Skaill House

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Skaill House is the finest mansion in Orkney, a family home steeped in 5000 years of history. Situated in the parish of Sandwick overlooking the spectacular Bay of Skaill, the house is surrounded by spacious lawned gardens and stands in a peaceful secluded spot between the Loch of Skaill and the sea. The name Skaill is Old Norse for a hall, and most of the farmsteads north and south of the Bay of Skaill have Norse names, suggesting that the area has been farmed continuously for at least one thousand years. But the Norse were not the first settlers in the area. The southern wing of Skaill House stands on a pre-Norse burial ground, and hill dykes also believed to be pre-Norse still stand five feet high on the cliff tops a mile north and south of the bay. The remains of a broch and another iron-age building can still be seen on the shoreline of the Bay, and several bronze-age burial mounds have been found closer to Skaill House. And of course, just two hundred yards away is the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, still largely intact and older than the great pyramids of Egypt. A simple mansion house was built for Bishop George Graham in the 1620's. This has been added to by successive Lairds over the centuries, culminating in the addition of the north tower and wing which gives the house its characteristic profile that you see today. After 3 years of careful restoration work you can now enjoy visiting this Lairds family home. See Bishop Graham's bedroom, Capt. Cook's dinner service from his ship the Resolution, the Gun Room with sporting and miltary memorobilia and many other items collected during the lives of the past Lairds who have lived at Skaill. In 1991 the estate passed to the present Laird, Major Malcolm Robert Scarth Macrae of Binscarth. The house stood unoccupied for six years before being restored and opened to the public in June 1997. During the preparation of the house, fifteen skeletons were discovered south of the south wing and under the gravel in front of the east porch. Initial studies suggest that these are early Christian, possibly Pictish. No tradition predicted this discovery, or that of the skeletons found under the hall in the 1930's, so we can only suppose that the first builders of Skaill were either unaware of or indifferent to this ancient burial ground.

Venue Type:

Historic house or home, Prehistoric site, Archaeological site

Opening hours

Open daily from 1st April - 30th September, 09.30 - 18.30

Admission charges

There is a joint ticket arrangement with Skara Brae.
ADULTS: £5.00

Skaill House
Breckness Estate
Orkney Islands
KW16 3LR



01856 841501


01856 841668

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.