Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has submitted a planning application to Orkney Islands Council following agreement from councillors that the former Stenness Day Centre should serve as a visitor centre for tourists travelling to nearby Maeshowe Chambered Cairn for the next two years.
The proposal has been submitted in the hope that necessary changes to the visitor car park and on-site signage can be made ahead of the start of the summer season. A shuttle bus would operate between the visitor centre and the historic site, with hourly supervised tours from knowledgeable staff ensuring both the protection of the cairn and a high quality visitor experience.
Moving the Tormiston Mill Visitor Centre to Stenness would enable HES to improve visitor and staff facilities and parking, as well as providing a separate shuttle bus area to help ease congestion. The organisation is also developing new interpretation, and planning to introduce virtual reality headsets to the visitor experience in order to give visitors a truly immersive introduction to the site. Access to the site would continue to be by guided tour only, and as with the previous visitor centre coaches would not be permitted without a booked guided tour and prior arrangement.
The proposals were developed in accordance with existing best practice from other HES sites. Traffic management of the site will be monitored by HES and reviewed after the first season. Whilst writing the application, HES officials also paid particular attention to the needs of the local community, including consulting with the nearby Stenness Community School and other partners.
Lucy Vaughan, Head of Conservation North for Historic Environment Scotland said,
“We are delighted that Orkney Islands Council has voted to allow us the use of the Stenness Day Care Centre for the next two years, and hope to have this operational as a visitor centre for the start of the busy tourist season."
"I’d like to thank officials at HES and OIC for all the work they have put in behind the scenes, making sure our proposals provide the best use of space and consider community concerns – in particular the matter of parking, which we’ve ensured will match tour numbers."
“Site teams and management continue to engage with key partners locally and within the World Heritage Area, and we will continue to run three daily tours to the site via the Skara Brae visitor centre whilst we get the interim visitor centre up and running. We are committed to finding a long-term, sustainable future for Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, and discussions on this are ongoing.”
About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017
2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (HHA), a year that will celebrate Scotland’s people, our distinct culture and traditions, our historic landscapes, attractions and icons as well as our hidden gems and amazing stories. From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends, 2017 is the year to explore Scotland’s fascinating past. This is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland and a variety of partners.
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