

Holly in Structure Ten at the Ness of Brodgar. (Jo Bourne)

Since a fairly young age I have always had an interest in history and archaeology.

Hailing from the Scottish Borders, I moved to Orkney after finishing High School due to the excellent skills of the UHI rep at our university fair, who said that if you wanted to study archaeology, Orkney was the place to be.

Since then, any mention of my course, and where I study, has been met with a similar comment.

Studying archaeology in Orkney is a one-of-a-kind experience due to the outstanding quality of the resources available as well as the sheer quantity of it. The Archaeology Institute is a great place to study as the tutors are able to offer a lot more help, one-on-one, creating a real sense of support. During my time in Orkney, I developed a real enjoyment of Scottish prehistory.

After graduating from my undergraduate degree in 2016, I went on to work for Cotswold Archaeology for three years. This gave me the opportunity to not only experience the archaeology you don’t get in Orkney, i.e the Romans, who are just everywhere down there, but gave me the chance to travel to parts of the UK I would have been unlikely to visit otherwise.

I was based in Gloucestershire but stayed in Suffolk for ten months while working on a large pipeline job for a windfarm. It was a great experience – not only excavating new archaeology but also to the way that commercial archaeology works in comparison to more research-based excavations.

Excavating at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney, in 2019. (Jo Bourne)

I left CA in 2019 to come back to Orkney to do my masters degree. Since then I’ve found a new passion, which is the study of marine molluscs. Their exploitation and appearance in archaeological contexts is so often overlooked and undervalued in archaeology so it’s been a total joy to unpick the shell assemblage from The Cairns excavation in South Ronaldsay and to see just how much information can be recovered from this unassuming resource. Also, let’s face it, shells are cool!

I’m now currently in the process of applying to do a PhD to continue the work I’ve done in the course of my Masters.

If you want to know more about studying archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, email  or see our website