New visitor centre for Neolithic tourist attraction in Orkney gets the go ahead

Maeshowe in Orkney

A new visitor centre serving a Neolithic tourist attraction on Orkney will be in place for the summer after being backed by the islands council.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) will operate a shuttle bus service from the centre at Stenness for visitors to the Maeshowe chambered cairn.

The world heritage site had to close briefly last year because of concerns about the safety of its surroundings.

A shuttle bus was initially operated from Skara Brae – but a solution has been found from the closer Stenness.

HES will convert the former day centre at Stenness into a visitor centre.

Lucy Vaughan, head of conservation north at HES, said: “We’re delighted to have planning approval for the new Maeshowe Visitor Centre in Stenness.

“We would like to thank everyone who helped us get to this point, including the council, the local community and our many other partners which will see us open the doors to the new centre for the start of the main visitor season.

“We look forward to working alongside them as the new season commences.”

The plan initially sparked concerns from Stenness Community School, as well as its parent teacher association and Stenness Community Association about road safety.

However, these were settled before the planning application was decided by Orkney Islands Council.

Council planners have permission to the scheme under condition that the accesses to the public road were widened before the centre is brought into use.

They also insisted on the car park being lined and an additional area for staff parking being created.

Maeshowe is one of Orkney’s key tourist attractions, sitting close to other Neolithic sites such as the Ring of Broadgar and Stenness Standing Stones.

Its closure to the public in September last year sparked concern about the impact on the tourist industry.

The issue was even raised in the Scottish Parliament, with Orkney MSP Liam McArthur asking First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s help ensuring the site remained open to visitors.