Culture

Orkney’s Farm Museums

Orkney has two farm museums which are open till the end of October. They are free to visit so check them out before winter closing.


Corrigall Farm Museum

Peat Fire Corrigall

Peat Fire (F Grahame) with high backed straw chair and smaller stool

Corrigall Farm Museum is a fabulous place to visit in Orkney’s West Mainland. A house and buildings dating back to the 18th century.

Rarely does this little gem in Harray become too crowded as large bus parties from the cruise ships do not have it on their schedule, with the exception of the Disney liner.

Corrigall Farm would have been quite a well to do place in its hey day and employed workers to assist the family in the running of it.

When you first enter there is a byre which is a later addition. It was the tradition in Orkney that the animals were kept in the same building as the people. The animal section being called the Oot-by and the sectioned off area for the family called the In-by.

People wasted nothing in the active days of the farm. Every part of an animal or a plant was used. Every part of the house was used. Dry storage was essential for people who had to get through the long winters before the convenience of electricity.

What is great about this museum too is that you can wander through it and taking care you can handle items. That’s why kids, both young and old, love it so much. There are helpful information sheets and a guide book (£1.50) for people who want more explanations. And there are animals too. Not as many as there would have been but enough that you can feel that you are on what was once a successful farm.

The peat fire is on – even in summer – because that is where the family would have had their meals cooked. It was the only source of heat and the rising smoke would be used to preserve fish and meats. The smoke would also ensure that wee beasties were kept at bay.

Video of Corrigall


Kirbuster Farm Museum

Kirbuster Farm

Photo B Bell

Last inhabited in 1963 Kirbuster Farm House covers centuries of Orkney farming history. The earliest known building on the site is the Firehoose which goes back to at least 1595. To put this in context: James VI was King of Scots and William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet had its first performance.

The firehoose has a central hearth and no chimney. The smoke from the slow burning peats meanders up into the roof space eventually escaping out a hole in the roof. Inside the room are all the items used by a family at this time including many straw products which The Orkney News has featured. A large recess in the wall exposes a box bed – remember Skara Brae if you have previously visited there. The doorways are low but the roof is high so there is a feeling of space within the room.

The bedrooms are part of an extension to the firehoose that took place about 1723 and lead into a parlour as it was in the early 20th C.

The parlour is where only the best of guests would be allowed into. My granny had a front room at 305 Easter Road that was kept like that. Pristine.

Outside you can see the stables and the byres. The outbuildings are full of farm implements that range over several centuries – some now redundant but others still familiar in their shape, form and function.

The kiln which is similar to the one at Skaill Farm Rousay, is currently closed off but is due to be restored.

Kirbuster Farm is full of the most amazing objects but it is when you wander outside that you really see the wonder of it. The gardens have been restored and would have been a Victorian ornamental garden having been originally a much needed vegetable plot. There is a whale bone archway and paths leading through mature sycamores and flower borders.

Round the back of the buildings is another area planted with trees: The Trowie Trail, excellent for kids of all ages to explore.

The first mention of Kirkbuster (kirkju-boldstadr) is in 1595 when it was worth 1 barrel butter, 9 pultrie (hens).

To me this place is now priceless. It is impossible to place a monetary value on such an important part of Orkney’s social history. Like all the museums run by Orkney Islands Council it is free admission. Certainly one not to be missed by locals and visitors alike.

Video of Kirbuster


Opening times for the Farm Museums

  • 10:30am – 1:00pm and 2pm – 5pm Mon – Sat 
  • 12 – 5pm Sun
  • Admission Free
  • No dogs 
  • Free car park

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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