About Us

21 December 2021

New online film celebrating Winter Solstice on Orkney

We are marking this year’s Winter Solstice by showcasing a new online film exploring the connection between the globally renowned Maeshowe Neolithic chambered tomb and the annual celebration which traditionally marks the onset of winter and the year’s shortest day.

Exterior view of Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

Presented by HES Orkney Ranger, Sandra Miller, and featuring a range of experts and local people inspired by the Solstice and Maeshowe’s connection to it, the online film is the centrepiece of celebrations marking this year’s event.

Viewers will be able to enjoy the film from the comfort of their own homes as it is free to view via livestream on Facebook and on YouTube when it premieres on Tuesday 21 December at 3pm.

Update your third party preferences to view content

Maeshowe’s longstanding connection to the Winter Solstice stems from the natural phenomenon of the setting midwinter sun shining directly down the passageway from the site’s entrance and illuminating the back wall of the tomb with beautiful, bright light. This is captured in the film.

The special online event will also feature the premiere of a new poem inspired by the Solstice and created by Alison Miller, the Orkney Scriever; while local storyteller Tom Muir will also present a short story centred on Orcadian folklore and the Solstice.

The celebrations also feature Orcadian artist, Louise Barrington, who has been working with the local primary school in Stenness, where Maeshowe is situated, to create artwork inspired by the ancient tomb. The work here is linked to the concept of light and dark and features in an exhibition at Maeshowe Visitor Centre which will be on show until February 2022. Admission to the visitor cente and exhibition is free, but booking in advance is recommended to guarantee entry

Commenting on the new film and this year’s Solstice celebration, Sian Evans, Regional Visitor Operations Manager for HES in Orkney said:

“The Winter Solstice has a special place in Orkney and of course traditionally marks the beginning of winter and the coming of darkness. Maeshowe has always played a special part in that tradition through the spectacular light show that is visible on clear days as the sun sets overhead, and this wonderful new film offers viewers a unique insight into that connection, as well as highlighting what is one of the most fascinating heritage sites in the world.

“We are really looking forward to sharing this film and to giving people the chance to see and enjoy the magic of Maeshowe and the Winter Solstice from the comfort of their own homes; hopefully inspiring them to enjoy our wider Orkney heritage and rich history.”

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
  • View our press pack and keep up to date by registering for media release email alerts. If you wish to unsubscribe, please contact us.

Follow Historic Environment Scotland

Twitter: @HistEnvScot | @welovehistory

Facebook: @HistoricEnvScotland | @VisitHistoricScotland

Instagram: @HistEnvScot | @historicscotland


For further information, please contact:

Barry McPherson
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962