Success for Historic Environment Scotland Sites in Orkney

The Orkney News has covered several stories over the last few months relating to our successful tourism industry including the continuing rise of cruise ships calling in. @cruise_orkney was set up this year to address concerns over the co-ordination of cruise ship visits which was due to be 140 this year. The  potential passenger figure is 123,000 with an additional  30,000 of crew

But there are also our many visitors who come to Orkney independently and who stay for longer than a day. The success of Orkney’s Festivals, currently the St Magnus Festival is on, is also a considerable draw to a wide range of visitors.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae (photo F Grahame)

Historic Environment Scotland staff several historical sites in Orkney: Maeshowe, Broch of Gurness, Bishop’s & Earl’s Palace Kirkwall, Brough of Birsay , Hackness Martello Tower and the iconic Skara Brae. They have recorded an 8% rise in visitors in the last year.

The Iron Age Broch of Gurness proved most popular, with more than 4000 admissions representing a 36% jump in visits to the site. Maeshowe, a Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site attracted 7597 visitors, despite its problems of road safety & a change in the location of the visitor centre,  a rise of 14 % on the previous year.

Local MSP Maree Todd said:

Maree Todd MSP

Maree Todd MSP

“While we can celebrate an obvious boost to the Orkney economy, I am also aware that the rise in visitor numbers needs to be managed to ensure that the everyday lives of the folk for whom Orkney is home all year round are not adversely affected. And that goes for the sites that are attracting the higher numbers as well.

“Sustainability needs to be at the heart of this tourism boom.”

Over 5 years there has been an increase of 300% in cruise ship passenger numbers according to the O.I.C’s  Marine Services . The short sea John O’Groats Ferry is also able to accommodate 250 passengers and operates a daily service from 1st May. Travellers also arrive via the Northlink and Pentalina ferries, Kirkwall airport and by our popular marinas.

In Kirkwall to attend the midsummer St Magnus Festival, International Development and Europe Minister in the Scottish Government Alasdair Allan said:

“We want to support businesses involved in the Scottish tourism industry to make the most of the opportunities they create ensuring they are sustainable and make a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.”


Ring of Brodgar (F Grahame)

Tourism in Orkney employs 1,200 people which is 12% of the local workforce. This is a much higher rate than in Scotland as a whole at 9%. Many of those are employed in small B & B businesses catering for visitors who come to Orkney for longer than a one day stay.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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