All posts by Antony

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre – Important News

The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre on Hoy will be closed next year (2018) while it undergoes exciting and extensive redevelopment. the newly refurbished facilities will reopen in 2019 which will be the centenary of the famous Scuttling of the German Fleet.

Many of you will know that after their surrender at the end of the First World War, most of the German Navy’s ships were kept in Scapa Flow with their crews on board. Unhappy with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German commanders decided to sink their ships to stop them from being used by their former enemies. The scuttle was planned in secret and caught the Royal Navy by surprise. Many of the ships were sunk and in the confusion, some German sailors were shot by their captors.

Between the wars, a number of the wrecks were salvaged and for a time, this became an important industry for Orkney. The remaining wrecks are now popular with recreational divers, although it is strictly forbidden to harm the wrecks or remove anything from them.

The sinking of the German fleet is just one of the many fascinating and often tragic stories connected to Scapa Flow.

Full details of the proposed closure and redevelopment are set out below:

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum is currently preparing for a major redevelopment, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Orkney LEADER fund and Orkney Islands Council Capital Projects programme. All the existing buildings will be renovated, and a new building linked to the Pumphouse will provide a controlled exhibition environment and improved visitor facilities.

The museum closed, as usual, on 31 October 2017, and work to pack the collection and prepare the buildings for renovation work is now underway. It will remain closed until Spring 2019. Completion of the works is scheduled for the end of April 2019, with an official opening to coincide with the centenary of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet on 21 June 2019.

From January onwards, staff will be working on developing the new exhibition with a scriptwriter and exhibition design company Studio MB. This will involve a huge amount of input from the museum team.

Because of this, curatorial staff will be unable to accept any work or commitments over and above projects that have already been agreed and other staff may not be able to support research requests and enquiries until summer 2019.

2018 season

During the 2018 summer season we will have a ‘pop-up’ museum at Lyness, accommodated in 2 large portakabins adjacent to the ferry terminal. This will also become an office base for staff once they vacate the Pumphouse. The temporary exhibition space in The Orkney Museum will be used to display some of the wartime collection, including a 360 degree photo record of the former display.

The exhibition at Lyness will consist of information only, with no objects on show. This means that it will not necessarily be staffed at all times, although there will be a staff presence as often as possible. We hope there will be a small retail area in the office, and a local business hopes to be providing food and drink from mobile premises adjacent to the site.

Alongside the exhibition we will be delivering more frequent guided walks and we hope that this combined offer will still encourage visitors to come across to Lyness.

As work progresses, we intend to issue regular updates and please check our Facebook page and website for news of any special events. Meantime, if you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Jude Callister
Orkney Arts, Museums and Heritage Service
Visitor Services Team Leader
Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum, Lyness, Orkney KW16 3NT
Tel; 01856 791300

Looking Ahead… Booking Ahead…

Just a quick reminder. Although we feature on several booking websites and OTAs, you will always get the best deal by contacting us direct. It is also a good opportunity to discuss any special requirements or general enquiries about your proposed visit to Orkney.

Orkney has become a popular visitor destination in the Summer months. Late bookers are always surprised at how little accommodation is available. To avoid disappointment, we recommend making your arrangements sooner rather than later. This also applies if you are planning to hire a car or visit a limited access site such as Maeshowe.

You can call us on 01856 876077

or email us:

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Ness Battery

Orkney is rightly famous for its ancient monuments, but the history doesn’t stop there. There are many relics and reminders of both World War 1 and World War 2. These pictures show the remains of the Ness Battery. This was a substantial gun emplacement that guarded the Western approach to Scapa Flow during the dark days of WW2. Visits are by guided tour only, but well worth the effort. Our excellent guide, Andrew Hollinrake, led us around the site for about an hour. Most of the buildings are now shells and in poor condition. However, some of the original huts have been restored. The climax of the tour is the soldiers’ mess hut. Here you can still see a complex mural that covers most of the interior walls. Painted to cheer up the troops stationed far from home, the mural shows country scenes of villages, cottages and windmills. The locations have been identified as being in Kent. It is a strange counterpoint to the better known Italian Chapel. There, during the same period and with a different purpose in mind, prisoners of war also decorated their humble buildings.

Puffins and glorious scenery – a trip to the Brough of Birsay…

Running Highland Park House in the Summer can feel like a round-the-clock operation. We were very lucky this weekend to have some brief and (we think) well deserved RnR. Our son agreed to mind the place for a few hours while we went and explored the beautiful Brough of Birsay. The Brough (pronounced “brock”) is a rugged island up in the Northwest corner of Orkney, accessed via a causeway at low tide. The North and West faces of the island are sheer cliffs, with stunning views. These cliffs harbour many seabirds and it is not uncommon to see seals, dolphins and even the odd whale. It’s a great place to see puffins, as my not very clear photograph shows, although they will be heading back out to sea by the end of July. The Brough of Birsay has been settled many times over the years and the remains of a complex Viking settlement are clearly laid out. This heady mix of history, wildlife and dramatic seascape is less than 40 minutes drive from Highland Park House.

Highland Park House on National TV (Channel 5 in the UK)

Our Dream Hotel, featuring Highland Park House was broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK at 9pm (6th June). It is still available on the Channel 5 on demand internet service and can be found on Youtube. We know that the programme had been shown in Holland and will no doubt surface elsewhere around the world in due course. The programme generated significant media interest and was previewed in several national publications including the Daily Mail Online and Radio Times.

The response to the programme had been incredibly positive. We have had numerous messages, emails and letters of support and encouragement. We are very touched by these and sincerely thank all of our well-wishers. As we continue to develop the building, we will post up-dates on this site.

The filming took several months. It was, at times, both fun and infuriating. Many people agreed to appear, or rescheduled tasks or gave interviews for which we are very grateful. The film/production crew were highly professional (apart from the impromtu battle with Gerry’s Nerf guns) and spent many hours following us and filming in different Orkney locations. Inevitably much of the footage failed to make the final edit and we are a little disappointed that the programme did not have time to show all of the aspects of what we do at Highland Park House or show all of the contributions that so many people have made to our project. We had no control over the editorial process and we had no idea what the show would look like prior to the preview. However, we feel it is a fair reflection of the work we have put into the project. It also highlights the charm of these unique islands and the community here.

TV Broadcast Date

We now have a confirmed transmission date…
Highland Park House will feature in “Our Dream Hotel”. This will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK at 9pm on Tuesday 6th June.
We hope you enjoy the show!

The filming took several months. It was, at times, both fun and infuriating. Many people agreed to appear, or rescheduled tasks or gave interviews for which we are very grateful. The film/production crew were highly professional (apart from the impromtu battle with Gerry’s Nerf guns) and spent many hours following us and filming in different Orkney locations. Inevitably much of the footage failed to make the final edit and we are a little disappointed that the programme did not have time to show all of the aspects of what we do at Highland Park House or show all of the contributions that so many people have made to our project. We had no control over the editorial process and we had no idea what the show would look like prior to the preview.

That said, we think you will agree with us that it is an enjoyable piece of television that shows Orkney in a very good light.

Our Music Room

We are delighted that guests are now able to use our largest room as a lounge and relaxation area.

Over the winter we have opened up the fireplace and installed luxurious chesterfield sofas to provide a perfect, but atmospheric  relaxation space. Themed as a music room, there is a modern, good quality piano and an assortment of musical instruments. A few are purely decorative, but most are in good, playable condition.

This room is still equipped with a full lighting rig and can be configured for small performances and similar events.



Exciting news… Highland Park House on national TV

We are proud to announce that we will be featured shortly in a new series on Channel 5 called “Our Dream Hotel”. This series will show six projects in the UK and Europe including our very own Highland Park House. You will be able to see how we have developed parts of the building and how we have got to where we are today. As soon as we have an exact UK transmission date, we will publish it.

In the meantime, if you are in the Netherlands, you can view it on Monday 15th may at 9.30 on RTL 4.

Thank you for all the positive and encouraging messages from Europe since this show was broadcast in Holland! We will be announcing the UK transmission date very soon…

Watch this space for further details.

Orkney Folk Festival 2017

The 2017 Folk Festival is almost upon us and tickets are on public sale from April 29th.  The festival runs from 25-28 May.

The big names include BBC Folk Awards winner Kris Drever, Eddi Reader, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. There are a host of other performers from near and far with a range of events and concerts focused mainly around Stromness.

More line up details and locations can be found at

Once the folk festival is over, Orkney can look forward to the international St Magnus festival in June. Other future festivals include the Orkney Nature Festival, the Science Festival and both blues and rock festivals.

It’s not just about whisky!

Orkney is rightly famous for its two whisky distilleries – our close neighbours at Highland Park and the lesser known but equally revered Scapa distillery just down the road.

Recently, Orkney has acquired not one, but two gin distilleries. By all accounts this has been a roaring success and these drinks are a great addition to the fantastic range of local produce that you can try during your visit. Naturally you may want to take some home too…


You can find out more about these new gins by following these links:

Moving to Orkney?

Orkney has featured in the Guardian this week as a possible relocation destination for those seeking an escape from city life. Obviously you would want to visit first before making such a move. Why not combine your fact-finding trip with a holiday and see what Orkney has to offer. To get the most realistic experience, it would be best to visit early or late in the year when there are fewer visitors and the weather is more likely to be showing its teeth (although Spring is Orkney is actually very beautiful).

Highand Park House is open from 1st April until mid October.

Reconstruction of a Saint

St. Magnus has been given a make over. Our local hero/Icon/poster boy is looking remarkably good for someone who was violently killed in the `12th Century.  Using modern techniques, his face has been reconstructed from photographs taken of his remains. The bones were found during renovation work on the cathedral in the 1920s and have long since been reinterred in the building.

HIs monument is the magnificent cathedral in Kirkwall. This astonishing building never fails to impress our visitors and is a must for anyone coming to Orkney.  A display in the cathedral explains who Magnus was and how he came to meet his grisly end, as well as why he was made a saint.

Orkney’s major international Arts festival in June is also named after St Magnus.

Orkney: Britain’s Ancient Capital

This exciting three part documentary featuring Orkney shows how much these islands have to offer in terms of ancient history. The programme focuses on the Ness of Brodgar, where exciting discoveries are rewriting the theories about Ancient Britain.

Orkney is rich in archaeology and most of the associated sites mentioned in the programmes, including the Ness of Brodgar, Skara Brae and the Tomb of the Eagles are an easy drive from Highland Park House. Many of our guests are keen visitors to these sites and we also have archaeologists and volunteer helpers staying with us. This leads to many a lively discussion around the breakfast table.

We look forward to welcoming all visitors, experts and enthusiasts this year. The Summer of 2017 promises to yield exciting new discoveries as the dig progresses.

Orkney Summer and St Magnus

These dark winter days make us think of Summer. As we get to mid December, the sun barely rises more than a few degrees above the horizon and the light is gone well before four in the afternoon. Despite this, the maritime climate keeps us warmer than many places in the UK. However, these short days remind us that we we have next Summer to look forward to. By the time we get to the St Magnus Festival which falls on the Summer solstice, we will be enjoying days that never seem to end. Weather permitting, it will once again be possible to read by the light of the midnight sun which barely dips below the horizon. The long drawn out evenings bring us spectacular sunsets that change every minute, but seem to last for hours. It’s not hard to imagine how important these turning points must have been to our ancestors and it’s no wonder that they have left so many monuments behind that are designed to mark the passage of the sun and the seasons. We can’t wait!

Gnoss – A great Orkney act to watch out for…

We were honoured to have Gnoss play at Highland Park House a year or two back and it is great to see that they are doing so well. Currently Glasgow based, local boys Aidan Moodie and Graham Rorie play a mean guitar and fiddle, romping through traditional tunes and self written tunes with astonishing confidence and ability. They put a CD out a while back and it looks like they have been regrouping and recording new material. You can catch up with them here:

or search for @gnossmusic

Winter is Coming

Things are quieter in Orkney now although we do still have rooms open for visitors until mid December.  Our dedicated crew of chickens haven’t realised this yet and we are snowed under with fresh eggs.

We are taking advantage of this relative down time to make some exciting changes and alterations.  The old theatre/rehearsal space will reopen in the Spring as a Music Room/ Sitting Room.  Guests will be able to gather in the evening, sinking into sumptious Chesterfield furniture. There will be table space to work during the day too. The room will be decorated with musical instruments as well as a working wind-up gramaphone. However, these are not just for show. Along with the Challen piano, they are properly set up working instruments and the room will still host occasional intimate concerts and recitals.

We have also acquired more land around the building. This will give us opportunities to develop and expand the business in due course.

Needless to say, this magnificent, but old building requires plenty of upkeep and through the WInter we have a team of excellent tradesmen improving and developing the ground floor accommodation in the West wing.